How to pray for nations like Libya

As political unrest and cries for freedom from oppression are sweeping across the nations of North Africa and the Middle East what is our responsibility as Christians?  And more specifically how should we be praying?  Several days ago I happened to be reading Psalm 94 and was deeply impacted by its relevance for the present uprisings sparked in Tunisia and spreading to Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and the likes. I found it providing very specific ways to pray and empowering my faith to join in the fray through prayer.

As Christians we believe that the God whom we serve is the Lord of the nations.  Nothing escapes His notice or happens without the unfolding of His plans and purposes.  It is important to note that the prophecies of the Old Testament dealt with the fate of many nations and not just Israel.  “It is God who judges; He brings down one and exalts another.” we are told in Psalm 75:7.

Throughout the ages God has invited His people to rule and reign with Him from a place of prayer.  The great John Wesley once said “God does nothing except in answer to prayer.” We are therefore as followers of Christ, who are seated with Him in His throne in the heavenlies, privileged and empowered to join Him in effecting His will in the earth through prayer. (Ephesians 2:6) 

Psalm 94 begins by declaring that God is an avenger and invokes Him as the judge of the earth to pay back the proud and the wicked.  “How long” the psalmist asks will the wicked “pour out arrogant words . . . full of boasting?” (vs 3-4)  Sounds like some dictators we know does it not – Gaddafi in Libya et al.?  The ensuing verses continue to chronicle the cruelty and oppression suffered at the hands of such dictatorial regimes.

As I turned this Psalm into a prayer I found myself repeating “Rise up, O judge of the earth!” again and again as a declaration of freedom on their behalf. (vs. 2)  It inspired me to invoke the God of the nations to intervene and ask that in the midst of His judgment for the oppressor, He would remember mercy for the oppressed. (Habakkuk 3:2)

The middle of the Psalm can be turned into a prayer for God to reveal Himself to those who do not know Him as a merciful and loving God.  “Does He who implanted the ear not hear?  Does He who formed the eye not see.”  “Grant him relief from days of trouble till a pit is dug for the wicked.  For the Lord will not reject His people.”  “Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart (believers in Christ) will follow it.”  (vs. 8-15)

Then the Psalm takes an amazing shift.  It is as if God and those praying this are encouraging the protesters on!  “Who will rise up for Me (God) against the wicked?  Who will take a stand for Me against the evil doers?” (vs. 16)  But, and this is critical, pray that the protesters would see that it is the Lord who is helping and supporting them.  “Unless the Lord had given (them) help, (they) would have dwelt in the silence of death.” (vs. 17-18)

One thing the Psalm also reminds us of is the tremendous anxiety people experience in such national tumult and uncertainty, especially for those who are believers in the midst of an Islamic society.  We need to pray concertedly for them as well using this great promise:  “When the anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” (vs. 19)

The Psalm concludes with a declaration of the ultimate triumph of the Lord.  “But the Lord has become (their) fortress, and my God the rock in whom (they) take refuge.”  (vs. 22)

Since God is calling us to rule with Him through prayer – I want to challenge you to use this Psalm as a guide in praying for the governmental shaking going on in Libya and the other nations of the world.

(All quotations from the New International Version 1984, 1994)

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