Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hear Our Cries

The Coptic Orthodox Church in North America has called each congregation to fast and pray for the safety and future of our beloved Egypt.

For the past week, Egyptian citizens of all ages and religions have overcome their fears of being criticized or punished for expressing their opinions about the current state of their country. They have had enough. Enough unemployment without the government doing anything to create jobs. Enough police brutality without the government intervening. Enough poor education without the government coming up with a plan to improve things. Enough of the rising costs of food and housing leaving many families hungry and many couples unable to marry because they cannot afford an apartment. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

I'm a first generation Coptic Orthodox Egyptian Christian. My parents immigrated here from Egypt in 1977, and shortly after, they had my sister and I. At the time, thirty years ago, conditions in Egypt did not provide much opportunity as far as jobs and education, especially for Christians who were (and still are) often discriminated against. My parents left their safety net of their home, their culture, and their family and friends in order that my sister and I (their future children) would be born and raised in a country that provided opportunity, hope, and a future. Sadly, things in Egypt have not changed and in fact, things have gotten worse. My church here in Northern Virginia welcomes hundreds of immigrants each year because so many are fleeing from the worsening conditions.

The problem seems very overwhelming. I'm glued to the tv these days, and I'm not quite sure what I'm waiting for. The Egyptian people want Hosni Mubarak, the current president, to leave. It is believed that once he leaves, things will get better. But his absence also gives room for the Muslim Brotherhood to gain more power which would make conditions worse, especially for the Christians living in Egypt.

As I mentioned early, the church has called a 3 day fast and prayer for the situation. I find myself unsure of what to pray for. Of course, I want justice, and I want the Egyptian people to be treated with dignity. I want the children of Egypt to have hope and a future in their own country, and not have to wish that some day their parents will win the lottery and move to America. In moments like these, I look up.

"Our God...We do not know what to do but our eyes are on You." (2 Chronicles 20:12).
"There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12)
I'm also reminded of my son Daniel's Bible memory verse from a few weeks ago, "As for God, His way is perfect." (Psalm 18:30)

So along with fasting, the church asks that we increase our prayers. Sometimes that is hard to do, because you don't really know what to pray for or what to say besides God be with your people, protect them, and protect Egypt. After 3 minutes, you're done. That is the beauty of the Coptic Book of Hours (the Agbeya). It contains prayers for seven different hours to be said throughout the day. The hours are chronologically laid out, each containing a theme corresponding to events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Egypt was on my heart and mind today, I could lift up the prayers I was reading for them. The Thanksgiving prayer which is read at every hour reads:

All envy, all temptation, all the work of Satan, the counsel of wicked men, and the rising up of enemies, hidden and manifest, take them away from {the people of Egypt}, and from all Your people, and from this holy place, {and this country} that is Yours. But those things which are good and profitable do provide for us {and for the future of Egypt}". And then following these introductory prayers are sets of Psalms which also bring our heart into the spirit of prayer and relate to the situation at hand.

The Agbeya is such a wonderful tool to deepen our prayers and keep us in God's presence longer. When dealing with this situation in Egypt, with so many anxieties lurking, God's presence is the place with all the peace and all the answers. So I decided that that is what I will pray for, of course along with peace, freedom, and true democracy. I will pray that during these uncertain times, when people don't know where to turn for help, they will look up and find the One Answer they need. The majority of people in Egypt are Muslim and I'm really praying that this will be a time when they see Jesus Christ Himself as their true deliverer.

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