From time to time, and perhaps in some cases daily, we pray for those of our brethren who are sick or who mourn or who are experiencing one problem or another, and of course, we pray for God to eliminate or ease the problems we ourselves may encounter. But how many times do we pray for those outside the Church? And I refer not only to family and friends.
I watch a number of newscasts on television and I find myself thinking about the events broadcast, including, for example, updates on the plight of the little Scottish girl Madeleine McCann kidnapped in Portugal over four years ago and yet still not found. One might blame the parents for being remiss in looking after this innocent little girl, now 8 years old, leaving her alone in their holiday apartment while they dined nearby. Yet that does not excuse the kidnapper nor lessen the agony of the parents or the child. I have prayed that God will give the Portuguese and British and other authorities who are looking for her an extra portion of insight and police intelligence in being able to find Madeleine and that she may be brought home to her parents and the kidnapper(s) brought to justice.
Occasionally I also view other programs on TV such as Children’s Hospital here in the UK, and my heart and prayers go out for the child’s aches and pains and to the parents for their concern when their child succumbs to injury or disease or death. There are numerous other incidents broadcast depicting victims of accidents, of monetary “scams” and criminal acts such as all-too-frequent knifings and the mugging of old ladies. The plight of those caught up in the extreme drought conditions such as in Kenya and Somalia come to mind, and I pray to God that He would mercifully ease their problems of disease and starvation and their desperate need for medical aid and clean water. Certainly we all recall the atrocious and senseless slaughter of more than 70 young people in Norway recently, and I’ve prayed that God would console the parents.
As I quite often jest, if there wasn’t so much crime and bad news these days there wouldn’t be any newspapers!… Wars in the Middle East and North Africa, volcanic eruptions here and there, increasing budget and inflationary pressures, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts and famines etc. all come to mind. It seems we are swamped with all sorts of bad news—and we in the Church know the reasons why—and our prayers should plead for the return and intervention of Jesus Christ to alleviate the suffering and death which continue to strike mankind in all sorts of ways and with greater frequency.
In the light of all these disturbing events, we in the Church need to avoid being insular or oblivious to the problems of those outside the Church. Here in the UK where I live I quite often come upon old people having to cope with a cane or walking frame or mobility cart or who are deformed in some way, or blind, and I thank God that I am not likewise encumbered while sympathising with such people and praying silently for them as I walk on by.
As we ourselves suffer trials, such trials can help us to become more sympathetic and empathetic with others going through similar difficulties. When was the last time you expressed your thoughts and prayers in sympathy with such people and in absolute faith that God heard your prayer? David tells us: “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion… and great in mercy” (Psalm 145:8; compare Philippians 2:4). Should we not, as God’s called-out ones, likewise be compassionate? Indeed, for there is, truly, so many for whom we can, and should, offer our prayers in heartfelt sympathy.