BY STAN GOODENOUGH—
Politicians and journalists have not been alone in scrambling to respond to the Egyptian revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak a week ago. Leading Christian voices, too, have been throwing their understandings into the ring, directing their constituents to pray into the situation as Egypt moves towards the establishment of a new political reality for its people.
Thank God for those who are praying at this hour. The more believers who comprehend that the first battle is in the spiritual realm, the better. Action almost always beats apathy or disinterest.
At the same time, as a soldier trained to fire mortars will tell you, there is little to be gained by lobbing rounds in the general direction of the enemy; even less by firing in the completely wrong direction. Unless directed by his spotter, who in turn is following his commander’s orders, the gunner will waste his ammunition and even endanger his own comrades with friendly fire.
How much more is this the case when manning the gap as watchmen, and conveying what we see and understand to the intercessors, who are eager to take aim as the battle rages before us.
Virtually without exception, all the prayer leaders I know have been instructing their intercessors to pray in three primary directions.
First – For the Christian believers in Egypt: their security, for provision for their needs, for their ability to continue to share the Gospel so that more and more Egyptians can be brought into the kingdom.
Second – For the nation of Egypt: its transition to a new form of government based on righteousness and justice after years of despotic and corrupt rule; that they will emerge from this turbulent time with greater freedoms than ever before; that this unrest would not lead to the radicalization of the Egyptian people; that God in His mercy will not let the Muslim Brotherhood come into power; and (this from inside the land) for the establishment of “a new ‘constitution’ based on the principles of the Word of God, to establish a ‘new foundation’ for His kingdom to come.”
Third – For the relationship between Israel and Egypt: for God’s intervention to ensure that whoever wins the power struggle in Cairo will honor Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, and “not rip it up and open a new front of war.” They point to the rapid political shifting taking place throughout the Middle East, with Lebanon’s sharp swing towards Islamist radicalization that, just weeks ago, radically altered the defense situation on Israel’s northern frontier. Israel doesn’t need an Islamically-energized Egypt, which has the most powerful army in the Arab world, to suddenly be the new reality in the south.
Is this the right guidance for intercession at this time?
Certainly we can all amen the first focus – for our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt. They have been increasingly targeted for maltreatment and in recent weeks have seen a sharp spike in anti-Christian aggression. We should pray for their protection against violence and other forms of persecution. We should also ask God to strengthen and equip them to victoriously endure whatever it is that HE wills and plans for their nation in the days ahead.
On the second focal point, I am less sure as to precisely how we should pray. There is “thy will be done,” which we are mandated to send up in every situation. But the question I am taking to the Lord is: what, is His will? What, in His purposes, is best for Egypt today, and how does He intend for her to get there? To effectively petition the Throne, it would be helpful to have a working knowledge of what His plan is.
In this regard, many of those praying have gone to Isaiah 19, which I’d encourage you to read now, in its entirety.
The Lord has a lot to say in this chapter, which is introduced as “the burden (or prophecy) against Egypt.” He predicts massive turmoil in that country; civil strife that threatens to tear the nation apart.
In verse 2, God says He will pit “kingdom against kingdom” in Egypt. It was at the height of the protest, when anti-Mubarak crowds in Tahrir Square were crying out “Allahu akhber” (Allah is greater), and pro-Mubarak forces racing to attack them were crying out “Allahu akhber,” that the words of Jesus came strongly to me: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:23-25) Both sides were declaring their belief in the superior greatness of their god – the same god. Kingdom was pitted against kingdom. The question we’ll see answered in the coming weeks – who will win?
Back in Isaiah, God says that, when the nation is in civil strife, He will give it into the hands of “a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them.” (verse 4). Terrible tribulation will follow, and as it comes the prophet asks:
Where are they? Where are your wise men? Let them tell you now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt. (verse 12)
Suffering will continue for the nation, unemployment (already rampant before the revolution) will increase and increasing terror is set to strike fear into the hearts of the Egyptians.
All this will add up to what God calls His intention to “smite (or strike) Egypt.”
And the purpose of it all? In striking Egypt, God will heal her.
Egypt’s future is foretold to be glorious. In the midst of her suffering God will send “a Savior and a Mighty One” to deliver her. And after Egypt has entreated God, the one, true God, and sought His mercy and salvation, He will restore her to health and establish a highway of peace and blessing that will extend from Egypt through Israel into Assyria.
But that glory follows a period of extreme turmoil and even suffering in order to turn the Egyptian people to the Lord.
Now, some prayer warriors believe God has directed them to pray that He will hold off on smiting Egypt; that she will be delayed from entering this extreme period so that missions work there can continue for as long as possible.
Others are saying, no, the sooner the country comes under God’s judgment to repentance, the sooner the Egyptians will be delivered from their spiritual bondage and be healed.
In this, latter, instance, the very ascension to power of the Muslim Brotherhood could hasten the day when God will save and redeem Egypt.
Clearly there are different ways to “argue” these positions, but of course argument is not what we should be after.
As we seek to engage the enemy, we need direction and guidance and are encouraged to pray, personally, in the name of the Commander of the army of the LORD (Joshua 5) for God’s Spirit to lead us as to how to wage this war.
Let’s not be swept along by popular, preconceived, “classically Christian” prayers.
Which brings us to the third and, as touching Israel, the most immediate and crucial question: How do we pray concerning the Israel-Egypt peace treaty?
Do we pray for it to be protected, upheld and perpetuated? Or do we pray for it to be torn up and thrown away, so that Israel is no longer bound by it? Or is there another way?
For the majority of people who desire to see Israel live in peace with her neighbors, this question would seem to be a no brainer.
The next article I post will look more closely at this question.