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7 Prayers for Those Battered by Natural Disasters

Written By Janel Breitenstein, USA

Like many of you, my eyes have riveted on stories about hurricanes Irma, Jose, Katia, and Maria, which have dismantled the lives of thousands across the Caribbean. Added to these are the earthquakes in Mexico, the pummelling by Hurricane Harvey, and wildfires which have torched the western portion of the USA.

When a natural disaster hits, it leaves many in sudden, abject poverty. It destroys homes and takes away lives. It leaves many stranded without basic resources such as clean, drinkable water.

Having worked for 5½ years in Africa for an aid organization, I’ve had a glimpse of what poverty means. The hurricanes, however, also opened my eyes to another kind of poverty.

Victims of natural disasters are poor because they have been robbed of something more than their homes and basic facilities. Apart from losing their material possessions and essential resources, they no longer have the sense of security that they can survive the next hit. They live in fear of the next storm, and have nowhere they can shelter safely. They can’t even turn to their friends and neighbours, who are just as badly hit.

I caught a tiny glimpse of how it must feel to lose things that are important to you when I was robbed. During our tenure in Uganda, the thieves ran away with so much more than my purse and electronics. They temporarily extracted my peace of mind; my sense of trust; a slice of my children’s innocence and my husband’s sense of being able to protect his family.

This helps us better understand our role when we step in to assist victims of natural disasters. Even if we were able to wave a magic wand and restore all of their possessions, there would still exist a poverty untouched.

This forms the backbone of my prayers for those hit by natural disasters. I pray that God would restore their sense of peace, materially and otherwise.

Victims of natural disasters: We remember you, and we’re on our knees. Readers: Will you pray with us for the following?

 

1. Peace

Like the disciples in a floundering, water-logged boat, our eyes are so often glued to the turbulent waves rather than their Master.

Let them repeatedly hand all their anxiety and fear to You. As they trust You, guard their hearts in Your peace (Philippians 4:8). Let Your peace be their anchors amid any circumstances, no matter how deep the raging waters are.

 

2. Provision

When the physical stores that we’ve relied on are suddenly gone in an instant, it can be terrifying to have no resources in sight.

Please care for these victims’ physical needs and provide them their daily bread. Let them not worry about what they’ll eat or drink or wear, but trust that You see them and care deeply for them (Matthew 6:26). Let them seek You, and lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10). In times of their deep need, give them the strength to endure anything (Philippians 4:13).

 

3. Wisdom

There are so many decisions to be made after a natural disaster strikes. Where should reconstruction begin? What are the most important needs? What issues must be addressed in the meantime? Where are safe and trustworthy places to go for help?

Help victims and aid workers to move forward, not in impulsive fear, but to operate with Your peace, trusting in Your care and constancy. You led nomadic Israelites with a fire and a cloud. Help these victims seek Your wisdom for their next step in their recovery (James 1:5-6).

 

4. Trust

It can be hardest to trust You when we walk through overwhelming grief and loss. Show each person the tender, specific care You have for them, and that You remember every single one of them.

Let them trust You even when You take away (Job 1:21). Help them see that any disaster, any evil that they run into, is still on Your leash and that You are still in control of their situation. Help us, Good Father, to trust You when we can’t see.

 

5. Care and hospitality

Father, You have not abandoned them for even a second! Let them see You in every open door, every glass of water, every kind smile, and every gentle grasp. Provide love for them through friends, family, and strangers. Go before these victims of tragedy, paving their way in graciousness.

Motivate Your people to love generously, as an act of love to You (Matthew 25:34-40). Open our own hearts towards them in sacrificial generosity and make us our brother’s keeper—even if it’s a brother we’ve never met.

 

6. Restoration

Restore the happiness and necessities taken by these disasters (Joel 2:24-26), be it homes, vehicles, irreplaceable mementos, or clothing, and give them a peace of mind.

 

7. Refuge

Lord, be their hiding place and refuge, a constant presence and help in trouble. Let them know that You are personally and intimately involved in their lives, and reassure them that You are always with them (Psalm 46:1). We beg You to spare them any more calamity—whether it is concurrent diseases or recurring natural disasters—and show us Your undeserved favour. We rely on You, Lord!

What to Do When We Are Prayerless

On one occasion, my little girl drove me to tears.

She opened her arms the moment she saw me walk into the bedroom. There was no doubt in her mind that her father was going to receive her. She knew that I loved her and was full of joy to see her.

Do you remember a time when all you wanted to do was to pray and spend time with God?  You knew that He would acknowledge you and your greatest desire was to just be before Him? What has changed since?

We know how crucial prayer is in the Christian walk. To be a Christian without praying is akin to be a human without breathing—we’re as good as dead. Prayer is about connecting with God and loving Him. It is about being God-centered, learning to look at life from God’s perspective, and finding out what He wants.

Maybe you’re struggling to pray today. You feel like God does not care enough to listen. I can recall a time in my spiritual journey when I too struggled to pray. My heart was heavy and it almost felt unbearable. My prayers felt as though they were not heard and I was attacked from the evil one from every side. My desire to pray dwindled as I wandered in the spiritual desert of isolation. I began to question: Does God really listen to my prayers? Does he really hear me when I cry out to him?

Through that season, these three reminders spoke to me:

 

1. Forget your insecurities, remember His love

Ask yourself honestly. Why are you not coming to God? Is it because you feel too sinful for Him? That you’re not enough for Him?

Often, I look at myself and wonder why God would want Jonathan Hayashi’s love. Why would He want to bother with a worthless being like me compared to great men-of-faith like Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, or Jonathan Edwards?

When we make prayer all about us, focusing on our inadequacies or insecurities, instead of Him, that’s where the problem arises.

Combat your insecurities with truths from the Bible; don’t let Satan tell you that you are too sinful to come to Him. When we became God’s children, our sins were taken care of. When Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross (John 19:30), it was a done deal. He made it possible for us to have a restored relationship with Him and He wants to have a relationship with us.

 

2. Pray even when you don’t feel like praying

I know how counter-intuitive it sounds. However, I have learned over the past few years that the best way to ignite my dullest moments is to simply obey in faith. I come to God in prayer, trusting and believing in Him more than I believe in my own feelings.

When I was a new believer, I would lock myself in a closet, desperate to feel the presence of God. I prayed for the Lord to come and reveal Himself to me. And in the quietness of the silence, I experienced the presence and the joy of God.

If you feel like you don’t have the words to say to Him, take heart in the fact that the Spirit intercedes for us. We just need to come to Him. The Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26). John Bunyan, a puritan preacher and author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, said it well, “In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

 

3. Read and pray from the Scriptures

The Word of God is living and abiding and can give us words to pray when we don’t have the words to say. The Scriptures, isn’t just for teaching and correcting us. We can find comfort in His promises and use the Psalms to cry out to Him. Psalm 86 begins with a plea for God to hear David.

I recall a time a few years ago when I was struggling with sin. As I mourned over all the ways I had failed and fallen short of His glory, I felt like God couldn’t accept me and I wasn’t able to come to Him because of what I’d done. Yet, I longed to be pleasing to Christ and be a blessing unto Him.

Then I stumbled over these words in the Scriptures, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The verse blessed me, reminding me that He accepts and takes delight in our prayer of repentance.

Ultimately, prayer is not about mastering the mechanics of how to come to God, or reciting poetic literature, or bringing a shopping list to Jesus. Prayer is communion with God.

Satan hates prayer because it is the most important thing you can do in your life. Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint on his knees before God. Don’t be dismayed (Isaiah 41:10) and don’t give up on praying (Luke 18:1).

Have a little talk with Jesus today. Have a honest conversation with Him. As Oswald Chambers once said, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.”

Why Should We Pray for Others?

Written By M. Tiong, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

“I will pray for you.”

I believe all Christians are familiar with this sentence. It is the most common response we receive from our brothers and sisters in Christ when we share our troubles with them.

But do prayers of intercession really work? I used to doubt it. If intercession really helps, why are my non-believing relatives still resisting God? If intercession is really effective, why have the sick still not recovered? If intercession is really powerful, why are Christians around the world still being persecuted?

Moreover, isn’t God omniscient? So even if we do not pray on behalf of others, God would still know their needs, right?

Not long ago, I opened the Bible, desiring to find out more about the role and importance of intercession. The time I spent with the Word taught me five lessons. These lessons have been a tremendous encouragement to me and they urge me to reexamine my doubts towards praying for others. If you’re experiencing the same doubts as I do, I pray that the points below will help you see the importance of prayers of intercession.

 

1. Prayers of intercession please God

In Isaiah 59, God was astonished and displeased, for there wasn’t anyone who would help or pray and intercede for Israel. Isaiah writes, “He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him” (Isaiah 59:16).

If we want to please God, we ought to love others by praying for them. For example, we can attend the church’s weekly prayer meeting to pray for the needs of the church.

On a personal level, I feel disappointed with the politics and law in my country and am unhappy about some policies that are set in place. Seeing the state of my country, it is easy to just give up praying for my country. However, God used this episode in the Bible to remind me to persevere in prayer, for my prayers please Him.

 

2. Prayers of intercession were done by Jesus and His followers

Jesus taught us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). He Himself served as an example when He prayed to the Father to forgive the people who persecuted Him. It would be easy for Jesus to curse the people who crucified Him on the cross. Instead, Jesus chose to intercede on their behalf (Luke 23:34). Jesus sets the example for us, showing us that it is possible for us to do the same.

We can also take comfort in the fact that Jesus cares for those who intercede for others. In Jesus’ three years of ministry, He answered many prayers of intercession. For example, the centurion who pleaded for his servant (Matthew 8:5-13), the synagogue leader who pleaded for his severely ill daughter (Matthew 9:18-26), the father who pleaded for his possessed son (Mark 9:14-29), and many more. Can we also follow these examples and pray for someone we know?

I have a list of people I pray for frequently. These people include my family who has yet to come to know Jesus, friends whose faith are stagnant, and children whom I support from the World Vision. And what encouraged me was to see how God answered prayers—one of my friends who has depression, started to interact with people and smile more.  I was very thankful for that.

 

3. Prayers of intercession bring us closer to the heart of God

God has a plan in every decision He makes. The sin of the city of Sodom was so great and grievous that in His anger, God wanted to destroy the whole city (Genesis 18).

Abraham interceded for Sodom and even negotiated with God, asking God not to destroy the city if there were even 10 righteous people in it. God was not displeased with Abraham’s plea. In fact, God patiently answered him.

Perhaps, God was pleased by Abraham’s request because it showed how much he loves and treasures lives. I believe Abraham slowly began to understand that God loved man more than he does, and that as long as there is one righteous man in the city, God would spare the city.

Eventually, God sent angels to rescue Abraham’s nephew, Lot and his family, before the city of Sodom was destroyed. God showed His compassion and love once again. Therefore, when we continue to pray, we will gradually understand what the heart of God is like.

 

4. Prayers of intercession increase our empathy for the people we pray for

When we feel helpless and inadequate to help others overcome their difficulties, do not forget that as Christians, we have the power of prayer. We may not fully understand what a person is going through, but as we pray for them continually, we learn to put ourselves in their shoes and empathize with them.

When I pray for missionaries, I can imagine how hard it is for them to be away from home, to be alone overseas. When I pray for my persecuted brothers and sisters, I can feel their pain.

On top of that, others are encouraged to persevere in the faith when they know someone is praying for them. When we empathize with others, we demonstrate God’s love, and comfort them in their difficult times.

 

5. Prayers of intercession help us share each other’s burdens

Problems may not be resolved immediately after we pray for others. But the Holy Spirit can strengthen and comfort those we pray for.

When I was overseas pursuing my Masters’ degree, I was overwhelmed by the heavy load of assignments. I did not want to share my stress with my family, as I was afraid that they would worry about me. But being alone in another country, I did not have friends to talk to either. It came to a point where I wanted to give up and return to my country.

Shouldering the weight of all my burdens alone, I went to a church prayer meeting where a group of sisters prayed for me. As they prayed for me, tears flowed down my cheeks uncontrollably, and I could feel the weight of my burdens lifting.

I am now pursuing my Ph.D. Although my workload is still just as heavy and at times I feel like giving up, I know many others are praying for me and that I can always regain strength from God.

 

When we pray for others, we move from a self-centered focus to a love for God and people.

As our friends share their troubles with us, has it become a habit to just say “I will pray for you”, without taking any action? Has it become a convenient way to brush someone aside? We ought to treat our prayers for others seriously. Instead of saying “I will pray for you”, let us say, “Let me pray for you now”, and then immediately pray together with them!

Perhaps you have been praying for a long time and things still remain unchanged. But do not lose heart. As long as we are willing to spend time praying, it will not be in vain. May we learn to pray like Jesus did in Luke 22:42, asking for God’s will to be done and not ours.

God Makes the Impossible Possible

Written By Silvia Y, Indonesia

“So, what are you going to do now that you’re done with your Master’s?” That was a question I was repeatedly asked after completing my Master’s in International Relations in China.

I had just returned to Indonesia, and it seemed natural that I should apply to a big company or enterprise. After all, they would offer me the highest salary.

That decision could be assumed for most people. But somehow, I didn’t hanker after it. I’m not very sure why, but I signed up for the civil servant test in my country to become a diplomat. Although I was aware of the stigma—that an Indonesian Chinese like me would not be accepted for the job—I wanted to contribute directly to my country.

Of course, my friends and family members thought that my decision to take the test was very ridiculous and would not end well. They advised me against it and told me to change my mind before it was too late.

I understood their concerns—very few Chinese descendants in Indonesia are able to become civil servants. However, it was not out of sheer spontaneity that I decided to take the test.

I remember one Sunday after church service when I sat alone and prayed for God’s direction. I was worried about taking the test, and had asked God if taking the civil servant test was the right thing to do.

Immediately, I felt a sense of peace within me—I knew that God had said yes. In Colossians 3:15, we are commanded to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  God may not have answered my prayers audibly. However, I knew it was His Spirit giving me peace, comforting me and assuring me to go on.

God affirmed my decision to listen to Him. After four consecutive tests that I took over a period of three months, I was chosen from the thousands of people who applied. Others would say that I was accepted because of my ability, but I am certain that it was because God had guided me through each phase.

 

Learning French

Recently, I was reminded again that God is always in control. After praying earnestly, I decided to take on a Master’s program offered by my office. This time, I hit a seemingly insurmountable problem: the lessons would be taught in French and I would need to master the language first.

The last time I attended classes, I could barely pass the elementary A2 level. To take a Master’s that was offered in French, I had to obtain a French language certificate at B2 level.

Fortunately for me, there was a two-month-long preparation class I could take prior to  taking the official B2 level language test. The class was a very intensive one; it lasted from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for six days a week—our only break being Saturday.

Each day, I would go back home after class and pray that God would give me the necessary wisdom to understand all the French readings. Compared to my three other classmates, I was behind and I struggled to catch up.

My colleagues—who were of another faith—jokingly said that they wished I would fail the language test so that I could continue organizing the big forum we were planning for next year. I shared this with another friend at office—who belonged to the same faith as them—and she said: “Let’s see whose prayer would be answered—yours or theirs.”

It was probably a nonchalant remark but it impacted me. I felt like failing the French test would show that I was worshipping the “wrong” God in their eyes. I poured out my worries to God and again, God gave me peace and assurance that I could do it.

This time, God used other believers to speak to me. My supportive parents kept reminding me that I would be able to do it because God was with me. Each time I prayed, I became more convinced that God was in control.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul reminds us that God can use our weaknesses for His glory: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

 

The Power of Prayer

Since then, I’ve learned to ask God what He wants to do with my life before considering the most appealing option in my limited human eyes. Even though God’s answer may seem impossible when we look at it with our own finite wisdom, I have faith and peace in Christ. If God tells me to go ahead and pursue it, I know everything will be fine and I just have to obey.

We really should not underestimate the power and importance of prayer. Our prayers may not be answered immediately or in the way we hope they would be, but we can trust that our faithful Father hears and answers them.

Thanks to the Lord Jesus, I am flying to the southwest part of France this September for my Master’s in French Art, Language and Culture at the University of La Rochelle. I am sharing my story because I cannot keep the goodness of God for myself. I hope my story will encourage you and serve as a reminder that God never fails in His promises to take care of you.

Let us strive to live a life in which we make decisions that align to God’s truth and divine will. Taste and see how good our God is, for He provides more than what our heart desires.  All glory goes to God above!