By / Aug 19

The startling images of men, women, and children forcing their way onto a military plane in Kabul, Afghanistan, stand in contrast to the images of my daily life strewn before me. My children’s toys are scattered across the floor. Backpacks and digital devices hang ready for school, and half-eaten breakfasts fill the sink. In the midst of my undeserved blessings and comfort, I don’t want to forget the people of Afghanistan, made in the image of God, who are facing unimaginable suffering. 

The tragedy of what has transpired in Afghanistan has gripped the hearts of many Americans like me. As we read the headlines and watch the videos of the Taliban takeover, those of us who feel so far way are not powerless despite how it may seem. As those who trust in Christ, we can support the Afghan people in prayer by calling upon our Lord and his vast power. 

When we face a daunting and complex situation, praying the scriptures is a great guide for us — and it transforms our minds in the process. (Rom. 12:2) Paul instructs us to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). Below are a few prompts to help you pray for the Afghan church and people throughout the day. 

Pray against the darkness

Any prayer offered to God is an engagement in spiritual battle. 

  • Pray against the cosmic powers of darkness to be pushed back. Ephesians 6 says: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.” 
  • Pray against the schemes of the devil in Afghanistan and around the world (2 Cor. 2:10-11; Eph. 6:11). 
  • Pray that evil acts done in secret would come to the light. (Eph. 5:13)

Pray for those who remain

Even before the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, the nation was facing a hunger crisis. In July, the international charity Oxfam reported that 42 percent of the population were in “crisis-level hunger or worse.” It is now reported that the Taliban is going house to house to exert control, and many are in danger.

  • Pray for God’s provision for the physical needs for food, shelter, and water for the Afghan people (Matt. 6:11).
  • Pray for supernatural protection for those in Afghanistan facing oppression and difficulty. Pray that they would experience Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and the rivers will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, and the flame will not burn you.”  
  • Pray for the safety and provision of U.S. and Afghan military forces who remain in the country.
  • Pray for the missionaries and non-governmental organizations who have remained to continue on in their work amidst the humanitarian crisis.

Pray for those who have left

It must be a jarring and traumatic experience to be forced to flee from your country and the only home you’ve ever known. Not only that, many of those who have left Afghanistan don’t know where they will go. 

  • Pray for the international community to aid refugees who have fled or are currently fleeing persecution in Afghanistan. 
  • Pray for Afghan people living in different parts of the world as they watch and grieve for their country (Psa. 34:18).
  • The ERLC has advocated for special refugee status for those feeling the country (Exodus 23:9; Lev. 19:33). Pray for government leaders in the U.S. to have compassion, wisdom, and courage as they make decisions that will affect many lives (1 Tim. 2:2). 

Pray for the women of Afghanistan

It is widely reported that life under Taliban rule is highly restricted, and often dangerous, for women — even young women who are more rightly identified as children. Many women who have lived with two decades of freedom are waiting to see what life will be like for them in these circumstances. 

  • Pray that they would know they are created in the image of God and highly valuable. (Gen. 1:26-27)
  • Pray for those who will affirm and advocate for the dignity of women and demonstrate Proverbs 31: “open our mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open our mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
  • Pray for basic freedoms for women, such as education, to remain intact. 
  • Pray for the protection of the vulnerable from those who would prey on and abuse them (James 1:27).

Pray for the Afghan church

Afghanistan has long been a place of risk for Christians. According to Open Doors USA’s annual World Watch List, the second most dangerous place to be a Christian in the world is Afghanistan, only very slightly less oppressive than in North Korea.

Mindy Belz, senior editor at World magazine, who has traveled and written extensively about the Christian church in the Middle East, reported: “One leader of a house church network (with more than 500 members) received on Aug. 12 a letter signed by Taliban militants threatening him and his family. ‘We know where you are and what you are doing,’ it read.”

  • Pray for the church to be “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that [they] may have great endurance and patience” (Col. 1:11).
  • Pray that the Lord would direct their hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance (2 Thess. 2:5).
  • Pray for the gospel witness of the Afghan church. Pray that Muslims, and others, would “call upon the name of the Lord” in this time of duress (Psa. 50).  

Pray for hope

The terrible situation in Afghanistan looks bleak, but as Christians, we know it is not without hope. Ours is the God of redemption and has a long history of bringing beauty from the ashes. 

  • Pray for Christians in Afghanistan and beyond to remain hopeful in the Lord and his purposes. 
  • Pray that those facing difficulty would experience peace despite their circumstances, as Elizabeth Elliot writes in Suffering is Never for Nothing, “We’re not adrift in chaos. We’re held in the everlasting arms” (Psalm 13).
  • Pray that these sufferings will lead to hope anchored in God’s love, as is promised in ​​Romans 5:3-5: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” 
  • Pray that God will grant believers joy in the midst of trouble and would enable unbelievers to receive the message of the gospel (1 Thess. 1:6).  Pray that they would soon experience Psalm 90:15: “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us.”

Pray for the Taliban

Jesus told his followers, “But I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). Even though our daily lives aren’t immediately threated by the Taliban, we must identify ourselves with our brothers and sisters in Christ and exemplify Christ’s heart in our prayers.

  • Praise God that “anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). And pray that the members of the Taliban will call upon Christ. 
  • Pray that they will experience “the fragrance of Christ” from the Christian church and be led to life (2 Cor. 2:13-14).
  • Pray that their plans would be thwarted and that they would be unable to hurt others. 
  • And pray that those who make up the Taliban will repent of their sin and turn to Christ and his forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
By / Oct 30

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

We will turn on our porch lights on Halloween, set out a sign and hand out king-sized candy bars to hundreds of kids, moms, dads and teens. Some will grumble that we receive sinners . . . but they said this of Jesus too.

Light of the world

Many Christians believe that handing out candy on Halloween is not a good idea. They assume that if they hand out candy on Halloween, they are advocating all it stands for and will therefore compromise their witness as a Christian. Yes, Halloween, as a whole, stands for some really wicked things. It is a day when people worship Satan, demons and spiritual darkness. It can be an excuse for unrepentant sinning. But we are the light of the world, and light is intended for darkness. “Does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket?”

The darker the day, the more the light stands out. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Who needs to see the Light of Christ more? Saints or sinners?

“And it happened that he was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and his disciples . . . When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, 'Why is he eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?' And hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners'” (Mark 2:15-17).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is for sinners. And how did Jesus, the physician, engage those who were sick? He hung out with them, ate with them, talked to them. If our Master, Jesus, spent time with sinners in this way, how can we think ourselves too “holy” to do the same? Instead, the Pharisees, who Jesus rebuked, refused to interact with sinners on the ground level.

Missional Halloween

For a moment, let’s imagine my husband and I are missionaries in a foreign country. We have just moved in and are getting a feel for the culture and daily life of this country’s inhabitants. Few know about Jesus, and ancestral worship is the most common religious practice. We have been praying about a way to get to know more people and for opportunities to share about Jesus. Then, we hear about a large ancestral worship festival in which all of the city will be out. All you have to do is turn on your porch light, and they will come to your door singing songs of praise to their ancestors.

As missionaries, we’d thank God for such a great opportunity!  Instead of spending our days looking for a single moment to get to know someone and talk about faith, we now have many who will come to our door with their mind already on spiritual things. I can’t imagine a more perfect opportunity.

This is exactly what Halloween can be for Christians in this country. We should already be missional in our neighborhoods, seeking to reach our neighbors with the good news of Jesus—and what a perfect day to help us get to know the families that live around us. In addition, there is already an air of spirituality. It may have an evil spiritual feel, but it’s a springboard to bring up the topic of life, death, hell, heaven and a great God who has defeated Satan on the cross through the amazing sacrifice of his Son for sinners like us. Jesus received sinners, so let’s receive sinners as they come to our door, too.

Turn it for good

You can even participate in Halloween without actually celebrating the day itself. We are careful to not have any traditional Halloween decorations like ghosts, spiderwebs, monsters, etc. Instead, we try to brand ourselves as the “crazy-generous” house on our street, making a statement about the gracious nature of our God through sending his Son.

How are we doing that? We give out the good candy—king-sized candy bars! And when you're giving out over 800 of those candy bars, people start asking, “Why?”—which leads to an open door for the gospel. “Because we serve a generous God who gave his Son to pay the penalty of our sin and give us new life. We didn't deserve it, and we long to be a small expression of his generosity toward us.” I've already been able to share my testimony and the good news of Jesus several times just by buying the candy.

Not only that, we are hoping to love people well. With the help of our college homegroup, we have a welcome team that interacts with people at the foot of the steps, looking for opportunities to talk about Jesus and ask for prayer requests. Those requests are texted to a team in our guest-room-turned-prayer-room. After being loved, welcomed and treated to king-sized bars, each person will be pointed to Jesus through signs on the way out proclaiming Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Halloween is a day that Satan has intended for evil, but God working in us is leveraging it for the good of others and for his glory.

We are sinners, too

We can’t be quick to forget that the only reason we are saved is because Jesus condescended into the filth of our life, met us where we were, and extended grace and love to us there.  We are no less sinners than those we seek to reach.  As John Newton said, we are simply great sinners with a greater Savior. Let’s not fall into the well-worn path of the Pharisees, thinking, in our religious arrogance, that we are better than those who don’t know Him. For Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you [religious leaders]” (Matt. 21:31).

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15).

We can remember and embody our Lord’s command to us on nights like Halloween, not running from darkness but charging toward it with the loving light of the gospel. “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

You can follow our journey to #RedeemHalloween2015 by watching for pictures and posts on our instagram accounts (@kellyneedham and @jimmyneedham) on October 31.