Thy Kingdom Come

June 8, 2015 at 1:37 pm

2015-06-05 11.16.56 copyIt’s 6:00 am on a Saturday morning and the people from the village have gathered to pray. Not trite prayers, not little prayers, but prayers of power, prayers of deliverance, prayers of confession and prayers of tears. I shuffle in among them and I am handed a small shard of foam that I place under my knees on the concrete floor. I place my arms on a wooden bench and let my heart settle into the rhythm of the voices filling the room. They do not speak my language, but God hears them. They are humming and chanting, swaying and rolling their tongues, and as the voices begin to crescendo I hear the Muslim call to prayer echoing in the distance from the speakers of a nearby mosque. 

This practice of prayer forms the heartbeat of this community. When my colleague and I first met with local church leaders in Southern Ethiopia we entered a church with backpacks full of phones and computers, well prepared for an evening full of business, strategizing, mission statements and objectives. But we were not welcomed with handshakes and introductions. Instead we stepped into a sanctuary where we found pastors already gathered in a circle on their knees in prayer. There was no “hello,” we were just given a piece of foam. Though we did not speak their language, the message was clear; before we even knew each other’s name we spent a half-hour on our knees together crying out to the Lord of Hosts, the God of the Nations.    

These men and women gather frequently like this, on their knees, to do battle with the forces of darkness that surround them in this tiny corner of the world. Here the community is 95% Muslim and the sons and daughters of the Light must constantly remind one another that their protector and shield is the God of the Bible, not the Koran. So they fight. Not with swords, or stones, or bullets but with acts of mercy, love and compassion that are slowly exposing the lies and uncovering the darkness. And they pray. They shout towards the heavens and the God who hears is responding by the reclamation of a people and a place once lost to the principalities of death.

2015-06-05 11.19.18When a local cult was kidnaping their children and forcing them into human slavery they gathered in the center of the village and prayed for two hours every morning until the cult vanished from the land. When the rain fails to come and famine strikes the land, they pray. They pray for their crops, they pray for their animals, they pray for the children, and they pray boldly for the salvation of their Muslim neighbors, of which most were once too. They pray that they would join them as brothers and sisters in the Kingdom. The God of the Universe is listening to them closely.

Through the potency of unceasing prayers, God has brought these faithful believers a hospital, a college, a school, jobs, roads, clean water and food security. He is bringing the Kingdom to a region of the world where millions of people place their foreheads to the ground five times daily for a god who demands a perfection they can never give. Through a growing remnant of Light and Salt scattered throughout the land, God is bringing hope were only desperation once was. Today these faithful intercessors have become bearers of a realized future that is both “now and not yet,” where all the promises of God are a “yes” in Jesus Christ.    

My reflection from a week in Southern Ethiopia is that I have never in all my life been so close to the Kingdom of God; the “thin space” that the Celtics spoke of long ago which defined the mystical experience of “time touching eternity.” Far from the pages of my safe confines of theology books, this fertile ground for the good news represents the Word become flesh, the Word that came and dwelt among us, incarnation. This week I have walked among brothers and sisters who have been ransomed and redeemed, called out and elected to serve the true King as citizens of another world and I have been laid low in humility.  

While we have come to offer these brothers and sisters theological training, I was the one who learned the greatest lessons.  

“You are the answer to their prayers.” They told us.

“No” we said, “You are the answer to ours.”

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Amen