She left him once, but he found her after a few years and dragged her back. She longed for a handsome, strong hero to come and rescue her. When one finally did, she thought she had met her prince, and they ran away together. But within ten years, he left her too. Disillusioned, she went through a series of disastrous affairs, each one worse than the one before. They were violent, traumatic relationships that left her scarred and cynical, impoverished and addicted to cocaine.
Her name? Colombia – the nation of Colombia.
In the Bible, nations are often described as if they were individuals with unique personalities and characteristics. Canaan is a merchant (Hosea 12:7), Babylon a harlot (Revelation 17:3-5), Edom a ruthless, vengeful brother (Amos 1:11) and Israel a bride (Jeremiah 2:2), a widow (Isaiah 47:8), or even a child (Hosea 11:4). Each image evokes in us a different emotional response and provokes a different kind of prayer.
When we meet new people, we take the time to get to know them. When we meet new nations, we do the same, as was the case when we first sent teams to Thailand.
“When we first arrived in Thailand, we asked God to help us understand the needs and characteristics of the nation,” recounts long-term worker, Karen Huebert-Sanchez. “As we prayed for the nation, one of the images that came to us strongly was of a girl sold into the sex trade by her parents. Our hearts grieved for her.”
That image informed both the prayers and actions of the early teams sent to Thailand. They continued to seek God’s heart for the nation.
On one occasion, Karen and other team members visited a Buddhist temple that was a make-shift hospital for people dying of AIDS. There was a palpable hopelessness there, people dying without merit, only to have their ashes shaped into idols. Karen asked God, “What could your kingdom possibly look like here?”
The team began to pray for Thailand with a new sense of compassion. “We wept with her, and joined together with Thai believers to pray for her healing. We stood with the nation in confession and repentance. We asked God to show us how he had intended for his image to be reflected in Thailand, and sensed that God was calling her to be a shining example of mercy, kindness, and sacrificial love.”
These prayers connected with Karen’s dream of seeing a children’s home started to serve the vulnerable and marginalized of Thailand. Today, the Abundant Life Home (ALH) is a thriving ministry that brings hope and healing to children and adults affected by HIV. In this way, ALH gives a glimpse of God’s redemption of Thailand.
In any given nation, there is already a story in progress. There is a personality, a history. We can’t assume that we know God’s heart for that nation, but we look for clues and we listen to those who know the storyline best – those who have experienced the story themselves. Those people can often reveal key insights into the nation’s history – ethnic wounds, political patterns, cultural trends, spiritual climate, and attitudes toward Christ. It is important to follow the lead of those who already live and serve within the nation.
Glimpsing God’s perspective on a nation gives us hope and encourages us to persevere in praying for the image of God to be restored in her. We forge ahead in faith, knowing that God desires to see wounds healed, sins forgiven, and hopes restored. Through prayer, we participate in God’s plan for that nation.
The Lord’s Prayer offers us a model. We worship, we invite God’s kingdom to come, we petition for practical needs, we confess sin, we forgive and reconcile with those who have wronged us, we seek deliverance from evil, and then we worship again. We can pray this for ourselves as individuals, but we can also pray this on behalf of others, whether families, churches, cities or even nations.
Following this example, we begin by worshipping the God who breathed the nation into being, giving thanks for all that is beautiful and good in her. We bless all that reflects the image of God in Peru. We invite his kingdom to come and his will to be done in Thailand. We petition God for daily bread, asking for his provision in the midst of the famine in Burundi. What sins can we confess on behalf of Canada or the US? With whom ought Korea to be reconciled? What social injustice needs to be opposed in our nation, what temptations exposed, what chains broken? And then we again turn to worship the sovereign God of the nations, who is able to bring peace, healing and blessing.
Let’s ask God how he sees each nation, including our own, and let’s pray for her and bless her according to his heart.