Answered prayers in the Middle East
Posted on: 11th August 2023
CMS worker M describes, through some recent experiences and interactions, how prayer punctuates all of life as she serves in a ‘Dusty City’ in the Middle East.
It was a little tricky to find Hanna*. Walking out into the clinic waiting area, I scanned each woman seated and was relieved when she spotted me first and walked towards me. Like many of the other women in the waiting area, Hanna was clad in a black niqab with just her eyes visible. No wonder it was hard.
Living in a small, tight-knit refugee community in our Dusty City, Hanna often attends our clinic with one of her sisters. Taking her seat in front of me, she clasped her hands and calmly said “There is no hope for me, and I just want to die.”
I listened as she fought back tears and recounted the despair that she and her sisters felt. Stateless, without work and no social support to lean on, these young women live in the confines of their house, rarely allowed to step out of the front door.
Hanna’s present circumstances are bleak, and she fears that her future will be the same.
Prayer punctuates life
Prayer punctuates much of our life here in the Middle East. It must. Like a small child being asked to carry a heavy suitcase, we just cannot bear the weight of the needs around us. Many of the women we meet face domestic violence, poverty and sickness without remedy. With limited resources available to these women, we truly depend on our Heavenly Father to change and transform these women’s circumstances. We must pray because we are unable to lift their suitcase of heavy burdens.
However, it is not just the circumstances of others and the paucity of resources that compel us to pray. I often tell friends that I am not made of ‘the strong stuff’. In God’s wisdom, he has allowed my own brokenness to keep me wrestling in prayer.
Each spring, we often take the opportunity to hike amongst pollen-infused green fields, knowing that the looming summer months will bring hot dry winds across the desert plains.
The terrain is rocky and on one particular trip to the desert, I decided to pick up some of the stones underfoot. Holding these rocks in my hands, I traced their jagged edges and was reminded that this is what unanswered prayers feel like. They feel like cemented layers of sediment that are hard and immovable. And yet… I know that this is not true. There is one who can blast these rocks apart with a word. I cannot do it, but He can. In prayer, we bear witness to our own deep sense of neediness. We are not whole people. Our weakness reminds us that we do not share the gospel out of strength, neither do we minister out of our abilities.
Madeline L’Engle writes, “in a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.”
In my weakness I wholly rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to open eyes, convict hearts and do the work of transformation. I pray because I am weak. I have no choice; I must pray that the Holy Spirit will come and do HIS work.
A story of victory in prayer
Earlier this year our team of gospel workers linked together to send out a newsletter to our combined partners. We asked for 90 prayer partners who might commit to praying daily for us through the month of Ramadan. This would be akin to the ‘30 days of prayer’ initiative for the Muslim world that many have become familiar with. We committed to send out a prayer newsletter every day for 30 days for our ‘Dusty City’ here in the Middle East. We needed prayer for our work and our local friends and were keen to share our needs.
Our expectations were more than realised. Over 300 people signed up to pray and we were so encouraged by the responses to our daily stories and prayer requests. Many emailed us to share that they were praying and spurred on, and we hosted Zoom gatherings to pray together online in the final week of Ramadan. Scores of faces from around the world were crammed together side by side on our computer screens, praying for our friends who live in our Dusty City.
A story of transformation
One story we shared was of Samira,* a young married woman with three children.
Transformed by the gospel, she longs that her sick husband and wider family would come to share her faith. But for now, she is cautious, her newfound faith is still a secret. Yet whilst she waits, she prays.
Within a couple of weeks of sending out the prayer email with her story, Samira’s husband had a dream of a man dressed in white, announcing that he would show him a new way. Excitedly, he began telling everyone about his dream; he has not yet understood who the man in white was, but filled with a new hope, his heart is now more open than it has ever been. Through this prayer initiative, it was so clear to us that our ministry here is scaffolded and hoisted up by all those who pray with us and for us. Our praying friends and partners are the engine room of our ministry. Although hidden, perhaps theirs is the greater work.
A prayer of hope
I didn’t know what to say to Hanna, the lady I mentioned at the start. With limited medical options available, I listened and then shared the story of another woman who was also hidden away from society. The woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe also felt desolate and unseen, despairing and broken (see Luke 8:42-48).
Yet even after sharing, Hanna’s face remained blank. Did she absorb any of what I said? It didn’t seem so. I offered to pray right there and then and turned to the only One who can heal and restore her broken spirit. I asked that God might have mercy on her, lift her heavy depression and give her hope again. And I prayed that he might open her eyes and heart to see the Messiah.
Pray for the Muslim world
Recently I went to a prayer conference for the Muslim world. It was a rich experience. Hundreds of gospel workers gathered together to pray for our cousins and seek God’s face. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle with rulers, authorities and powers all waging war against God’s people. I suspect that most of us present felt this battle. Yet in that conference, we had the collective joy of knowing that the work of prayer pushes back the enemy line. We who are weak and see the injustices of the vulnerable have the ear of our Father. He loves to answer prayer and so we persevere in prayer, knowing that Jesus has the final victory!
*Names changed for privacy reasons
Pray that God would work to transform the life of Hanna; Samira’s husband and other people from Muslim backgrounds who have begun to hear of Jesus. Pray for M and other gospel workers to stand firm in proclaiming hope amidst the daily spiritual battles they face.