“Pray for Paris” must be more than an afterthought or merely a hashtag. Church leaders–all Christians–around the world must surround the city of Paris and the nation of France in genuine and sincere prayers of faith. If you’re like most people, though, you don’t know what to say or how to pray.
In 2005, my wife and I studied abroad in France as a part of our college careers. During that summer, we fell in love with the unique culture–and more importantly: the people. The French are often the punch line of American jokes about liberal softness and chain-smoking womanizers. The reality of the French people is drastically different; they value many of the things we do in America like family, tradition, peace, and liberty. But what my wife and I also discovered is a culture, and a people, that had lost touch with spirituality in general and faith in Christ in particular.
As the globe mourns with the people of France because of the devastation from these insidious attacks, let us Christians engage in sincere, specific, and faith-filled prayer.
Here are five specific ways to pray for Paris:
The healing of the victims.
The road ahead for those who have been wounded is long. The road for those who have lost loved ones is even longer. As the personal stories of victims begin to come out over the coming days and weeks, don’t be so quick to scroll by on your news feed. Stop for just a moment and pray for the families by name. Ask that if they have a faith in the Lord that it would be renewed–and pray that if they are without a relationship with Jesus that the Holy Spirit would call them to Himself. We Christians know that the only way to experience true healing from such trauma is through a relationship with Jesus. So do not pray generally for healing–inasmuch as you are able–pray for healing by name.
Spiritual renewal and revival.
While indeed there have been encouraging reports within the last few years regarding the state of evangelicalism in France, the sad reality is that the vast majority of French people have no concept of the gospel of grace. When tragedy this devastating strikes, it’s human nature to be left asking, “Why? Why these people?” Without firm roots in the gospel of grace, it’s easy to be left blaming God or using the tragedy to reinforce a belief that there is no God. Pray that the influence of the Church would spread and that the gospel would be proclaimed in Paris.
The perseverance of the faithful.
When my wife and I were in France, we attended worship services regularly at a Baptist church in Caen. We had to drive nearly thirty minutes to reach this church, and in 2005, it was the only evangelical church within a reasonable driving distance of where we were staying. The church had a mere hundred or so in attendance, and the vast majority of the congregation were students from Francophone (French-speaking) countries such as Algeria who were temporarily in France for their studies. We also met British vacationers. Very few native-born Frenchmen were in attendance. This is the reality of evangelicalism in France. In a tragedy such as this, it is not enough for us to pray for the influence of the Church to grow, but for the perseverance of the determined few leaders. If you are a pastor, you know how lonely ministry can be. Imagine being the only pastor within several miles. No doubt, these pastors need our prayers as they minister to their congregations even as they seek to promote a message of grace, love, and mercy in a culture where they are largely alone.
The demise of evil schemes.
These attacks are the second terroristic strikes on Paris in eleven months. As millions of innocent refugees flee battle-torn areas like Syria, a small contingent of violent and extremist terrorists are integrating themselves into European countries seeking to do harm. As Christians, we believe that God is sovereign. One of my favorite names for God in the Bible is the “Lord of hosts” which implies that God is not only sovereign over earthly armies–He is master of the heavenly bodies, galaxies, and unseen spiritual forces. In Nahum 3:5, we read a message to the evil Assyrians: “‘I am against you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” This kind of judgment is inescapable. No army, no weapon, no force can stand against it. We must pray against these kind of attacks upon peoples of all countries, and pray to the Lord that He would take a Nahum 3:5-type stand against any who would commit terror anywhere in the globe.
The preservation of the innocent.
This may be controversial, but it needs to be said: Not all Muslims are terrorists. As Christians, we of all people must be the first to stand up and defend Muslims who defy terrorism and stand for peace. We do not condone their beliefs, nor do we embrace some sort of post-modern relativism. However, Christians go nowhere in their attempts to promote the gospel of Jesus when we stand against all Muslims everywhere simply for existing. Islamic people are created in the image of God. They are loved by Him as wayward children, and the Holy Spirit pursues the hearts of people in Islamic nations as much as He does those in America. There is a sincere threat against Muslims in Paris by those who would paint every Muslim as a terrorist. As Christians, let us pray for peace and protection for non-violent and non-extremist Muslims. Through this peace and love, pray that Muslims in Paris and around the globe would experience Jesus and turn towards Him in faith and repentance.
There are far more than five ways to pray for Paris, but let’s start here. Don’t let this be another faceless tragedy, a momentarily trending hashtag. Yes, pray for Paris, but pray specifically, intentionally, and sincerely.