The commandos crawl through the tunnel and position themselves for the assault. At 3:17 PM the signal is given. Multiple explosions are discharged and 140 commandos rush into the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Peru. Troops pour through the tunnels, through the front entrance, and in through the roof.
It all started 126 days earlier on December 17, 1996 at a dinner party. Fourteen members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, dressed as waiters took control of the ambassador’s residence. After freeing the majority of the 500 dinner guests, they kept 72 of the most important people as hostages. They were hoping to force the release of 400 imprisoned comrades.
As negotiations broke down, it became apparent a military solution was necessary. However, it was almost an impossible situation. The hostages were kept in several locations and the building was booby-trapped. Daily, the terrorist would rehearse killing the hostages in case a rescue attempt was made. The military planners realized that if the terrorists were not immediately neutralized, most, if not all, of the hostages would die.
A double approach was necessary. Besides the traditional military rush on the building, some inside help was needed. It was essential to know the exact location of the terrorists and hostages at the time the rescue was attempted.
The military planners wouldn’t reveal all of their secrets, but they did provide some hints. For example, electronic eavesdropping devices, the size of match heads, were hidden in supplies brought in during the course of the siege. The Red Cross brought in bright colored clothing for the hostages. This was done so the commandos would not mistake the hostages for terrorists (who were dressed in olive drab). While loud music was being played from the streets, five tunnels were dug up to and under the building.
Being able to place explosives in the tunnel directly under where the terrorists were standing eliminated the threat from most of them. The fact that troops were able to climb immediately into the building (via the tunnels) helped them deal with the remainder of the terrorists. Even with this advantage, a couple of the terrorists came very close to executing the hostages. Two soldiers and one hostage died. All 14 terrorists were killed.
The reason I share this episode is to demonstrate the relationship prayer has with witnessing. Just as the brute force of the military was incapable of successfully rescuing the hostages, witnessing, by itself, is not sufficient to lead a person to Christ. Both need inside help. Both needed things accomplished on the inside that are impossible to do from the outside. With witnessing, the Holy Spirit works within a person to soften and prepare his heart. God brings about circumstances and events to get the person’s attention and cause him to reevaluate his beliefs. Our prayers move God to work in the lives of others. The more we pray, the more God works. If we neglect to pray, this inside work will go unfinished.
Most of us have heard of the rowboat illustration, where one oar is prayer and the other is witnessing. If we use only one oar (witnessing without praying or praying without witnessing) the boat goes around in circles. We need to accompany witnessing with fervent prayer.
Apart from the traditional prayers for the lost, there is a type of prayer called prayer evangelism. Although it does not take the place of witnessing, it is a very aggressive form of evangelism. With traditional evangelism, you usually pray for a person while you share Christ with him and afterwards. With prayer evangelism, you aggressively pray for a person before he has been witnessed to. You are asking God to prepare his heart, to prepare circumstances, and to provide someone to share the gospel message with him.
Depending on which survey you look at, Christians pray an average of 5 to 30 minutes a week. Since most of these prayers are either for themselves or their immediate loved ones, there is very little prayer for those outside their families. If most of the prayers are for the Christian and his loved ones, who are the ones praying for the large population of unbelievers? There are probably many people in the United States (where there is a large number of Christians) that have never had anyone pray for them. If this is true, what about all those people living in countries where the percentage of Christians is much smaller? I have to believe there are hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of people who have never had anyone pray for them (at least to the true living God).
What influences a person to come to a saving knowledge of Christ? Although this will be covered later on in the book, I will give you a quick summary. It appears that a person’s exposure to any of the following three things greatly increases his chance of becoming a Christian: The written Word (Bible), the living Word (the Bible living through the lives of the believers) and prayer. This would explain why areas that already have a large number of Christians usually produce a large number of new Christians, and areas with few or no Christians usually produce few or no new Christians.
If it is true that prayer stirs God to work within a person’s life, think of the impact that prayer evangelism can produce. Think of the difference your life can have on this lost and needy world. Maybe part of the reason most of the world has never been evangelized (apart from the obvious lack of laborers) is because there hasn’t been enough prayers to stir God to do the inside job. I would like to emphasize again, we should never consider prayer to be a substitute for witnessing. We should still be actively involved in other tangible efforts of world evangelism, such as giving to worthy outreaches or even going ourselves.
Prayer evangelism allows you to overcome geographic, political, and religious barriers. It allows you to be able to pray for the salvation of specific people all over the world. You can have a tremendous impact on parts of the world you’ll probably never have the chance to visit. You’ll be able to reach people who are completely cut off from the gospel.
The simplest way to get involved in prayer evangelism is to get a magazine that has a large number of photographs of people and start praying for each person. Keep in mind that you are not making a blanket prayer, such as, "God save everyone in this magazine." You focus on each individual and bring them to God.
National Geographic magazine is an excellent source for photographs of people from various countries. Just think what would happen if 10,000 Christians prayed for every person shown in a particular issue? Since most Christians have access to several dozen back issues of National Geographic, they have a rich source of prayer material.
I have found that travel guides, such as the Insights Guide series, are another good source of pictures of people from different countries. I like to keep these books and magazines by my couch so I can pray for these people during TV commercials. Another way to pray for people from around the world is to rent travel videos and pray for the people you see. The Video Visits series by International Video Network are excellent tapes for this purpose.
Another way to pray for the far ends of the world is to pray for different cities around the world. As I pray for a city, I ask God to raise up a strong gospel witness to reach this city. Besides asking God to supply the various needs necessary to make this witness effective, I ask God to start a small revival that will spread to the surrounding communities. The maps in most world atlases have at least 20,000 cities for which you can pray. You can even use the index as a prayer list. If you cut the index out of a pocket size atlas, you’ll have a convenient prayer list that you’ll be able to systematically work through.
The evening news broadcasts usually show film clips of people from all over the world. Since you are not usually doing anything while you are watching the news, this is an excellent time to pray for these people. There are millions of Christians who regularly watch the news. Just think of what would happen if a large number of these Christians started praying for the people shown on the news? Since many of the people shown on the news are in strategically important positions, having millions of people praying for them could bring about dramatic changes in the world.
The next time you are surfing the net, try praying for the different people you run across. The Internet attracts people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Try selecting a particular group of people and surf for the purpose of prayer evangelism.
There are many hurting, angry, and rebellious people on the Internet, people who desperately need Christ. These people use the Internet to voice their opinion and sometimes vent their anger. They like the Internet because it provides them anonymity. Since nobody knows their true identity they feel safe. Using aliases, such as Armageddon, Babylon, Viper, etc., they leave their opinions and trademarks all over the Internet. Ironically, this false sense of anonymity may be their downfall (or should I say salvation). The more you see their trademark, the more likely you are to pray for them. They can hide their name from you, but they can’t hide it from God.
Obviously, there’s no way to know, at least in this lifetime, what impact your prayers will have on our world. Who knows, your prayers might be the catalyst that starts a revival in a remote part of the world. Maybe, one day when you are walking on the streets of glory, a person will come up to you and say, "Thank you. It’s because of your prayers that I’m here in Heaven.
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