Lord, Help Us Pray
Showing videos in African villages always draws a big crowd. People donít have electricity to enjoy such treats, and entertainment is rare. Recently we decided to show our three overnight prayer groups an inspiring video made by George Otis, Jr., called An Unconventional War. It tells the story of the 20 year rebel/cult war against the Acholi people in northern Uganda, and how people crying out to God in fervent prayer, and learning to forgive, ultimately caused the war to end.
Our prayer groups have been deeply inspired and the people are now being heard praying in the same manner the Acholi believers did, repenting not only of their own personal sins, but also the sins of their forefathers, of their churches, of their nation. They want to see the video again, so weíre planning to show them other videos I have such as Hotel Rwanda (MGM), Shooting Dogs (Michael Caton-Jones) about the 1994 Rwanda genocide where roughly 11,000 people were slaughtered daily for 3 months. Following them we will show the 27 minute video Rwanda, Living Forgiveness (Agape International) which shows how the gospel of Jesus Christ and practicing forgiveness again is bringing about healing and restored lives.
I marvel and sometimes weep as I see the horrors so many Africans have been subjected to, or have participated in. And yet in the midst of their brokenness and hopelessness, their loss, untold thousands are finding restoration and new life through Jesus. How can people forgive atrocities where sometimes entire families were wiped out? I pose the question: how can they not forgive? Forgiveness is the only answer. Without it, revenge and hatred only perpetuate and prolong the agonies, as we see in the Middle East and so many other parts of the world.
I have been looking at the prayers of Daniel (chapter 9) and Nehemiah (chapter 1) and other scriptures and Iím seeing something I have no memory of being taught to do in any of the churches Iíve attended through the years. I see prostration, weeping, mourning, fasting and interceding before God. There is deep repentance in the third person, the person praying for his family, his nation, the leaders and all the people in the land. There is deep shame. There is deep worship of God with petition. The Acholis experienced deliverance after personal repentance and then gathering into groups according to clans, and praying for forgiveness of ancestral sins, idolatry, and rebellion against the one true God. Just like in the Bible.
In church we often hear the scripture quoted If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14) I believe this is personified in the prayers of Daniel, Nehemiah and others like the Acholis, and the Rwandan people who have seen their land being healed.
In the Luweero area of Uganda, the years 1980 to 1986 saw possibly as many deaths as in the Rwanda genocide. It just took longer. When the war finally ended, the army went out and began gathering up the bones from the swamps and fields. As a memorial to the dead, the skulls were piled in pyramids alongside the highway that goes past my village on its way to the Sudan. But they soon had to remove them and place them in the mass graves that had been made to house the skeletons of the million or so who had so tragically died. The witchdoctors were stealing them to use in their witchcraft practices. Skulls are greatly valued for such things, and where much of Uganda turned to God during its civil war, the Luweero area did not. To this day, it remains steeped in witchcraft and superstition, a backwards and disabled part of the nation.
So itís with great joy that we are beginning to see our prayer warriors fighting a different type of battle after all these years, praying for God to forgive them, their families, and their nation for all their sins against him. As storm clouds are gathering over the nation with the upcoming 2011 elections, these faithful people are praying for God to withhold His judgment against the nation.
In my own life, I have come to the point of realizing I have never prayed this way before. Yes, Iíve repented of my own sins. Yes, Iíve fasted. Yes, Iíve worshiped God and have experienced the new birth. But have I ever wept and repented for the sins of my ancestors and how they have affected my family, my church, my nation? No.
As the African church has been sullied by corruption and dependency and wars, our American churches have also been blighted by compromise, immorality, abortion. My own family has been broken over the generations by adultery and abandonment. Iíve seen our churches giving up worship for entertainment, and prayer for gossip. My nation is broken by rejecting the truth of the Bible upon which it was founded, and itís been a downhill road from there.
I donít know about you, but I want God, through His Holy Spirit, to bring me to the place of being on my face before Him, pleading before the throne, doing something about it! .