ASU Cru did a little prayer outreach that got all kinds of attention on Thursday and was simply a great idea with some determined people and most importantly a powerful God behind it. As I was helping folks fold written prayers into cranes, I had several people ask things like, “are you taking up money also?” or “don’t the people of Japan need more than prayer and paper cranes?”
I understand those questions and am tempted to think “just” praying seems small as well, but thinking that is extremely arrogant and those questions are rooted in disbelief. Why is it arrogant? Because you’re claiming that your money, your things, your talents, time, whatever you want to give to Japanese people are more important that God’s. If we truly believe in an all powerful God, if we believe in a God who has thoughts and ways higher than ours, in a God who has purposes in the world that our finite minds can’t comprehend, then how arrogant to give our five bucks to the red cross, call that our Christian service and move on instead of crying out to Him for grace and mercy on Japan day and night? How arrogant are we that we need to be “doing something” more important than asking the God of the universe to show up in a situation? Are we really believing God is who He says He is if we think, we’ve got to do more than “just pray”? I’m certainly not saying that giving money is wrong, and I know that the desire to help people is good, I just think its more American than Biblical to throw money at a situation rather than throwing our trust on Christ in prayer. So those are things I’ve been thinking on my own and then last night, I stumbled onto this post including parts of an email from a Japanese believer, under the How Can Americans help? section, it says:
“Keiko is clear that it’s not yet the time for material and human resource help. There is simply too much “traffic confusion and congestion due to the scheduled power outage in downtown Tokyo and because of the shattered roads in the areas hit.” But there are “460, 000 survivors who lost everything in a few minutes, including their loved ones, and are impoverished in every possible sense.” So as we wait and pray, let’s pray that when the time comes to help, the means will be ready and effective.
The deep need in Japan from American Christians is prayer. Keiko writes, “Please pray and encourage us to fight a good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith until the Lord makes us home with him.” She is keenly aware that there will be temptations on every side in this fight for faithfulness. She reminds us, “I cannot choose to die to my flesh at all by myself, but only by the Spirit and by the power of his divine grace and his perfect righteousness. That is why prayer counts so much.”
The challenge for Christian workers is the significant biblical illiteracy in Japan. “Most Japanese people,” Keiko explains, “have never heard of the true meaning of God’s grace given through the cross of his Son.” So especially now, when some are offering false hope or claiming apocalyptical doom, many “cannot tell the Spirit from the spirits of evil cults, which are out to be the wolves in sheep skins. So we should not just send Bibles and tracts to the survivors at refugee shelters.”
The temptation, then, is for Christian to labor in their own strength. But let’s pray that they believe and act on what Keiko articulates so clearly:
We sow and water but God is the one who actually brings them to growth, not to death. . . . We shine by showing them our full confidence in Christ, not on our character or our wisdom or even our faith, etc., but in our conviction that there is no sin that he cannot atone for his own pleasure. We must reflect such miraculous generosity of God solely by the living Spirit.
That is why our and your prayer counts so significantly. It makes so much theological sense to pray and express our dependency on him who sanctifies us and saves the lost beyond our imagination.
Pray for the suffering and the mourning. Pray for local church communities to be faithful lights of the gospel. Pray that the hope of God’s grace in Christ will rest upon many hearts in Japan over the coming months.”
Lets continue to just pray.