Those of you who follow me on the Facebook know that I encouraged my friends and family to light a candle this weekend in prayer for Christians in Egypt who have cancelled their Easter celebrations to mourn the lives lost in last Sunday’s attacks.
It’s funny how God is sometimes, isn’t it? I spent quite a bit of time searching last night for prayers and hymns I could use as a structured approach to praying for these Christians, but ended a bit frustrated with the lack thereof. And while I know there are verses that speak about how to pray for the persecuted Church — and while I know it is not merely a suggestion but the responsibility of Believers to pray for those enduring persecution for the sake of Christ — I have honestly always struggled with it. There are people I know who are intercessors… And there are people like me. I have to have a list, you know? That’s not to say that my prayer life is rigid. It certainly is not. I am actually quite engaged in my conversations with God, and they often take paths I could not have planned. But I start with a list, partly because there are people and situations I’ve committed to pray for and I don’t want to forget, and partly because the structure helps me find my voice and hear God’s. It’s like playing the piano, right? Do you have to know how to read music or play scales in order to compose a piece? Of course not. But structure provides freedom.
And so I was on a mission to find a prayer or hymn that I could use as a starting point this weekend, but unfortunately I did not find what I was looking for. I was feeling a bit frustrated with that.
In my morning reading, I’ve gone back to Paul. Today, I read chapters 7 through 9 of Romans, which I always sort of struggle through because Paul is so… Well, that’s for another blog. Anyway, I was reading, and I stumbled onto a beautiful passage we are all familiar with: Romans 8:15-17.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
I’ve always read this and thought of how it relates me to God my Father. Being a daughter of a loving Father is a thing truly sacred to me. But this morning I read these words and realized the incredible bond it creates between us as Believers. We are not merely all sons and daughters; we are all sisters and brothers — a thing we often take for granted.
And just like THAT (I snapped my fingers just there for emphasis, just so you know), I found myself thinking about my family in the context of persecution. What if it was Joel? What if someone bombed his church while he was praying and Joel lost his life? How would I begin to comfort or pray for his wife? For his children? It reminded me of when my sister’s husband died, and how gut-wrenching it was to know how she grieved and not be able to learn her sorrow.
In those moments, the grief can be so heavy and so real and so suffocating. Our faith echoes deep in the corners of our spirits, “it is well with my soul,” but the trauma and emotion can be so overwhelming that many times we simply don’t know what to do with ourselves… we don’t know how to pray… we don’t know how to worship… we can find ourselves in a sort of spiritual shock where everything seems surreal.
The men and women of the Coptic Church who are in mourning this weekend are not just brothers and sisters in title; they are our brothers and sisters in spirit. Their persecution should break our hearts. We share the same Spirit with them.
And so it makes sense to me today. Perhaps I do need the structure at times. But perhaps structure and words don’t even matter right now. Perhaps the way to stand with our Coptic family is simply to grieve, to cry, to hold them as dear to our hearts as our closest brother or friend, to light that candle as a symbol to the world that there is no darkness on the face of this Earth or its spiritual realm that can prevail over the light of Christ we carry.
People wonder why I’m so in love with Christmas music, how I can listen to it year-round. I suppose it’s because the are songs like this one…
Light a candle
Light the dark
Light the world
Light a heart or two
Light a candle for me
I’ll light a candle for you
Join me, won’t you? Mourn with those who mourn this weekend. Light a candle for the Coptic Christians, our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, nieces and nephews, whose hearts are heavy. And if you do, hit me up with the hashtag #lightacandle