Vladimir Putin is a modern day Pharaoh in his treatment of the Ukrainians and in praying and interceding on their behalf it makes one wonder what it will take to make him relent from his grievous intentions.
One of the responsibilities we have as Christians is to become deeply committed advocates before God for those causes with which He grips our hearts.
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God takes special note of those who share in the grief of His heart for the sinful world around them. As in every generation throughout history, there are many things today that vex the souls of God fearing people, just as they did the righteous soul of Lot in his day. (2 Peter 2:4-9) And all the more now as we are being inundated by an unending flood of evil, the news of which, like a deluge, is coming from every corner of the world, streaming day and night through multiple forms of media.
Ezekiel, while in captivity in Babylon, is visited by God and taken in the Spirit to the temple in Jerusalem. There he is shown among other things, God’s preparation to bring judgment on the city. He sees six men appear, each with a deadly weapon in their hands and he sees with them a man clothed in linen with a writing kit at his side. Then he hears God call to the linen clad man and instruct to him to “walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.” In startling succession the next two verses contain the instructions given to six other men. They are told to “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion . . . but do not touch anyone who has the mark.” (Ezekiel 9:5-6 NIV)
What caused God to mark these people for mercy rather than for judgment? We are told that they were weeping and sighing because of the sinfulness of the city.
Prayer, like most spiritual practices, is subject to a spectrum of opinion and conviction as to how it is best practiced.
Prayer in a word, means different things to different people. Typically we associate prayer with some form of communication and personal encounter with God. The term prayer has been applied to everything from experiencing a silent awareness of His presence to a cacophonous expression of verbal petition.
There is tension therefore, particularly within Christian ranks, between the silent end of the spectrum in what might be termed communion, versus the verbal petition end of the spectrum which could be termed intercession. Jesus validated this wide spectrum of prayer Himself, by demonstrating a prayer life that embodied both communion with His Father in silence as well intercession with strong crying and tears for the needs of others.
Let me share a New Testament illustration of each. First we have the picture of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. Her simple enjoyment of His presence is a beautiful illustration of contemplative communion. She chose His presence over performance, unlike her sister Martha, and Jesus rewarded her by affirming that she had chosen the “better” part. (Luke 10:42) To all those like Mary who are naturally inclined to the communion side of the spectrum of prayer this is a very nurturing and encouraging story.