Sunday, August 12, 2012

Let the Olympics Change the Way You Pray

If you're anything like my in-real-life friends, the Olympics have taken over every aspect of your life—social media, family dinners, the news, television, conversations with strangers. I don’t remember the “buzz” surrounding the Olympics being this intense in years past.

A couple of weeks ago, Hubs and I sat down to watch the Opening Ceremony. Admittedly, I wasn’t that impressed with most of it, but my feelings changed as soon as the Parade of Nations started. I’ve always thought the parade was boring in the past. Maybe because it seems to take forever? But this year I thought it was terrific!

Burkina Faso
We watched each group of athletes representing their country pass by. Initially our conversation was filled with comments such as,
  • “What awesome outfits!”
  • “The people from [fill in the blank country] are so pretty!”
  • “Did you know that [fill in the blank country] was a country?!”
  • “Man, I thought I was better at geography than this!” (On a side note, Coach George from 9th grade World History totally failed me!)
  • “Ha, ha! Look how hilarious those guys/girls are hamming it up for the camera!”
But the longer we watched, I felt God begin stirring in my heart. Rather than just hearing random facts about countries or athletes, I was reminded that each person crossing the TV screen wasn't merely an athlete. They each have their own stories. They have families, friends, heartaches, failures, hopes, dreams. Many of them face extraordinary obstacles on a daily basis. The come from the wealthiest and the poorest countries in the world.

Each of these people was created in the image of God—the ones that look like me and the ones that don't. And they represent millions of others like them. Some come from countries where persecution of Christians happens daily. Some come from places where they have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel, where the Bible isn't available in their own language.

North Korea
As these thoughts floated across my mind and heart, I began to pray. For those who have never heard the truth of the gospel and for those who have heard it thousands of times and rejected it. For Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, animists, and all those in between. For hundreds and thousands of opportunities for the Good News to be shared in the context of the Olympics. For people to be saved. And for the salvation of a few impact men, women, and children when they return home—wherever home is.

The Netherlands
I am part of an incredible church that incorporates "missions" into everything we do, and I have learned so much about the world over the past few years. But when I saw all of these very different people in one place, I felt like I got a small glimpse of what heaven will be like.

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
Revelation 5:13

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 
Revelation 7:9-10

Over the past two weeks, I've tried to remember to pray for the athletes I see on TV and for the countries they represent. My heart has been broken after reading an article about how North Korean athletes are treated and filled with hope after seeing Saudi Arabian women march in the Parade of Nations for the first time.

Saudi Arabia
As the Olympics conclude tonight, I don't want to forget how I felt when seeing those men and women march across the TV. I don't want to forget what the Lord has taught me over the past few weeks. Rather than just boosting our national pride and patriotism, let's let the Olympics change the way we pray for the world.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
1 Timothy 2:1-6

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