During a recent trip to train persecuted believers in the Southern part of Mindanao Island, one of the most difficult places to be a Christian in the Philippines, I started the morning by chatting with brother Jun before breakfast.
“How was your night, Jun?” (This is about as deep as my questions get before coffee.)
With a smile, he said, “It was good.”
As I began to stir my gritty instant coffee, I probed further, trying to understand his daily life: “What time do you normally go to bed?”
“That’s good,” I said, celebrating the rapport that we were establishing. “That is about the same time I try to get to bed. What time do you normally wake up?”
“I awake at 4:30 every day for prayer,” he replied. Suddenly, I realized that my rapport-building prospects were dimming.
“Oh,” I tried not to sound shocked. “That’s great! What do you do during this prayer time?”
“We meet in the church to pray for healing and help from God.”
“Wow, you are not alone? You have an entire group that meets at 4:30 in the morning to pray?”
“Yes. And we sing too, but we only use an acoustic guitar.”
“I’m sure the neighbors appreciate that,” I quipped.
Less than 24 hours later, I was awakened early by something (or Someone?) and decided to shuffle over to the place they meet for early morning prayer. I met a young man named Danilo who said he gathers every day for prayer from 4:30 until 5:30. Danilo reported that sometimes as many as twenty people gather for these early morning meetings.
I was reminded of three things on that Filipino morning:
1. God is up early!
Isn’t it incredible to think that right this minute—somewhere in the world—one of your Christian sisters or brothers is praying? They may be in a hut, on a dirt floor, with roosters crowing in the background, or they may be praying on the cold, hard concrete floor of a prison cell. They may be looking over a vast valley in Nepal, or competing with the call to prayer at a local mosque in Iraq, or their prayers may be swallowed up by the sounds of the Colombian jungle. Wherever, and whenever, we pray, we can be confident that God is listening.
2. Praying with others is spiritually invigorating.
How often do you pray with others? In our American individualism, we prefer a private, solitary faith. But, we were created for community! Kneeling with another Christian in prayer is remarkably refreshing to our souls.
3. Prayer is the best way to start the day!
Intentionally connecting with God at the launch of your day will prepare your heart to be “led by the Spirit” throughout the day. How will you begin your day in prayer tomorrow?
Dr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He has ministered in 35 countries, as diverse as Cuba, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and Nigeria. Before joining VOM’s team, Jason was a faculty member of the Air Force Chaplain Corps College, where he directed Crisis and Trauma training. He also completed a one-year residency at a Level I Trauma Center and utilizes his experience as a trauma responder to offer practical and spiritual assistance to those who are suffering. Jason and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, consider it a great honor to serve alongside the persecuted church.