“44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43-45
Last Wednesday my church held a prayer vigil for all of the persecuted, tortured, and murdered Christians in the world. We prayed for all, in fact, but we prayed foremost for our Christian siblings as they face such horrific treatment for proclaiming Christ. Part of Sunday’s sermon and Wednesday’s prayer vigil was praying for those in ISIS, Al Qaida, and other elements who are kidnapping young girls, imprisoning Christians in concentration camps, torturing, and killing Christians.
Yeah, you heard me. We prayed for those depraved, maniacal…(choke) children of God. If God, who waters the wicked as well as you and I (who are damned sinners too), can give them gifts to sustain life, we ought to be able to (gag) pray for them. Getting the subtle clues as to where my head wants to go?
I prayed for them. It was hard, because my brain kept insisting on showing me the picture of that ISIS guy just before he beheads that journalist. It also photo-shopped in laser guided bombs, cruise missiles, napalm, and other assorted goodies.
I have a friend in the navy, shortly to deploy as the XO of an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. You might better know them by their previous nom de plume: Aegis Cruisers. I had visions of him in the CIC launching his whole inventory at Syria. I’ve read a lot of Tom Clancy, and I know this ship can ruin a small country’s day. By itself. It has radar systems that can cook a seagull in flight or effectively neuter an air force puke who pisses it off by flying too closely. And that’s BEFORE he warms up the real weapons and let’s a few cruise missiles off the chain.
Yeah, I prayed. Hard.
But something happened. We spent an hour – maybe 100 of us – alternately singing hymns, being led in prayer, and praying silently. In the course of that hour, I started to see different visions and prayed that those would become reality. I prayed that some ISIS soldier would see the love and sorrow in their victim’s eyes right before he killed them. I prayed that God would sear that image into his brain. I prayed it would cook his soul into understanding just what a bastard he’d been and experience a real come-to-Jesus moment. I prayed for his anguish at what he’d done so that he could be healed. OK. I admit it. I was a little heavy on the anguish part, but I did follow through to the healing.
Along the way, a thought occurred to me. Before he was St. Paul, apostle to the Gentiles and author of most of the New Testament, he was Saul. Career Pharisee who did things to Christians that can hardly be distinguished from the acts of ISIS. If ISIS guys would have the opportunity, they’d probably like to go back in time just to watch Saul work and take notes.
Can you imagine praying for a napalm canister to strike St. Paul? Can you fathom wanting to personally kill St. Paul…slowly? Can you imagine Christians of the day praying for his destruction much as we would love to see the barbarians of today get theirs in living color and extra slow motion.
“Hold on! Here comes my favorite part! KA-FREAKIN’-BOOM! Play it again, man!”
God is smarter than everybody. Instead of cooking Paul in his guilt, He knocked on his heart and made him see exactly how wrong he was. Imagine that moment. Imagine realizing that all of the good you thought you were doing for years, was the antithesis of what you were supposed to be doing. It’s gotta hurt.
So we prayed on Wednesday. There was something about it that hangs with me today. It’s an energy, a spirit that I think can only come when God’s children come together in prayer and power. It was like they did in the old days. The apostles gathered together to pray and sing psalms and hymns. That’s what we did.
My old nature still likes to stick its hand in the cookie jar of revenge and anger. I still want to take a peek at what it would be like to see those…guys…get rolled back. Hard. But after being touched by that communal spirit Wednesday night, I can now accept that it’s wrong. I can pray that maybe there’s a St. Paul in ISIS somewhere. I can pray that someone will see the eyes of their victims and finally turn to Jesus. I can pray that he will save as many lives as he can.
Too much to ask for? Too much to expect of some son of a ***** Christian killer? Probably. But not too much to expect from God when He hears our prayers.