I am in the middle of reading Half the Sky, a highly regarded book on the worldwide issue of violence against women and girls.
Some nights I get through a full chapter. More often, though, it is a couple pages, a few paragraphs. The stories of neglect, rape, beating, and horrific disfigurement and execution wear me down, and I close the cover and set it aside.
Yesterday a friend from the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition (WCATC) sent out an email to all members of the WCATC leadership team. In the body of the email, she wrote, “This article (attached to the email) is simply horrible. It makes me sick just reading it. … However, it is important for all of us to be aware of this side of the situation and be on our knees in prayer.”
The title of the article is “The Rape of Men: the Darkest Secret of War.”
I can’t read it in full yet.
After I hear such stories, I often close my eyes and see a scene from A Wrinkle in Time, one of my all-time favorite books. I want to share it with you. Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin are on a journey to another galaxy to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace’s father, a scientist for the U.S. government who has unexpectedly traveled through space with disastrous results. The three wise guides who are escorting the children take them en route to visit the Medium in Orion’s Belt. They ask her to show the children Earth in her crystal ball. She is reluctant and first zooms in on a sparkling clear planet in the same solar system.
“’No, no, Medium dear, that’s Mars,’ one guide told her.
‘Do I have to?’ the Medium asked. …
The bright planet moved out of their vision. For a moment there was the darkness of space; then another planet. The outlines of this planet were not clean and clear. It seemed to be covered with a smoky haze.”
Meg then asks if the haze is the atmosphere, but she knows it is not. She knows it is the same Dark Thing that terrified them earlier on their journey.
“’Did it just come?’ Meg asked in agony, unable to take her eyes from the sickness of the shadow which darkened the beauty of the earth. …
‘No, Meg. It hasn’t just come. It has been there for a great many years. That is why your planet is such a troubled one.’ …
‘I hate it!’ Charles Wallace cried passionately. ‘I hate the Dark Thing!’ …
‘But what is it?’ Calvin demanded. ‘We know that it’s evil, but what is it?’”
The oldest and wisest of their guides then shouts, in her quavery voice, “’Yyouu hhave ssaidd itt! … Itt iss Eevill. Itt iss thee Ppowers of Ddarrkknesss!’”
I forget sometimes that all the pain and evil inflicted by humans upon humans has the powers of darkness behind it. I also forget that for a supernatural problem, we must seek a supernatural answer. “What can I do about it?” I think, after hearing of another atrocity.
Then, failing to come up with an immediate, concrete solution, I say, “Well, I could at least pray.”
There is no “at least” about prayer. If the power behind acts of rape, ‘honor’ killings, mutilation… is the power of darkness, then engaging in earnest prayer is like bombing enemy headquarters, like being dropped into the heart of the battle and targeting the commanders who are giving the orders.
I’m not saying we should not also DO. Absolutely we should. But we must stop thinking of prayer as an “at the least” action. I recently read that Mary Queen of Scots said that she feared the prayers of reformer John Knox more than the combined armies of France and Spain (from A Spiritual History of the Royal Mile by Paul James-Griffiths).
I don’t know exactly what prayer does, but I know it does MUCH. It may aid angels who are fighting the powers of darkness. It may provide supernatural encouragement to the victims of violence. It may open the hearts of perpetrators to God. It may thwart evil. I have heard story upon story of believers feeling suddenly called to pray for a specific need or person far, far away and discovering later there was a correlation between their prayer and a miraculous change.
I DO know this about prayer: when I engage in it, it impacts my heart. It opens my soul to needs; it enables me to see opportunities for action and readies me to embark upon them; it fills my heart with compassion for victims and perpetrators alike.
I often feel helpless about sex trafficking; therefore, it drives me most easily to gut-wrenching, sleep-interfering prayer. That may not be the same for you. The persecuted church, abortion, pornography, child abuse, orphans, the mistreatment of those with special needs, the destruction of marriages and families, dying churches, starvation, the plight of refugees, racial tension… The enemy is waging war on many, many fronts.
Let’s fight back with prayer.
There will be no “at the least” about it.
Ephesians 6:10-20 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mysteryof the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.