This blog post was originally published on August 23, 2021.
There’s a meme that’s been making the rounds recently of a man running but another man behind him is quickly approaching. The man in the front represents “me processing 2020 and 2021” and the man who’s quickly coming represents “2022 only 4 months away.” It’s hard to believe that 2022 will be just around the corner. There has been so much trauma we have been through collectively as a nation and as a generation within these past (almost) 2 years which will take many more months, if not years, to process. Covid was the first wave of shock and suffering that entered our lives but it was not the last. It was followed by waves of racial injustice, then political tension, and for many, the loss of their loved ones due to Covid. Wave after wave, it feels like the pounding did not stop.
Now the most recent wave of suffering turns our hearts to the nation of Afghanistan, who has had decades of war, terror and instability in leadership. The Taliban, a repressive Isamic group, has seized control over the nation and people are trying to flee the country by the thousands. It has been heartbreaking to see the image of a baby being given to the US military for fear of the Taliban getting a hold of the child, the cries of girls pleading to enter the airport as they tell the soldiers, “Taliban is coming! They will harm us! Please take us!” The layers of pain and grief we have witnessed over these months make it clear that this world is broken and in desperate need of healing. Where can we turn? And what can we do?
I want to guide us through some steps we can take as we remember those in Afghanistan during this troublesome time.
The first thing we must do in light of all this pain is to grieve. Lament the loss of life, the loss of freedom and the persecution that is to come for so many. Henri Nouwen once said, “I am beginning to see that much of praying is grieving.” One thing this season of suffering has taught me is how important grieving is to the heart of God. May the Church mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), realizing that it is God’s heart that we join as we choose to weep with the hurting. Let us grieve over the sin and suffering that has gripped Afghanistan.
Creation is groaning, as in the pains of childbirth, for the return of Christ to restore all things (Romans 8:22). And one of the gifts that pain gives to us in this fallen world is to let go of this world as our home and cling on to Christ. Paul teaches us that the Spirit helps us in our weakness and when we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit groans from within us prayers to our Father in heaven (Romans 8:26). If you don’t know what to say, then cry out and groan with the Spirit. God knows our hearts, sees our tears and helps us to pray. Let us groan together over a nation that is in desperate need of deliverance. Let us cry out with creation, “Maranatha! O Lord, come!” And come quickly, Lord. Amen and amen.
I know many want to help in other tangible ways to feel they are making a direct impact on the situation in Afghanistan right now. You can also give to some Christian organizations who are providing humanitarian aid in Afghanistan right now. World Relief and Lamia Afghan Foundation are a couple of groups seeking to bring the light of Christ to this nation during this urgent time of need. Giving to the least of these is ultimately giving to Christ (Matthew 25:40). Individually and as a church, let’s express love through our giving.
While most of us are not able to go to the Middle East right now, we can all go before the Throne of Grace and plead for His mercy over this nation. Here are some key areas we can cover with our prayers.
Pray for the strengthening of faith for the believers
Believers in Afghanistan are preparing for an increase in persecution. A number of church leaders reported getting notices from the Taliban that said, “We know where you are, and we know what you are doing. We are coming for you.” Pray for protection. But even if their lives are threatened, pray that they will remain faithful until the very end and receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10; Matthew 24:13). May their faith be refined and strengthened in the fire of affliction.
Pray for protection for the vulnerable
What we learn throughout Scripture is that God cares passionately for the orphan, the widow and the refugee (Deut 10:18; James 1:27). They were the most vulnerable groups of society at that time. The Bible makes it crystal clear: those who are deeply vulnerable and deeply valuable to the heart of God. In Afghanistan, women and girls are especially at risk. Young girls are even given over to the Taliban as wives with little to no rights of their own. Pray for their safety, freedom and deliverance.
Pray for missionaries
With the number of believers in Afghanistan being less than 0.05%, the work of missionaries there is vital. Now more than ever, the precious number of missionaries who are there face an even greater risk for their lives. They need our prayers for spiritual coverage (1 Peter 5:8-11), for intimacy with God (Mark 3:14) to carry them through hard times, and for their sending churches to partner faithfully and fervently in the place of prayer (Philippians 4:10-20). I provide a more in depth look at the intercessory needs of missionaries in my book Praying for Your Missionaries. If you know of missionaries there, I encourage you to pray through those needs during this crucial hour. This is spiritual warfare, and we must fight with them and fight for them in prayer.
Pray for stable and righteous leadership
Let us pray that God would establish good and godly leadership to rule this land (1 Timothy 2:2). Pray for leaders who will serve the people and not oppress them. Pray that God would crush the arm of the wicked (Psalm 10:15) and uproot the evil plans of the Taliban in Jesus' name. May the plans of the enemy fail and God’s mercy and grace prevail.
Pray for homes for the displaced
There are thousands who are seeking shelter in a safe place. Pray that these refugees would find safe passage into a new home. Pray that God would put the lonely and lost in families (Psalm 68:6). Pray for more nations to open their borders and homes to welcome the foreigner into their land. May we love our neighbors as ourselves.
Pray for salvation for our Muslim neighbors
As God used persecution in the book of Acts to spread the gospel to other cities and nations, pray that this time of tribulation would also bear fruit for the Kingdom. Pray that the gospel would spread into the hearts of all Afghan people. Pray for more dreams and visions of Jesus throughout the Muslim world, drawing people to Christ. Pray that the Taliban will repent and turn to Christ as Lord and Savior and turn from their wicked ways.
Let God raise up mighty waves of prayer to crash over this nation and bring forth a mighty revival and healing for this land. Dear Church, let us humble ourselves and pray and seek His face together. Maranatha.