There are times when it seems so hard to pray, as what we are longing to see is just impossible - it won't happen. What can candles do against guns? Yet not very long ago in Europe we can see the answer to that.
In 1982 the priest at Nikolaikirche in Leipzig started prayers for peace, every Monday at 5pm. Bit by bit people came and began to pray together. It was frowned upon by the authorities. Yet still people came. Road blocks were put in place, access roads were shut, some people were sent to prison for praying, yet by the beginning of October 1989, two thousand people were gathering every Monday to pray. What had begun in a small room now had people inside and out praying for peace. The following week, the 9th october 1989, eight thousand troops were sent to break up the gathering. They arrived to find 10,000 people there carrying candles but otherwise peaceful. The soldiers ended up being the ones to walk away. Literally, prayer was mightier than the sword.
A few weeks later the Berlin wall came down.
It is so good to be reminded that prayer does make a difference, and when so many gather together it is a special moment. Yet, about 18 months later I was in Liepzig and met some of the church leaders who had been there praying. Their biggest concern? That the urgency and importance of prayer would be lost.
When Paul writes to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1-2) he urges the church that they are to pray for all those in authority, and not be concerned only with their own issues. Many of us do this I am sure. So what is the difference between our prayers and those in Leipzig? Only the Lord can answer that question, but there are maybe some things we can ask ourselves.
When it is so much easier to stay at home and pray on my own, am i willing to make the effort to pray with others? When obstacles are put in my will I look to overcome them as I realise how important praying with others is? When my prayers aren't answered immediately, will I continue praying faithfully week by week, trusting that the Lord hears and answers prayer? When it is potentially personally costly to pray will i continue to pray rather than finding excuses not to? When a miracle is needed in the face of impossible odds, will I continue to trust and pray?
In Leipzig, it was yes to all of those questions.