The crisis in Syria and Turkey is dominating the news at present. In recent years we have had the Covid pandemic and war in Ukraine take centre stage in the news outlets, or the more recent earthquakes in Iran and Pakistan, to name but a few disasters. After a few weeks or months the crisis might fade from the news, but not so quickly on the ground. How do we respond as Christians?
Our first calling as Christians is to love people and that means acting to help. But how can we help best? I suggest there are three things we can all do, wherever we live. This might be a bit forced but we can call them three Ps! - Pray, Practice generosity and keep Perspective.
We are praying for and lamenting with the peoples of Turkey and Syria in the aftermath of Monday’s devastating earthquakes. I expect we have all felt, “How do I pray for such overwhelming need?”
Others might think praying is not really helping or even that it is selfish and focused on ourselves, but as Christians we know that when we cry out to God we are actually doing more than anyone to help on the ground!
It is not true that “prayer changes things” but God changes things in response to our prayers! We do not understand why, but He has limited Himself so that His Kingdom comes not just by His actions but in response to our heart attitudes and our prayers.
So how do we pray in the face of “natural disasters” where the link between human sin and the disaster is not obvious?
As always, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God guide us as we wait on the Lord. Weeping and silence before Him are often where our lament and prayer begin.
These are a few scriptures that we have found helpful:
Lamentations 3.19-24 The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time as I grieve over my loss. 21 Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: 22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never ceases……
There are some helpful guidelines from Pete Grieg, 24-7 Prayer, at https://www.24-7prayer.com/how-to-pray/help-me/pray-for-the-world/
Here is an outline prayer you can use:
You are the Unchanging One throughout the vast devastation, loss and suffering in Turkey and Syria. We pray for Your everlasting hope and comfort to reach every victim. We pray good leadership, co-operation and generosity to enable adequate aid to be provided and delivered. We pray strength and healing for Your people there, that they may be able to serve others.
Thank You for the many people working to rescue and care for the injured.
Lord Jesus, may Your light and love shine in this darkness and cause people to reach out to You.
- Practise generosity
We have received endless grace from God, who is the ultimate Giver, and if we ask the Spirit to fill us with His love we too can give wholeheartedly. Let’s ask for wisdom so we are led by the Spirit not just by emotion. We need to be responsible about other commitments and give to reliable channels such as TearFund or Back to Jerusalem. Let’s ask for inspiration too, because God will inspire different people to give different amounts, and if we all respond to the Spirit God will supply through His people what is needed in different areas and for different needs.
So whatever we do, let’s pray first and give generously, inspired by the love that comes from God!
- Keep perspective
It is easy to be swayed by what we hear or see in the news or other people’s expectations or assumptions. We are all shaped by the worldview of our family and friends, but when we are born from the Holy Spirit we are open to heavenly perspectives that will often challenge our worldview. In any culture or worldview there are aspects that are good and wholesome and God loves the diversity! Yet there are also things that are unhealthy or opposed to the self-giving love that characterises the Kingdom of God.
In the Western news, the assumption is that God is non-existent or at least not present. Many Muslims make the assumption that God must have willed this as a test of our faithfulness. In fact the President of Turkey has been criticised by many Turks for saying “It is fate!”
We believe in a God who is present and intimately involved in the lives of all who seek Him. Maybe earthquakes are warning judgments; maybe they are the result of natural processes that God intended for good but which are out of control because the whole creation is “out of sync” due to human sin. We don’t need to understand fully and we certainly don’t need to try to explain it all as though we are experts. Instead we need to Pray and Practice generosity and keep Perspective by worshipping the God who cares, who loves and who entered into human suffering fully and without holding back … at the Cross.That brings us back to the most significant and important part of our response: prayer.
for the consciences of all who can give to be supernaturally awakened ...
... for many things as the Spirit leads.