This message is not for the faint-hearted. This message is not for those who are comfortable with the status quo in Nigeria. This message is not for those who choose to act like the ostrich and bury their heads as Nigeria falls into increasing insecurity. This message is for those who are tired of simply complaining. This message is for those who realize that there is a spiritual battle going on in Nigeria. This message is for those who recognize the power of the God they serve and the power in the name of Jesus.
We recently had a half-day retreat where the priest explained the power in the name of Jesus. We all assembled to focus on one thing – to pray for our dear country during these turbulent times. We all know the story of David and Goliath in Genesis 17:45-50 and admire the young lad who proclaimed – “You have come against me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come against you with Yahweh…” David was not afraid to come against the giant because he understood the power in the name of his God. Well, what about us? Do we really KNOW the name of Jesus and do we use it as we pray for Nigeria. Surely, when we do, all things shall bow and it does not matter if the person uttering it is holy or not. God honors the name of Jesus and there is simply power in uttering the name as stated in Philippians 2:10 that “at the name of Jesus all knees should bend…and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord.”
We were reminded that nothing is impossible with God when we pray well as Matthew 7:7 has assured us that we would receive whatsoever we ask. However, we came to understand that we should be careful what we pray for as most Christians today were praying for God-fearing leaders. He distinguished what God-fearing meant to a Muslim and what it meant to a Christian. This was done by affirming that there is only one God as the Abrahamic tradition tells us. Whether we be Christian or Muslim or Jewish, we believe in One Almighty and Powerful God who created all things.
As a God-fearing Muslim leader, he would build mosques and conquer for Allah by making others subservient. To be a God-fearing Muslim would mean that one could empty the national treasury to sponsor fellow Muslims to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. A God-fearing Muslim leader would be well within his rights to agree with a non-Muslim with the understanding that such agreement would not be binding. To be a God-fearing Muslim meant that one was duty-bound to promote fellow Muslims and appoint them in strategic positions to rule with you. Indeed, we should be careful what we pray for and not pray amiss because to pray for God-fearing leaders would only aggravate the current situation if these leaders are Muslim.
On the other hand, a God-fearing Christian would display the behaviours listed in Psalm 1. A God-fearing Christian leader would isolate himself from sinners and immoral acts and delight himself in reading God’s word instead. A God-fearing Christian leader would fear God in his heart and not close his eyes when others are mercilessly being killed because a Christian is meant to forgive and bear wrongs patiently. Indeed, forbearance or long-suffering is a fruit of the Holy Spirit for Christians.
The priest explained that as a Christian, we must emulate Christ and Christ forgave those who tortured Him and cruelly condemned Him to a shameful and excruciating death in Luke 23:34. As 2Peter 3:9 reminds us that God “does not want anyone to perish, but that all may come to conversion,” we are also reminded to pray for the conversion of those leaders allowing the atrocities in our land through their active participation or passive stance. 1Timothy 2:4 sums up the heart of God – “he wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.”
This is where Christians again pray amiss. Christians do not realize that the blessing upon Ishmael is from the same God who gave His blessing to Isaac as seen in Genesis 17:20 – “As for Ishmael I heard you. I will bless him and make him fruitful and I will multiply his race...” This God who blessed Ishmael and Isaac is one and the same and deserves all our worship but the difference is in the manner of worship.
Our Muslim leaders do not realize that Jesus changed the game, raised the standard of worship and redeemed us all. Romans 10:2-4 sums up the difference – “they are zealous for God but this is not the way… For Christ is the aim of the law.” We were made to understand that what Saul of Tarsus was doing before his conversion and what the Muslim leaders are doing come from the same zeal they have for God. They are both God-fearing but do not realize that their path is wrong. Romans 10:13 stresses that “Truly all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
As Christians whose hearts bleed for Nigeria, we must pray for our leaders, both Christian and Muslim alike, to have the Road to Damascus experience of Saul who encountered the Truth personified in Jesus in Acts 9:5 when Saul asked “Who are you, Lord?” Our leaders must personally encounter Jesus to experience true conversion and this should be our constant prayer. Our intensity of prayers will transform them into Paul who was uncontrollable for Jesus and they shall proclaim Jesus Christ with the same passion they used to condemn Christians and Christianity. Indeed, they will become disoriented and anxious to proclaim Jesus to the world even to their own detriment, as warned in Acts 9:16 – “I myself will show him how much he will have to suffer for my name.”
What Hinders Prayers
- When Ask Wrongly: (James 4:3) We must be careful not to ask wrongly such as in our prayers for God to give us God-fearing leaders. A more appropriate prayer would be for God to give us leaders who have a relationship with Jesus
- When Lack Knowledge: (Hosea 4:3) This happens when we fail to realize that God has already given us what we asked for such as in giving us God-fearing leaders.
- When Lack Faith/ Courage (Gen 19:2) We must be focused and not end up like Lot’s wife who doubted and looked back. We were encouraged to give testimonies to strengthen our faith and have prayer partners. James 1:5-7 says “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord”
- When Have Sin This sin may be a result of unforgiveness over the ones who have made Nigeria unbearable or if you have been a victim of prejudices or attacks. He urged us to use the sacrament of reconciliation to purge our sins at any given opportunity.
- Having Own Personal Needs. We have all experienced the distractions which follow from seeking to address our own needs in the grand scheme of things. We were told to eject unforgiveness from our hearts and other personal needs which weigh us down. After all, does it not say in 1Peter 5:7 that we should “Place all your worries on him since he takes care of you.”
The retreat ended on a very optimistic note, as we had obtained a new direction to pray for Nigeria. The prayers for spiritual warfare would be replaced with a passionate please for conversion.
Heavenly Father, Let Jesus be enthroned in the hearts of all our leaders so that we may fulfill our God-given purpose for this land. In Jesus name. We pray. Amen.