I love Christmas, but last week, from Australia’s point of view, could only be described as the week from hell.
On Monday morning we learned the news that an Islamic terrorist had taken over the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD. This self-styled radical Muslim cleric was holding almost two dozen people hostage in the name of Islamic State, the most murderous group on the planet.
These are the guys that produce crafted Arabic music videos of people shooting up unarmed civilians in other cars for sport while driving along 6 lane highways. When the car they shoot up crashes they open the doors and machine gun the occupants. They make the Nazis look like boy scouts.
Tuesday morning we woke up to find the Islamic terrorist in the Sydney CBD had executed one of the hostages and in doing so had forced the hand of the police who bravely charged into the Lindt Cafe at 2:14am and rescued most of the hostages, but with three deaths including the crazed gunman and several hostages and a police officer wounded.
Several hours later in Pakistan we heard the news that Taliban Islamic Terrorists stormed a school and set about shooting and burning alive children and teachers. They succeed in killing 132 children and 16 teachers and maiming hundreds of others. Michael Hussain, a journalist who was on the spot filed his story, “Taliban School Attack shows a new Depravity”.
But this horrific week hadn’t finished!
On Friday we were confronted with the news that 8 children had been stabbed to death by a mother in Cairns. Prime Minister Tony Abbott was right to say that it was “an unspeakable crime” and “heartbreaking. “All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what’s happened… These are trying days for our country,” said Mr Abbott, with the tragedy coming just days after the Martin Place siege, which traumatised Australians this week.
So I am not alone is saying this has been a tough week for anyone living in Australia, let alone Pakistan where mothers and fathers have gone through an unspeakable horror that beggars belief. Their children will never come home. The fact that we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Peace Child, in 4 days time only seemed to add to the disconnect.
But sometimes, in the midst of seemingly impossible situations, we reach down deep inside our sunburnt soul to find our roots. Did you notice how so many Australian Leaders and even hard bitten atheistic media commentators, in reference to those affected by the siege, said “our prayers and thoughts are with you”. Speaking about the Cairns tragedy Tony Abbott said eloquently, “Our tears and prayers are with you”.
You see Australia’s Constitution says humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God. God is at the core of our nation. We celebrate the birthday of his Son in four days time.
So in the midst of the terror, and in the midst of the pain, a cry comes from our heart to the One who made us. Our thoughts turn to our Father in Heaven as if by ‘automatic pilot seeking’ to help others find comfort from Him in the storm. The phrase , “our thoughts and prayers”, has resonated with almost every Australian this week and I suspect many Atheists as well.
The Story Behind #illPrayForYou
Two friends sitting together were reflecting on the tragic events of the week. One of them shared that he was due to be in Martin Place for a meeting on Monday morning 15th December and would have dropped in to the Lindt café for a coffee. The meeting was postponed and he found himself instead watching the act of terror unfold on TV.
They were encouraged by how many times the phrase “our prayers and thoughts are with you” was used by world leaders and media personalities commentating on those caught up in this tragedy. This led them to ask – “How can we respond as Christians to this type of crisis?”
While observing how the hashtag campaign #illRideWithYou gained enormous traction on social media, they wondered what people of faith could do at this time. A hashtag # is when a phrase is used which then indexes all posts using this tag into social media like Facebook.
So they decided to start a hashtag campaign called #illPrayForYou.
Here is how you can join this campaign.
1. Like the page and suggest to your friends to like the page https://www.facebook.com/illprayforyou
2. Use the phrase #illprayforyou – when you are posting online comments
3. Offer to pray for your friends and contacts.
Prayer is a very cheap Christmas present but it might be the greatest gift you can give. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe. God still hears your prayer. I can always remember when a father rang me up several years ago in absolute desperation with one of the most horrific stories I have ever heard. He said his children were getting sexually abused by someone in the house where they were staying with their mother. He only had them two days out of fourteen.
He had gone to the police and the authorities many times but they refused to believe him. After all he was only their father. In fact the authorities told him if he complained once more he would never see his children ever again. Of course this would make the situation even worse. They would have no one to speak up for them.
I can remember weeping with this father as I realised his shocking predicament. “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t”, I said as we both wept on the phone, “Do you mind if I pray for a miracle?” Mind you I couldn’t see how a miracle could possibly occur, but I prayed anyway.
Several years later the same father rang me up in a happy voice and told me an amazing story of answered prayer. The older half sibling who was sexually abusing his children suddenly, for no apparent reason, confessed to the crime. The father now had full custody and he and the children were starting a new life in sunny Queensland. For him and his children all his Christmases had come at once.
The most popular ‘Who is Search’ in Australia in 2014 was Jesus. Jesus said “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith”, Matthew 21:22. The Christmas Child encouraged us in Luke 18:1 that we “should pray and not give up”. He also said in Mathew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
This Christmas offer the gift that just keeps on giving. Say a prayer for someone. Like the #illPrayForYou Facebook page.
Get all your friends to like it and tell all your friends and family, particularly your children, the reason for the season and offer to pray for them. When you get your answers to prayer, post the stories back on the page. Let’s see if we can start a movement to rediscover the giver of all good gifts, the reason for Christmas – Mary’s Boy Child.
Merry Christmas – #IllPrayForYou
PS: Prayer is a form of Care. I’m so inspired I have even joined Twitter. WarwickMarsh777 So let’s get praying and see the Christmas Child really come alive for our friends and family in 2014 and beyond. We can keep the #illPrayForYou campaign going well into the new year.