By Matt Childers
In the pre-COVID era of my life, I got to travel often for work to many of the great cities of the world. But Beirut always held a special place.
People would often ask me where I’d recommend to travel, and be surprised when, without skipping a beat, I’d say, “Beirut is always a good idea.”
As most everyone knows, Beirut was devastated by a large explosion on August 4.
Within seconds of the blast, my WhatsApp started to ring with pictures of devastation and videos of an explosion that was so large, my initial thought was, “This can’t be real.”
— CNW (@ConflictsW) August 5, 2020
A couple of weeks later, we now know the explosion came about from a perfect storm of economic challenges, unregulated global supply chains, gross government mismanagement of an explosive material, and a small spark from a welding gun.
Almost 6 million pounds of ammonium nitrate exploded to create the largest explosion to hit a populated area since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
For context, the Oklahoma City bombing was caused by 500 pounds of the same material that exploded in Beirut.
I serve with New Heights, a ministry based in Beirut. While the ministry lost its offices in the blast (.8 miles from ground zero), I’ve been astonished by the hopeful and prayerful attitudes my Lebanese brothers and sisters have displayed.
As a dear friend said, “You know it may be a joke to the world, but ‘thoughts and prayers’ are actually meaningful for us Christians.”
As you and your church pray for Beirut (and the entire country of Lebanon), I want to share the top five things I hear my friends in Beirut praying about.
1. Pray for an overwhelming Christian response.
Lebanon is one of the most strategic countries in the Middle East when it comes to gospel ministry.
It’s the only country in the region where the church can openly talk about Jesus with their neighbors without fear of government pushback.
The country may be small, but its influence is unusually large as Lebanese have family and business ties all over the region.
Unlike other countries around the Islamic world, the church can not only respond to crisis, but can be seen publicly responding to crisis.
We are praying that the Christians of Lebanon see this crisis as an opportunity to serve and love their neighbors. We hope the gospel shines so bright in this darkness that an entire region sees the beauty of Jesus.”
2. Pray for a new generation of good political leadership.
Lebanon has faced multiple political crises for years, usually stemming from corruption that’s endemic to the national leadership of the country.
Just like in many countries, politicians have kept power by continually covering up their corruption by refocusing attention to the problems of their opponent.
Even before the blast, the country, as a whole, was largely wanting to hold “everyone” accountable.
This blast represents a tipping point that could lead to some necessary change.
We pray that the Lord would give a special amount of grace to our country when it comes to our leaders. Please protect us from men with quick tongues and raise up a generation of people who will effectively lead our country.”
3. Pray that Lebanon would not be forgotten.
As the world moves on to the next headline, the major issues facing Lebanon risk being drowned out by other issues facing the world.
This is especially true this year as the world is becoming more and more introverted when it comes to priorities.
Lebanon experienced a tragedy that would normally garner a massive response from the global community (governments and the church).
Unfortunately, the global aid concerts and the international aircraft carriers that park off the coast to provide aid haven’t materialized like they have for other global calamities of this magnitude.
The dysfunction of the Lebanese government has also meant that money and aid flowing into the country has been slowed and must flow through independently run aid organizations and churches.
We pray that our country will not be forgotten by nations and the global church community. We pray that the Christian community would come together and help lead an amazingly effective response. We pray that the uniqueness of this moment in history would represent a time when the church chose to help when others chose to say, ‘That’s their problem.’”
4. Pray that Lebanese Christians won’t grow weary in doing good.
The opportunity to serve and share the gospel with others is especially plentiful in Lebanon right now.
For years, many homes had closed doors to Christians as there were religious, economic, and political barriers to meeting with people.
Now, there’s figuratively and literally no closed door in Beirut (most were blown off the hinges in blast).
Christians are being invited into homes that have never heard the gospel just by walking by and offering to share tea, listen to stories, and cry with their neighbors.
But whenever a harvest is this rich and the workers are few, it can lead to physical, emotional, and spiritual fatigue.
We are praying for supernatural amounts of energy as we wake early and go to sleep late. For supernatural amounts of empathy and kindness as we sit and hear the stories of our neighbors who have lost so much. For a supernatural ability to sense God’s grace, as we seek to share His love for our neighbors.”
5. Pray that Lebanon would be better than before.
Every crisis represents a time to grow or to wither. Lebanon has faced more challenges than most in its long history.
But this period is somewhat unique in that it’s facing so many challenges (economic collapse, pandemic, socio-political, general sense of hopelessness) all at once.
But we in the Christian community are hopeful that, by God’s grace, Lebanon can end up being better than it was before.
We know pain acts as the Lord’s megaphone. We pray that every level of our society be affected by His grace. From the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich, we pray our society would come to know Christ and lead lives radically informed by the gospel. May our country reflect His grace and blessings as we rebuild our country into something better.”
May the prayers of your brothers and sisters in Christ from Lebanon challenge, guide, and encourage your prayer life.
MATT CHILDERS is cofounder of The Cake Collaboration (cakecollab.org) and is a Project Leader for New Heights Middle East (new-heights.me). He has worked in and around the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) region for over a decade. He currently resides in Florida with his wife.