At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you are turning their hearts back again.”
The the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD – he is God! The LORD – he is God!” (Ezekiel 18: 36-39)
Seven days before Christmas thieves broke into the finance department of UPRECO, the university and seminary which the Congolese Presbyterian Church (CPC) sponsors to train men and women for ministry. The thieves stole a whopping sum of money, including teacher’s salaries and scholarship and project funds for students. This blow is beyond comprehension. Then, two days after Christmas, if the situation could get any worse, a band of soldiers brazenly approached the home of the General Secretary (President) of the CPC on the UPRECO campus to harass and perhaps harm him. Their efforts were thwarted by students and a few security personnel who helped turn them away. It is not clear who is behind these events, but it feels like there are dark forces at work trying to destroy the Presbyterian Church in Congo.
In response to these bold rushes against the CPC, pastors, leaders and prayer-intercessors mobilized together for an all-night of prayer a week ago Tuesday. Five to six hundred gathered at the chapel on the UPRECO campus to intercede for the school and for CPC. It was a powerful night of intercession and worship. One pastor preached a faith-filled message from 1 Kings 18: 20 – 40, citing the “power encounter” between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal, demonstrating God’s victorious and awesome power over idolatrous and evil forces. Claiming the victorious power of Jesus, we prayed and worshipped non-stop, from 7:30pm Tuesday evening until until 5:45am Wednesday morning (we stood almost the entire night, praying and worshipping). I believe God heard our cry.
At about 4:30am, the leader of the meeting called on all the pastors to anoint a bottle of water and do a prayer-walk across the campus, dropping this anointed water at strategic points. We started at the front entrance of UPRECO. Having gathered there, it became obvious that no one could contain intercessors who wanted to participate in this prayer march. Before we knew it, almost one hundred pray-ers gathered in the dark, early morning cold, ready to commit UPRECO and the CPC into God’s hands. Our liturgy of prayer and worship during the pre-dawn hour of a new day was simple and profound – pray over a given site, drop the anointed water, begin a hymn and move to the next site. At each site we would pray all at once, “a holy cacophony,” and then one of the pastors would close our prayers before moving on to the next site. After praying over the entrance, we walked to the Booth Centre (the development training center for church leaders), then to the home of of the General Secretary, and finally to the building where the money had been stolen. We walked together from place to place in pitch darkness, our path illuminated only by small LED lights and mini-lights from our cell phones. As we walked, we sang hymns and simple choruses of praise and adoration, recognizing that our victory and deliverance come only from Jesus. As we walked from place to place, I felt a peace all around us. A certain euphoria overcame me. Making this “faith act” together as the community of faith, I felt like a member of one of the tribes of Israel going up to Jerusalem for a special feast, singing hymns of praise, adoration, and trust to our Almighty, Powerful and Loving God. As we walked together, singing and reconsecrating these grounds to our Living God, I felt a special kinship and closeness with my Congolese brothers and sisters. In this moment, I felt like I really belonged. UPRECO and the CPC have been devastated by this tragic act of theft; yet our faith did not waver as we marched together to the drum beat of Another. In this prayer march, I felt a certain confidence and peace that God was with us, and that He would see His children through this ordeal. It was a singularly special experience.
LORD God of heaven and earth, may your peace fill UPRECO and CPC. May you bring justice, resolution, and hope to this situation. May you redeem this terrible evil for good. May your church be strengthened, and may your name be glorified. As you responded to Elijah’s petition in dramatic fashion, may you show your power in equal measure today. Amen!