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Prayer Can Change Nations and Societies

by John Robb

Secular media largely omit reporting on the role of prayer has played in the great social and political transformations of our time. Major political and historical events that have been affected by prayer include the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany, the Romanian revolution and overthrow of Ceaucescu, and the birth of the new South Africa.

In all three of these cases, believers actively prayed for Godís intervention and transformation during times of conflict and social turmoil which preceded the positive changes that occurred.

As Christians across Rwanda, supported by thousands of believers elsewhere in the world, pray for the reconciliation and healing of their tortured land, a marvelous thing recently took place. hardened extremists who took part in the 1994 genocide and in terrorist attacks since that time are coming out of the jungles to give themselves up and ask forgiveness for their crimes.

In some cases, those who lost family members in the rampage now are providing meals and other forms of caring for the killers. God is at work in a profound manner, healing inner wounds through the giving and receiving of forgiveness.

We believe the prayers of thousands of intercessors joined to those of local believers turned the tide of the Bosnian conflict in August 1995 and will bring ultimate healing and restoration to that area as prayer continues.

Intercessory prayer plays a decisive role in bringing Godís healing and transformation to a society. That is why God seeks to raise up intercessors who will "stand in the gap" for their land and people.

Ezekiel the prophet describes the city of Jerusalem as a "city of bloodshed" and tells us its people had given themselves over to "detestable practices," abusing the aliens, ill-treating the fatherless and the widow, committing lewd acts, accepting bribes, practicing extortion, and profaning the worship of God.

It is in this context that God looks for a person "among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it" (Ezek. 22:30). Tragically, he find no one!

Under similar conditions, God told Isaiah he had put "watchmen" on the walls of Jerusalem who were to call on the Lord and give themselves no rest until he made their cry "the praise of the earth" (Isa. 62:6-7).

Watchmen functioned as the guardians of ancient cities, watching for possible invasion and thus protecting their people from destruction. These particular watchmen are assigned the positive, transformational role of intercessors who restlessly call on the Lord until he changes the nature of the people and city so they will be called "The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord...Sought After, The City No Longer Deserted" (Isa. 62:12).

As Walter Wink notes, "History belongs to the intercessors who believe the future into being....These shapers of the future are the intercessors who call out of the future the longed for present."

Jacque Ellul would agree. "Prayer goes with action, but it is prayer which is radical and decisive....In this combat, the Christian who prays acts more effectively and more decisively on society than a person who is politically involved with all the sincerity of his faith put into the involvement."

Perhaps Ezekielís vision of the valley of dry bones, more than any other metaphor in Scripture, shows Godís capacity and desire to breathe new life and hope into the most hopeless and devastating of situations as his people play their part. As the prophet spoke the words God gave him, tendons, flesh, and new life came onto the dry, dead bones.

A friend of mine, Don McCurry, recounted his experience in visiting the African country of Guinea shortly after the Marxist dictator Sekou Toure seized power. The cruel tyrant kicked out all but two of the expatriate missionaries and began torturing his political opponents. The two remaining missionaries, joined by 12 national pastors and McCurry, met to intercede for the nation and for the overthrow of this bloodthirsty, illegitimate ruler. Within one year he was replaced by a benign leader who reversed his policies and invited the missionaries back.

Prayer leaders in the New York City area of the United States have noted the "transformational effect" of ministries like the Lordís Watch, a 24-hour prayer vigil which has occurred every month since 1995. It is supported by more than 4,000 people from 120 churches.

They have noticed how a city known for its dangerous social climate has seen "the most significant drop in crime" in its history over the last two years to become the "safest city in America with a population of 1,000,000 or more." They attribute this to the strong intercessory prayer in the city for its welfare.

Conversations with World Vision staff members and other Christian workers in many countries have convinced us that no real transformation involving people coming to Christ and adopting the values of his kingdom takes place apart from the united intercession of Godís people.

Jesus gave us a startling promise in Matthew 18: 18-19. We used it in Bosnia and have claimed in other prayer initiatives. "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven."

In these verses the Lord has given us a virtually blank check. When we unite in prayer with other believers, "anything" becomes possible for us, even changing the history of nations.

John Robb, "Prayer Can Change Nations and Societies", MARC Newsletter, # 99-1, February, 1999, pp. 5,6.

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