How to Pray for Afghanistan When You Have No Words

Jo Acharya | August 31, 2021

Ruined stone structure in Kabul, with mountains in the distance
Image by Suliman Sallehi
Ruined stone structure in Kabul, with mountains in the distance
Image by Suliman Sallehi

I’m finding it hard to pray for Afghanistan. Maybe you are too? It feels like a hopeless situation, so overwhelming and so bleak. The words I manage to say seem too small, too weak to do any good.

Let me encourage you. God sees our hearts even when we have no words. We can cry out in groans and sighs – he accepts our wordless prayers and understands us better than we ourselves do.

But if we are searching for words, we don’t need to come up with our own. There are several helpful guides online, like this one from Open Doors. In this blog I want to talk about one of the suggestions in that article: praying with the Bible. When we use the Bible to pray, we are grabbing onto words that others have prayed in similar circumstances and even echoing God’s words back to him as we call on him to act.

In the BBC drama ‘Call the Midwife’, Sister Monica Joan once said this (about the Anglican liturgy, but her words apply just as fully to the Bible itself): “The liturgy is of comfort to the disarrayed mind. We need not choose our thoughts, the words are aligned, like a rope for us to cling to.” But because the Bible is living and active, using it to pray can also stir up our own thoughts and feelings as the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts, and helps us find words to express the emotions we’ve struggled to identify.

You can use any part of the Bible to pray, but I particularly like to pray the Psalms. These examples are already written as intercession prayers, and they can be applied to all kinds of situations. Why not take a few minutes to read through one now and use it to pray for Afghanistan. Watch for phrases that jump out at you and let them take you into deeper prayer as your emotions mingle with the words of these poets from long ago.

Psalm 10: a prayer for God to intervene

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
He lies in wait near the villages;
    from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
    like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
    he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
His victims are crushed, they collapse;
    they fall under his strength.
He says to himself, “God will never notice;
    he covers his face and never sees.”
Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.
Psalm 10:1, 8-12, NIV

Psalm 146 – a prayer for those who are suffering and displaced

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
Psalm 146:5-9, NIV

Psalm 34 – a prayer for protection for Christians

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to blot out their name from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34: 1-4, 15-18, NIV

Psalm 72 – a prayer for world leaders to respond

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
    the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
    your afflicted ones with justice…
For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
    the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
    and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
    for precious is their blood in his sight.
Psalm 72:1-2, 12-14, NIV

Psalm 112 – a prayer for God to bless the helpers

Praise the Lord.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
    who find great delight in his commands.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
    for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
    who conduct their affairs with justice.
Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
    their righteousness endures forever;
    their horn will be lifted high in honour.
Psalm 112:1, 4-9, NIV

If you would like to give to support humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, there are many organisations you can donate to or fundraise for, such as AfghanaidUnicefWorld Vision and International Refugee Assistance Project.

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