By / Nov 4

November 6 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. On this Sunday, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. But more importantly, we lift them up to our good God who hears our prayers. 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11 ESV)

Let us approach our God, therefore, with confidence that we serve an infinitely big, infinitely powerful God who is ready to save.

If you are a pastor, set aside time this Sunday to join with churches around the world in praying for those that suffer for no reason other than that they follow their Savior, Jesus Christ.

If you are a church leader, dedicate some time this week with your ministry, Bible study, or small group to pray for our persecuted fellow believers.

If you have a family, spend time praying around the dinner table for those that live in places that do not recognize the fundamental human right of religious liberty.

How you can pray for the persecuted church 

Every year Open Doors, a network that serves persecuted Christians around the world, produces the World Watch List, which highlights the countries where persecution of Christians is highest and offers suggestions for how you can pray for them. Here is what you should know about the 10 countries with the highest levels of persecution and how you can pray for our brothers and sisters in those nations. 

Afghanistan

Persecution type: Islamic theocracy imposed by the Taliban

Estimated number of Christians: Possibly thousands

How Christians are suffering: “The Taliban will make sure that Islamic rules and customs are implemented and kept. Christian converts don’t have any option but to obey them. If a Christian’s new faith is discovered, their family, clan or tribe has to save its honor by disowning the believer, or even killing them.”

Prayer prompt: “Pray for secret believers in Afghanistan, that they will be protected from the violence of the Taliban.”

North Korea

Persecution type: Communist and post-Communist oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 400,000

How Christians are suffering: “An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea’s notorious system of prisons and labor camps. And, to make matters worse, often a family will share the same fate as the person captured.”

Prayer prompt: “Christians in North Korea are in danger. Pray for Christians who worship secretly, Christians who are in prison, and the families of Christians who have been arrested or killed. Ask God to be with these believers and to strengthen them to find hope and see His hand at work in their lives.”

Somalia

Persecution type: Clan oppression

Estimated number of Christians: A few hundred

How Christians are suffering: “The small number of believers in Somalia are largely Christians who have converted from Islam. Christians are viewed as high-value targets by Islamic radical groups. Even when Christian converts are not targeted by extremists, they are intensely pressured by their family and community.”

Prayer prompt: “Pray for Christians who are targeted by Islamic extremists. Ask God to protect them and grant them hope.”

Libya

Persecution type: Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 34,600

How Christians are suffering: “When a person in Libya leaves Islam to follow Christ, they face immense pressure from their families to renounce their faith. Their neighbors and the rest of the community ostracize them, and they can be left homeless, jobless, and alone.”

Prayer prompt:  “Libya’s government has been unstable for a decade. Pray for some stability and rule of law in the country.”

Yemen

Persecution type: Clan oppression

Estimated number of Christians: A few thousand

How Christians are suffering: “The persecution against Christians in Yemen has been extreme for years, leading to a jump of two spots on the 2022 World Watch List. Pressure on converts from Islam is at the highest levels in every part of life.”

Prayer prompt:  “The civil war has lasted for nearly a decade. Pray for peace, pray for stability and pray for an openness to religious freedom.”

Eritrea

Persecution type: Christian denominational protectionism

Estimated number of Christians:  2,611,000

How Christians are suffering: “Despite almost half the population identifying as Christian, believers in Eritrea continue to suffer extreme persecution, making it one of the hardest places in the world to follow Jesus. Christians not part of recognized denominations are at risk of severe persecution. Gatherings are raided and believers arrested. The conditions facing Christians in prison can be inhumane.”

Prayer prompt:  “Ask God to protect Christians who convert from Islam, or who join a church outside of the Orthodox tradition.”

Nigeria

Persecution type: Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians:  98,006,000

How Christians are suffering: “Persecution in Nigeria is, simply put, brutally violent. In much of northern Nigeria, Christians live their lives under the constant threat of attack from Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Fulani militants and criminals who kidnap and murder with few consequences. The violence is so bad it has begun to travel south, as well.”

Prayer prompt:  “Pray for the many militant groups who attack Christians in Nigeria. Ask God to change their hearts as only He can.”

Pakistan

Persecution type:  Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 4,080,000

How Christians are suffering: “In Pakistan, Christians are considered second-class citizens and are discriminated against in every aspect of life. Church leaders can be arrested if they don’t abide by the authorities’ wishes.”

Prayer prompt:  “Pray for the women and girls who are kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men.”

Iran

Persecution type:  Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 800,000

How Christians are suffering: “The severity of persecution facing Christians in Iran remains largely unchanged. Converts from Islam are most at risk of persecution, especially by the government, and to a lesser extent, by society and their own families.”

Prayer prompt: “Pray for the religious leaders of Iran, that they would have their hearts changed to recognize Jesus as Lord.”

India

Persecution type: Religious nationalism

Estimated number of Christians: 68,863,000

How Christians are suffering: “The persecution of Christians in India has intensified, as Hindu extremists aim to cleanse the country of their presence and influence. The extremists disregard Indian Christians and other religious minorities as true Indians, and think the country should be purified of non-Hindus. This has led to a systemic—and often violent—targeting of Christians and other religious minorities, including use of social media to spread disinformation and stir up hatred.”

Prayer prompt: “Pray for the healing of the many victims of religious violence in India. Ask that God would heal both hearts and bodies.”

By / Aug 11

Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

These aren’t my words, but they might as well be. I feel like I can’t take another day of bad news. War, political vitriol, violence, corruption. Our holidays aren’t even restful, because evil doesn’t take a day off. These “why” questions come from Psalm 10. The chapter is a desperate prayer, cried out without pretense, right from the pages of our Bible. In this passage, we meet someone in the middle of a crisis of faith. He is struggling to apply what he knows to be true about a good and just God to circumstances of rampant injustice around him. Surely, we can relate.

I am asking a lot of my own why questions these days. Why does our world feel like it is getting more dangerous, more confusing, more uncertain? Why can’t we go to our local parade without fear? Or send our kids to school, or go to the grocery store without worrying for basic safety? Why does it seem the most vulnerable among us keep paying the highest price? Why do our leaders— the very people charged with doing the right thing in the face of injustice— seem to lack fortitude? 

Beneath all of those questions, my heart is asking along with the psalmist, “Why, Lord, are you far away when we need you most?” But I am so grateful to see my concerns included in Scripture. And in this way, we see God is not distant. He speaks to us right here in Psalm 10, right into the real pain of our lives, meeting us in the tension of how to live in a world not as it should be. We learn several things from this passage about how to face injustice. 

How we pray

The author gives us a lesson in how we pray for justice. He first spends nine verses detailing how a wicked man exploits the vulnerable for his own gain and laments the way evil seems to operate with impunity. But then, the author turns to God and says, “Arise, O Lord. Oh, God, lift up your hand” (v. 12).

What a request! The directness makes me uncomfortable. But should it? The psalmist believed what God says about himself is true— he is righteous, just, helper to the helpless. And so he requests that God act on behalf of his own reputation. It is a request of faith, not doubt.

In verse 14, the psalmist writes that God not only sees the injustice, but takes it into his own hands. Stop there for a second. This image contradicts every fear we could ever have that God is indifferent to human suffering. He cares, enough to take it into his hands and deal with it himself. What better evidence do we have for this claim than Christ? In Jesus’ death, we see there is no length to which God would not go to deal with the sin and evil of this world— even the death of his only beloved son.

So, if we are uncomfortable being direct with God, it might be because we don’t trust him to be who he says he will be. Let’s instead, reorient our hearts to hold Christ as the firm foundation upon which every request is made. We can ask God for justice because he is just. We’ve seen is character in Christ’s willing sacrifice for our sin.

How we care

When we encounter injustice— on the news, on social media, or in our very neighborhood, what is our heart’s response? I confess that mine often cycles between detachment and vengeance. But we lose the ability to engage faithfully in justice work when we spiral into despair or rage. Psalm 10 offers a different model.

First, what stands out most in this entire passage is the heart of God for the helpless. His relationship with the vulnerable is beautiful. The wicked brag that God doesn’t care about their pain, but Psalm 10 affirms the truth: ‘you do see’. (v 14) God hears the cries of the afflicted, and he does not forget them. What is more, ‘he will strengthen their hearts’, (v 14) meeting them in their time of need. This picture of God’s heart and care should shape our response.

Second, when we step back from the story, we see this is about more than two earthly parties— the victim and the aggressor. There is actually a third person involved. Do you see it? The author. He is not passive. He is grieving injustice, with his heart and mind aligned with God’s care for the vulnerable. We see this as he desperately petitions God to intervene in righteousness.

And here lies both a promise and a warning. God cares deeply, specifically for the vulnerable— but do we? And as God’s people, do we consider that his care for the helpless may just flow through us, through our wallets, our prayers, our churches? Because when we get down to it, the wicked man is not so far removed from us. In fact, many commentaries believe the aggressor was a wealthy Israelite or group of Israelites who defied God’s commands specifically given to his covenant people to care for the vulnerable (Exo. 22:21-24). 

I don’t want to settle for cycling between detachment, despair, and rage. And I don’t want to be blinded by pride, thinking God doesn’t actually care how I treat the vulnerable. Thankfully, there is another way. We can look to the beauty revealed here and ask the Holy Spirit to help us reflect God’s heart in our own actions. It will require more of us— likely sacrifice and personal cost— but there is nothing better than living within God’s commands and promises by the power of his Spirit.

How we hope

For much of the chapter, Psalm 10 reads as a petition. Then, near the end, comes a change in verse 16. The psalmist breaks from speaking to God and makes a statement about God. “The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.” This is the truth claim on which everything else depends. All the power players of his day, and of ours— they are actually waning. 

There are so many times in the last few months particularly, where I’ve been tempted to believe darkness is winning. But what is beautiful about this chapter is that it reminds us to speak the truth to ourselves when we are most tempted to forget. We need this good news to break through and capture our hearts and minds. We need a secure hope while waiting for our broken world to be made right. We too need to be reminded that the Lord is king, and the land is his.

The psalmist ends here, not with a declaration of vengeance or even resolution, but a promise. He writes of a future time when “the man who is of the earth will strike terror no more” (v 18). What a triumphant declaration! And it points forward to a promised time when Jesus will establish his rule of justice and righteousness and reign forevermore (Isa. 9:6-7).

We are right to long for justice, but oftentimes what we want is far too small. The justice Jesus brings is even better than what we could imagine. We think of justice as a courtroom idea— to make payment for wrongs. That is true, but the just kingdom described in the Bible goes far beyond that idea. Our King upholds righteousness, so that humanity and all creation flourishes as it should, as it is intended to. Whole, peaceful, completely sinless. Restoration is coming through Jesus. And it is better than anything we could ever design (Rev. 21). Let us pray and hope toward that end. 

By / May 6

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the shocking draft opinion leak of the Supreme Court regarding Dobbs, the Mississippi abortion case. They also talk about the National Day of Prayer and 10 things Christians should know about kids and anxiety.

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  • Dobbs Resource Page Prayer Guide | Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a major Mississippi abortion case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in this case urging the Supreme Court to overturn the disatrous Roe v. Wade decision. Members of our team also joined pro-life advocates on the steps of the Supreme Court when oral arguments were heard last December. As we approach the Supreme Court’s final decision in June of this year, it’s important for Christians to pray for this landmark case and begin preparing our churches to serve vulnerable women and children in a potential post-Roe world. Download our free prayer guide at ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Dobbs Resource Page | Many Christians are aware that an important case about abortion is being decided at the Supreme Court this June. But for many, this case is confusing and wrapped in a lot of legal jargon. The ERLC wants to help with that, so we’ve created a resource page that will help you and your church understand what this case means, what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and how your church can prepare to serve vulnerable women and children in the aftermath. To learn more about the Dobbs case and how you can pray, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
By / May 5

The United States recognizes the National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday of every May. The National Day of Prayer is an annual time “on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.” As our nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, reels from the leaked SCOTUS draft, international conflict looms, and divisions seem to only grow deeper, today is a great opportunity for Christians to go to the only true God in prayer on behalf of our nation. The Triune God of the Bible graciously invites us to come to him (Matt. 11:28) and urges us to intercede for all people, including our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2). 

Below is a sample prayer for individuals, families, and churches to use as a guide:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the kindness and good gifts that you have bestowed upon us. You have adopted those of us in Christ as sons and daughters and have made us heirs in your kingdom. Despite our faltering words and fickle hearts, you hear our prayers and care deeply for us. In your divine providence and graciousness, you have allowed us to live in this great nation, where we are able to worship you freely. 

We confess our utter dependence and reliance on you. Though we often think and act in self-reliance, we can do nothing apart from you. We repent of the selfish spirit and pride that so often dominate our hearts and words. We lament the ways that we, as your Church, have allowed divisiveness and distrust to eclipse our love for you and for our neighbor. We ask forgiveness for our unkind words and hurtful thoughts and pray that you would allow us, through our deep love for one another, to be salt and light in our nation.

Lord, you are El Elyon, the Most High God. You are exalted above all earthly rulers and are the ultimate authority. In your great wisdom, you have given us government and rulers and instructed us to respect and pray for them. Your Word says that when we ask for wisdom, you are faithful to provide it. We lift up to you President Biden, Vice President Harris, our congressmen and congresswomen, the Supreme Court justices, cabinet officials, military leaders, governors, mayors, and local officials. Father, would your Spirit give them supernatural wisdom, guide them to do your will, and ultimately use them to bring you glory and seek the flourishing of every individual.

You are El Roi, the God who sees. You see, hear, and deeply know the pain of your children. We lament the brokenness of our world and how greed, violence, and evil are used against the vulnerable. We pray against this evil in our nation and ask you to act mightily on behalf of those suffering. To that end, we pray for an end to the scourge of abortion and that our nation would adopt a holistic culture of life. Even this week as we see hopeful glimpses of a life-affirming decision from the Supreme Court, we pray boldly that their majority will hold and that the precedents set in Roe and Casey will be overturned in the coming weeks. Father, we grieve this stain on our nation and pray that you would not only make abortion illegal in our land but also make it unthinkable and unnecessary. Use us to support the women and preborn children around us and help them choose life.

Father, we also pray for the vulnerable children in our foster care and adoption systems and that you would raise up families in our churches to provide loving homes and care for these precious image-bearers. We pray that you would provide means to flourish to those trapped in the cycles of poverty and that you would work against those who prey on and take advantage of their plight. We pray for those seeking refuge at our borders and that they would be met with compassion and find safety. And we ask that you would give our leaders wisdom in how to handle a complex situation. We pray for those who are incarcerated. Redeem their hearts and pave the way for a second chance.

Gracious Father, in your goodness, you have given us an invitation to be part of your work. I pray that the Church in America would boldly step into that invitation and be the salt and light that is needed in our nation. Lord, raise up steadfast pastors and ministry leaders, and give us strong churches and families to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities, speaking truth and showing grace. We pray that you would use our churches mightily to bring people to repentance and saving faith in Jesus. Give us renewed love for you and for our neighbors, and help us faithfully live for you amidst an ever-changing culture. 

We are grateful for the privilege of living in the United States, however imperfect, and ask that you bless, protect, and guide us. Lord, we know that regardless of what happens in our nation, you are ultimately in control. Forgive us for putting any of our hope in political parties or leaders, and help us to unashamedly put our trust in you and live in light of the truth that our ultimate citizenship lies in your kingdom. Help us to walk, not in a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self-control as we share the hope of Christ with the world. 

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

By / Feb 25

On Thursday, Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and launched attacks on cities and airports throughout the country, including near the capital, Kyiv. According to The New York Times, “​​Russian troops moved across the Ukrainian border in multiple areas at once, landing in the port city of Odessa in the south and crossing the eastern border into Kharkiv, the second largest city.” The attack sadly unfolded exactly in line with President Biden’s repeated, dire predictions. Putin, who wields the largest estimated nuclear stockpile in the world, threatened that nations “will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history” for interfering with his invasion.

Ukrainian forces are fighting back and have reportedly shot down six Russian fighters and a helicopter but in all likelihood are no match for the powerful Russian forces. Ukrainian President Zelensky announced that they “will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country” and urged his countrymen to “Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities.” Ukraine has a population of more than 44 million people, and panic swept over the country this morning as many could see and feel the impact of the initial attacks with runs on banks and gas stations being reported. Images of long lines of vehicles fleeing west have been widely seen. 

This is the largest ground invasion in Europe since World War II. More than 40 Ukrainian soldiers have already been killed with dozens more injured. Both figures are expected to rise. 

In addition to the senseless loss and destruction of human lives, there are multiple reasons why we should care about what’s happening between Ukraine and Russia. These reasons are grounded in geopolitical perspectives, humanitarian concerns, and biblical realities.

Ukraine is a sovereign country and a U.S. ally

One of the reasons why Russia’s illegal invasion is so important to pay attention to is because Ukraine is not only a sovereign country but also a democratic partner of the United States. Global leaders cannot invade other nations and claim territory without consequences. Ukraine not only has strategic importance to Europe, but also to the United States. Although Ukraine is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), it is aligned with the United States and other NATO nations in Eastern Europe. As former Ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor stated, “if Ukraine succeeds, we succeed. The relationship between the United States and Ukraine is key to our national security, and Americans should care about Ukraine.”

Putin plainly wants to undo the post-Cold War settlement, restore Russian arms and glory, and force the world to recognize Russia’s place as a global superpower on the international stage. This act of aggression and destabilization fundamentally shifts the previous world order and also further emboldens other authoritarian leaders to seize power around the world.

Cyber attacks could trigger Article 5 of NATO

Although President Biden has emphatically and repeatedly stated that U.S. troops will not be sent to Ukraine, it is possible that Putin will push his attack outside of Ukraine and into neighboring NATO nations. Article 5 of the NATO Charter states that “ . . . an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.” NATO has added “cyber” to the definition of possible attacks that could trigger Article 5. 

While it is possible that Putin could attack a NATO nation through traditional means, it is thought to be more likely that cyberwarfare could be used. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has outlined two ways the U.S. could be drawn into the conflict through digital warfare: the deployment of cyber weapons in Ukraine that spread to neighboring NATO countries or retaliation against western sanctions through direct cyber attacks targeting key U.S. and NATO member-nation infrastructure.

Russia’s invasion could cause a refugee crisis in Central Europe

As the first attacks were waged in Ukraine, citizens quickly began to flee west, with many attempting to seek refuge in Poland. It has been reported that as many as 5 million people could be displaced as refugees by the war, creating the largest influx of refugees in Europe since the Syrian crisis in 2015. 

Poland has already begun preparing to receive these refugees by setting up hospitals and reception centers at its border. The Polish government has also announced that they will accept up to 1 million Ukrainian refugees if necessary. Other Central European nations have also pledged to host refugees and offer humanitarian aid as the situation unfolds, and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is calling on these governments to open their borders and has promised support for those that do. As the crisis continues and violence potentially spreads, Western Europe and the United States must also make preparations to open its doors to these vulnerable refugees. 

The Ukrainian Church

Ukraine is home to a vibrant Church and a number of missionaries. Joshua Tokar, director of English language services at Ukraine Evangelical Theological Seminary, noted, “Ukraine is the main missionary-sending country for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The church is very strong. As far as Europe is concerned, the Ukrainian church is perhaps the strongest and is doing the most for education, training, and sending out workers.”

Many serving in Ukraine have made the difficult decision to relocate out of the country while others have chosen to remain. As Russia invades and potentially seeks a regime change, it is likely that these Christian brothers and sisters, as well as those of other religious minorities, will face intense persecution and human rights abuses. Those that have chosen to stay are committed to meeting the needs of their neighbors as they are able and have said, “When this is over, the citizens of Kyiv will remember how Christians have responded in their time of need.”

What’s next?

The European Union announced announced the strongest package of sanctions ever delivered by the coalition of nations against Russia. The United States had already sanctioned two Russian banks and the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, and in an address to the nation today, President Biden, alongside the G7 leaders, announced additional, more severe sanctions on four more Russian banks and on some exports to Russia. It has also been reported that President Biden could consider massive cyberattacks against Russia for its actions, if provoked. The president had already repositioned thousands of troops in NATO countries in Eastern Europe and announced today the sending of additional troops to Germany and NATO’s Eastern Flank to bolster the alliance’s efforts.

Here in the United States, the crisis will continue to increase already high gas prices as Russia is the world’s second largest natural gas producer and third largest oil producer. Punchbowl news reported, “As of 5:30 this morning, the price of WTI crude oil was $100 per barrel, the highest it has been since 2014. The White House has said that it may release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help keep U.S. gas prices down.”

As Congress attempts to finalize and pass an omnibus spending bill funding the government for the remainder of the fiscal year ahead of the March 11 deadline, there will be growing pressure for the inclusion of additional defense and humanitarian aid in the spending package. 

A call to prayer

Ultimately, Christians should care about this because millions of image-bearers live in Ukraine. We should urgently cry out to God in prayer for the people of Ukraine. We’ve listed a few ways you can pray specifically below. And this guide from Send Relief has additional suggestions.

  • Pray that Christians and missionaries in Ukraine would hope in the Lord and that many would come to saving faith in Christ through their witness.
  • Pray for the safety of the citizens of Ukraine as war begins and that their lives would be honored and protected.
  • Pray that those fleeing the country and those who will be unable to return home will find a Christlike welcome and a home in a new nation.
  • Pray for President Biden and global leaders as they navigate geopolitical tensions and attempt to respond with wisdom and discernment.
  • Pray that Vladimir Putin’s heart would be changed and that he would withdraw from Ukraine and not pursue additional aggression.

In the midst of the darkness, may it be that the light of Christ brings hope and help through his people, his Word, and his mercy shown to a war-torn region.

By / Feb 10

A happy and healthy marriage is one of God’s sweetest gifts to us. And one of the best ways to nurture your marriage is through the power of prayer. In their new book, 5 Things to Pray for Your Spouse, Michael and Melissa Kruger help you to pray bold and biblical prayers for your husband or wife that will strengthen and enrich your marriage. As Nancy Guthrie says in her forward:

There is a great deal we can do for our spouses. But there is so much that only God can do, so much that only he can develop, and so much that only he can provide. So we pray. And as we pray instead of worry, pray instead of complain, pray instead of strategize, we find that God is not only doing a work in our spouse, he’s doing a work in us too.

The book makes a great wedding, anniversary, or Valentine’s Day gift. It covers 21 prayer themes, and each one includes five prayer prompts from a particular passage of Scripture. You’ll be equipped to pray deep and effective prayers for your spouse’s character and spiritual walk, for your life together as a couple, and through challenging seasons.

Below is a sample passage from the book — five prayer prompts for handling conflict in your marriage based on Ephesians 4:25–32:

Father, if we have conflict with one another let us . . . 

1. Speak truthfully.

“ Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully.” (v. 25)

In every quarrel there is always the temptation to exaggerate the other person’s sins and downplay our own. Pray that God would allow each of you to speak truthfully in the midst of conflict. Also, ask the Lord to give you the courage to speak the truth, even if it’s difficult or awkward, knowing that it’s better to be honest than to suppress the truth and let bitterness grow.

2. Reconcile quickly.

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (v. 26)

When conflict is left unresolved sometimes it can become entrenched. As a result, some conflicts can last days, weeks, and even years. Pray that any conflict you face would be resolved as quickly as possible. Ask for grace to be the first to apologize, the first to forgive, and the first to move toward the other person.

3. Put away bitterness.

“Get rid of all bitterness.” (v. 31)

If conflict occurs over the course of many years, bitterness has a way of setting in. Spouses can begin to resent one another if they have been hurt over and over again. Pray that the Lord would prevent a root of bitterness from taking hold in your marriage. Ask the Lord to reveal in what ways you might need to apologize to your spouse for past wrongs.

4. Be kind.

“ Be kind . . .  to one another.” (v. 32)

Praise God today for his kindness to you — even though you did nothing to deserve it. Ask God to give you a heart that is tender and affectionate toward your spouse, demonstrated in simple acts of kindness toward them each day. Pray also that the Lord would show you tangible ways to do good to your spouse, even if they are not always good to you in return.

5. Forgive one another.

“Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (v 32)

It’s hard to truly forgive those who wrong us. Sometimes we may even want to withhold forgiveness. Rejoice that Christ forgave you when you were undeserving. Pray that God would give both you and your spouse a heart that recognizes how much you’ve been forgiven so that you can, in turn, freely and readily forgive one another. 

By / Feb 3

The tensions mounting between Russia and Ukraine are cause for grave concern. As Vladimir Putin teeters on the edge of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, many are understandably voicing deep concern about the potential ramifications for the world order. But often lost in this conversation are the citizens of these countries who will suffer greatly in the face of conflict. And for me, the situation in this particular region is deeply personal.

I was born in Bucharest, Romania, and adopted as an infant. My family is built through adoption, and I have a brother from Romania, four siblings from Russia, and a cousin from Ukraine. Over a decade ago, I visited Romania. As I strolled through the streets of Bucharest, the remnants of communism existed in the bleak, colorless buildings that lined the streets — a visual reminder of its former life as the Socialist Republic of Romania. Like many of its neighbors, Romania was a Communist country for decades, and its citizens lived under a brutal dictatorship. The people of the Eastern Bloc were isolated from the rest of the world and faced issues such as starvation and poverty. But the year 1989 turned out to be a pivotal year for the countries in the Soviet orbit as unrest ultimately led to reforms.

It was then that the Iron Curtain fell. Unfortunately, after initial democratic progress was made, Russia now finds itself looking increasingly like an authoritarian regime. The Russian government is a particularly severe violator of religious freedom, earning the designation as a “country of particular concern” from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). According to USCIRF, “in 2020, religious freedom conditions in Russia deteriorated. The government continued to target “nontraditional” religious minorities with fines, detentions, and criminal charges. Russian legislation criminalizes “extremism” without adequately defining the term, enabling the state to prosecute a vast range of nonviolent religious activity.”

Praying for the people of Ukraine and Russia

In a globally-connected world, what happens on the other side of the globe affects all of us. As my colleague Jason Thacker writes, “The tensions in Eastern Europe should concern us all given the worldwide effects of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Not only does the prospect of a ground war raise concerns about major unrest in the region, untold loss of life, and the possible inclusion of other major powers in the conflict, but this situation also indicates what Russia may seek to do in the coming years.”

But more than that, Christians should care about this because millions of image-bearers live in Ukraine and Russia. As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” People will dialogue and debate about what our response to the crisis should be, but, above all, we should endeavor to pray for the people in those two countries. Here are a few ways you can pray:

  • Pray for Christians in Ukraine and Russia, that they would not place their ultimate trust or hope in government leaders, but would firmly fix their eyes on the Lord. 
  • Pray for the missionaries in both countries, that they’ll continue to boldly proclaim the good news of the gospel and that many might come to a saving faith in Christ.
  • Pray for the safety of the citizens of Ukraine and Russia, that amid the geopolitical tensions, their lives would be honored and protected.
  • Pray for global leaders as they navigate geopolitical tensions, that they would act with wisdom.
  • Pray that Vladimir Putin’s heart would be changed and that he would withdraw from conflict with Ukraine. 

Times of trial and suffering are often used by God to draw people to himself. And we should ask, seek, and knock with confidence that this would be the case with the escalating tension between Russia and Ukraine. In the midst of the darkness, may it be that the light of Christ brings hope and help through his people, his Word, and his mercy shown to a war-torn region.

By / Aug 23

The news about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan is nearly unavoidable, and rightly so. We are watching a horrific human rights atrocity happen before our very eyes. Our children are likely seeing the images but are not as tuned in to this historic event, and that’s OK. But as Christian parents, it’s important that we teach our children to mourn with those who mourn. Here are three things my husband and I did with our children to help them understand what is happening right now and how Christians should respond.

Find a good news source

I’ve found that listening to news for children can be an effective way to introduce them to complex world topics. While we will often show them video footage of current news at times, some events feel too weighty for children to watch. So, we chose to listen to this podcast from the BBC while we ate supper. A podcast allows us all to listen while doing something else (like eating a meal) which makes it seem more natural and less forced. 

We listened to the first 10 minutes or so of the episode and paused when needed. This segment included a few fascinating interviews with those being directing affected by these events, including a female activist who refuses to leave Afghanistan out of a commitment to the women and girls that she has mentored and led over the years; and a journalist in neighboring Pakistan. The news felt even more real and pressing to them because of the ability to hear from people halfway around the world. 

Allow plenty of time for questions

Our children are 13, 11, and 9, and they had a lot of questions. Who are the Taliban? Are they like Al Qaeda? Why are the U.S. troops leaving the country? Why are we in Afghanistan? My husband and I had read a few articles that day and watched several clips online about the horror happening, so we tried our best to explain what we were seeing. But most of the questions they asked were not cut and dry. We had to answer “I don’t know” several times and explain to them that some things are more complicated than we’d like them to be. 

Ultimately, we made every effort to point our children back to the fact that we need to pray for the Afghan people because God is the only one who can fully understand and deliver them. We also tried to humanize things for them so that they could better understand how to pray for the Afghans. We told them that some people were so desperate to leave the country that they held onto the tires of evacuation planes in hopes that they would be able to survive, only to fall to their deaths. We wanted them to think about what it would be like to feel that desperate. We’ve found that it’s always good to help children cultivate empathy for others, especially in a crisis like this.

Pray together

The final thing we did as a family was to pray. My husband read Micah 6:8 and talked to our children about the injustice that is happening in Afghanistan and why it’s right that we pray for justice. I then picked five things we could pray for and let each member of the family pick their topic. Since we have five people in our family, it made sense to identify that number of topics. This makes praying a bit easier and helps us avoid generalities. 

These are the things each one of us prayed:

  • The U.S. government, military, and President Biden: Our 11-year-old son prayed that God would give President Biden and the generals involved in the military wisdom to do what is best and to help the people of Afghanistan. 
  • The Taliban: Our 9-year-old son prayed that these people would stop doing wicked things and that God would soften their hearts toward the Christians living in Afghanistan. 
  • Women and children: Our 13-year-old daughter prayed for women and children to be protected and that their value would be seen by those who seek their harm. 
  • The church in Afghanistan: I prayed for our brothers and sisters in Christ that live in Afghanistan and asked for the Lord’s protection, while also asking God to give them courage to endure and face possible persecution and execution. 
  • The country of Afghanistan: Jesse prayed for the Afghan government, for justice, and for God to bring structure to the chaos. He closed our time in prayer with some reiterations of what we all had said, thanking God for his sovereignty in this moment and always.

You can also find another ERLC prayer guide here

If you are a parent, especially a parent of elementary age children and older, I encourage you to talk to your children about big world news like this. If you’re like me, you will probably feel inadequate. But, we can trust that God is working on our children’s hearts through our imperfect efforts. 

Our time together didn’t go as I’d planned, though. While listening to the podcast, we still had to deal with real family issues. We had to stop a few times to deal with relational conflicts that occur at any family dinner table. And in between listening to the podcast and our prayer time, we had to deal with a child that was mad about someone eating their food. This is real-life parenting.The kids were not perfectly enraptured with the podcast or our answers. Sometimes I could tell their minds had wandered off. But we were faithful in the moment to model empathy for another people group, and to take those concerns to the Lord. That is all we can do as parents. I encourage you to trust God with your inadequacies as you walk your kids through important moments in our culture. 

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 / Apr 21

We’ve faced and still are facing the greatest “one another” challenge of our age. And the challenge won’t be vaccinated out of the church body; no more than we can vaccinate against high cholesterol or cancer. It’s going to take work and some surgery with one another. 

When I say “one another” I’m referring to the church body and the over 50 “one another” commands of the New Testament that involve our direct relational—and often physical ministry—to one another and to neighbors. 

The great challenge will be the increased and increasing isolation and polarization in our churches. But I didn’t have to tell you that. You saw it in your Twitter feed. You probably felt it when asked whether you’d started attending in-person services or not. You may have even fed into it with a sarcastic comment about masks or no masks to your pastor or small group members. 

How like our enemy to divide us over a piece of cloth. Right in line with our faith family history, isn’t it? The enemy keeps running the same game plans to frustrate any sign of a church community walking with God in unity. But, let’s not let him disrupt our fellowship. We also have some game plans with which we can respond. 

The way back to one another

There’s a path back to one another that will have more of an effect than a rotating approach to masks. That’s a technical change that will not address the root of the matter. What I’m talking about is a recommitment to the commands that govern our heart and actions toward each other. 

The warfare we’re facing isn’t over a piece of cloth, the body politic, or even the human body. But it is in humans. Outward attempts will do little for lasting change. We won’t wrangle the church culture back to unity with our expertly-crafted late-night emails to church leaders or marshalling those who agree with “our side.” That destroys unity, or at least complicates it greatly. 

Our issues are relational, heart-level with God and one another. We need to start there, and start small. Our small groups may be the best place to start. Here are a few simple but powerful and effective ways to keep your group from being further divided by the enemy of God as we all reenter into the new normal of life with one another: 

  1. Prayer before

A simple, profound way to prepare for the warfare and the work in small group is to pray over the seats where you meet. Many times a prayer team or volunteers will do this before a service meeting on a church campus. We should do the same before our group meets. 

Your group members are likely human beings of habit who sit in the same general spot each time. Use this for the work and the warfare. Pray by name for the individual who sits in each seat. Ask for the Lord to give you Scripture to pray for them. Pray for what you know about them and what they’ve shared. And ask for God to meet them in group. 

  1. Prayer over one another

The enemy hates friendship, or even just healthy relationships between Christians. And we wonder why these are so hard? It’s because the assault on them is constant. 

So, too, should be our prayers over and for one another. Spend the first part of group time acknowledging the truth of the warfare in your group. Then pray over and for one another. We’ve found the best landing for this is to pray and practice the one another commands of Scripture when you meet. And as you are apart, keep praying for one another and what the Lord is doing in your group. 

  1. Prayer afterward 

Small group is spiritual work and warfare. Pray to close the group and include a blessing over the house where it’s held. Ask that the Lord would guard and guide the souls in the groups and the homes represented. Such cleansing prayers are simple but essential to being sober-minded and vigilant (1 Pet. 5:8) as we keep pressing toward a closer community with God and one another. 

United by prayer

It was the division of another cloth, the tearing of the temple curtain, which signified that the people of God were to be divided no longer, whether by ethnicity or political persuasion or any other “dividing wall” that we often construct. As our church groups and communities slowly ease their way back together, let’s work hard to maintain the unity that Jesus purchased with his blood. And let’s contend for that unity with prayer.