This is one of those nights. The kind where you can’t get comfortable. As hard as I try, I just can’t seem to stay asleep. But tonight isn’t just a plain ol’ I can’t sleep night. Tonight is different. Tonight I have Holy Spirit induced insomnia. I can tell because when I wake up, there are people on my heart that I feel led to pray for. But tonight, these people are people I don’t actually know.
A couple of days ago, a good friend introduced me to a website called Prisoner Alert. (If you’ll look to the right of this blog, you’ll see a box that you can click that will take you right to it.) This site gives you information about people in other countries who have been imprisoned because of their faith in Christ. It’s an amazing site really because not only does it give you names and in many cases pictures of people in prison, but it also has a place where you can write them letters. It’s pretty neat actually. You go in and choose several phrases and scriptures you’d like to be in your letter and then once you have it all done, it will actually translate what you’ve chosen into the person’s language to whom you chose to write it. I mean how amazing is that? And it only took me like ten minutes to choose my phrases, print my letter, address an envelope, and seal my letter inside and it only cost me 98 cents to mail one. Ten minutes and 98 cents.
And now it’s 2:16am and I can’t get these people out of my mind. I can see their faces. I know their names. I know where they live and how long they’ve been in prison as of the last update. Many of them are not well because of the poor (and that’s an understatement) conditions in which they are forced to live. It’s so hard for me to fathom.
I live in a country where I can own not just one, but several Bibles…and even several different versions. I can wear a cross on my necklace as a symbol of my faith. There are numerous churches in the town where I live…different denominations, different music styles, different worship times…and I can go to any of them I want. I can even say that I don’t believe in “organized religion” and sound intelligent as I explain the hypocrisy in the church of America. In many churches, I can vote on who I want to pastor my church…and then criticize him later when he steps on my toes a bit. I can sing in the choir or play in the band. I can show up late every week because well, I just couldn’t figure out what to wear or my hair just didn’t want to cooperate. I can even get mad and leave the church because they never asked me to do a solo in the Christmas cantata even after I had told them how gifted I was at singing.
And all the while, my brothers and sisters are in chains.
Now before you jump to conclusions, I want you to know that I’m not trying to put you on a guilt trip. In fact, I started to buy a ticket for that trip myself, but God pulled me right back off that train and reminded me that He doesn’t work that way. He won’t use guilt to motivate His people. Guilt is not of Me, child, I heard Him say. See, guilt is only trap. First we feel guilty because we have stuff and others don’t so we go home, clean out our closets and take all our stuff to the homeless shelter and whew, we feel better. But then the initial guilt starts to wear off and we forget. Then something makes us remember our abundance and others’ lack and so then we feel guilty because we forgot to continue to feel guilty. It’s a vicious cycle that accomplishes nothing as we try to earn our way out of the guilt. Of course, then at the other end of that spectrum is complete ignorance. And that won’t work either. Ignoring a situation won’t make it go away…it only takes away your power to change it. And we do have power to change things….we have the power of prayer. And we can hit our knees on behalf of those believers who are imprisoned. We can keep their plight close to our heart. Here’s what Hebrews 13:3 says:
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners,
And those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
There are believers in parts of this world who are meeting in secret right now and they dare not sing praises out loud so as not to draw attention to themselves. There are Christians in other places that have no access to a Bible and only know by heart the scripture that missionary that was there last year taught them. There are followers of Christ who still today are losing their lives because of their faith. And yet, they continue to run the race set before them, their eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Remember them. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ…do you believe that? Remember them. Take ten minutes and 98 cents to encourage a brother or sister who is suffering for the cause of Christ. Whisper prayers for them to be strengthened in their faith as they continue to fight the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7). Tell others so they can pray too.