Don’t read this carefully if you are not willing to be properly agonized. It will waste your time and desensitize you. Because what I have discovered about being truly passionate about an issue is that. . . it hurts. As David Wilkerson has declared, “All true passion is born out of anguish. All true passion for Christ comes out of a baptism of anguish.” And didn’t Jesus himself cry as he prayed for us on the night before the Cross? So. Here it goes.
Modern-day slavery is a seismic devastation enveloping the globe today. With an estimated 27 million caught in human trafficking, how have we not heard of this earlier?
Because it thrives in the shadows.
And because 80% of these millions of slaves are sold for sex.
Most of them young girls.
Sold by their poverty-stricken families.
Or picked up by recruiters on the streets.
Thinking it was hope of a better life.
But now it’s all just a nightmare.
Raped up to ten times a night. All for a price. That goes straight to this lucrative market. Ignored by the corrupted governmental systems. Constantly rejected. Constantly moved from brothel to brothel. Stuck in a bondage of shame, debt, and continual physical abuse.
All the while the voice of the devil and her captor screams,
You are worthless. You are spoiled. You will never be accepted. You have no other choice. You belong to me.
Never to hope, never to dream, never to trust, never to love.
Her childhood and her innocence was stolen.
Instead, she has learned to comply.
And survive in the darkness.
Her heart is impenetrable.
Or is it?
This issue is overwhelming, and we know we must pray.
How on earth do you do that?
You can pray, yes you can pray.
You can say Lord save them and you can even pray specifically for a country or a city known for trafficking and maybe get super passionate about it and maybe shed a few desperate tears. You can say Jesus rain down your justice and your mercy and you can say raise up aftercare houses and you can cover the missionaries there and say God, protect them. God will listen and answer.
But it can end up just seeming dry. Because you just have no idea how to pray for someone who is in such utter devastation of spirit and soul. Because you don’t know what it’s like to be them.
How do you pray for someone in poverty if you live in comfort? How do you comprehend a slave if you have been free all your life? How do you understand a girl abused like this if you have never been abused?
HOW DO I PRAY FOR THOSE GIRLS?! HOW DO I REALLY REALLY PRAY FOR THEM?! HOW DO I INTERCEDE FOR THEM?!
Ah. There is the key. Intercession. Something I’ve known so much about in my head, but never in my heart. That resulted in just plain laziness. I have been really bad at making the time for intercession, and sometimes just made prayer a list. God is the one who is now redeeming me through a biography called Rees Howells: Intercessor. Basically this book has been wrecking my life and perspective- it’s the story of a Welsh gentleman in early 1900s who took on the heart of God and impacted the world. Mainly because God wrecked him by explaining the power of petition through the Spirit. How? God taught Rees Howells to feel for and identify with those he prayed for:
“Identification is thus the first law of the intercessor. [An intercessor] pleads effectively because he gives his life for those he pleads for; he is their genuine representative; he has submerged his self-interest in their needs and sufferings, and as far as possible has literally taken their place.”
Realizing the importance of this, Howells obeyed when God said to go live in a neighboring village, and give away all his possessions so he could know what they struggled. From that sacrifice came great AUTHORITY in the Spirit. The book continues to explain how Jesus is known in the Bible as our Intercessor, because yes, he was all of humanity’s representation of sin. He gained his powerful authority because he lived out on this earth and took our place. God identified with us.
Have you ever thought of prayer like that? I’m sure some of you have.
Identifying yourself with the other persons suffering. . . but not only that, being willing to literally take on their suffering? Or at least just try to empathize with it? Because that is what Christ did for us.
So it brought me back to the issue of human trafficking. Me, the extremely innocent one who has had an anguish-free life filled with happiness as I grew up in a wonderful environment that cultivated my love for Christ. I mean, trust me, I’ve had hurts and sadnesses and continuously witnessed the brokenness of my drug-consumed town. But after reading “Not For Sale: The Return of Global Slave Trade- and How We Can Fight It” by David Batstone over a year ago? My life looks like a delightful walk in the park on a sunny day with a kite in hand. How could I comprehend what was really going on at night in those massage parlors in the dark alleys of Cambodia? How could I understand what the girls at the rescue house in Siem Reap had been through? Not to even mention the slavery on our doorstep in America, as Sex + Money: A National Search for Human Worth describes.
And this is where your imagination is needed to be consistently cultivated. Yes, your imagination that is being ripped away from you in our radically visually-stimulating century. But the simple power to visualize yourself in another person’s shoes. Or, often in this case, dirty bare feet. And then after your simple imagination, all you musicians, filmmakers, photographers, writers can weave this tapestry of identifying: helping us hear and see and feel the position of those we are praying for. Giving us greater perspective. And asking God for his heart, his perspective.
And daring, yes daring, to ask the ultimate question to yourself. . .
Am I willing take their place?
I dared to ask that. Me, a girl shielded and protected by the grace of God, would I be able to give up my reputation and sell myself in order to truly feel the utter anguish they feel? Would I be willing to do what Jesus did, become rejected and despised by men, for the sake of those I love? Which in this case, are the girls I’m praying for? That was the revelation of intercession. I needed to feel a small portion of what it is like.
So I sat on the floor of my room, vulnerable and bare, imagining the horror of what it would be like for someone to walk through the door and ready to destroy you with something God intended for love. And God allowed to be so really to me, so vivid, that I was able for a moment to genuinely identify with the horrific nightmarish reality of millions of girls. And out of that came true anguish, and therefore true prayer. Feeling the sacrifice of Christ.
And as the author said of Howells,
“The suffering of others became so painful to him that he was pleading for them as if for himself. That was intercession.”
So once we are willing to be broken, God uses us to bring light to the darkness. We need not be afraid to be broken either, because God is also our refuge and strength. And for those impenetrable hearts, slave and captor alike? We know they have hope. Because Jesus Christ our Intercessor lives, and came to bring life.
“He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through him, because he always lives to make intercession for them.” -Hebrews 7:25
The remarkable truth of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, will continue to amaze me because it truly means God with us.
Not God distant, not God unacquainted with pain, not God separated from this world but God with us. So though identifying with humanity is what causes his anguish, we know it is out of his immense LOVE for us that he has chosen life with us. And it is His perfect love that covers all pain, and it His love that makes it worth it all.
Worth it all. One day will bring freedom and one day slavery really will just be a distant nightmare. Only a bad dream. And we need to be part of bringing that emancipation. Then one day, how wonderful this love truly is… for ultimately He will wipe all the tears from our eyes.
And we will be with Love forever.
I like that.