Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Way of the Prayer Warrior

Last week I shared with you the story of young Joveci and the wonderful people from South Korea who felt moved by God to help him have reconstructive surgery on his face.
To visit Joveci, I travelled with Missionary Deborah Kim (who is now serving in Fiji at Vision College) to Sinchon, a suburb in Seoul, very close to the Han River. We met Rev. Nam Gan Cho the administrator of Vision College who apart from introducing me to Joveci and his “Korean Mum”, also introduced me to Yong Hee Lee, International Trade professor at Kyongwon University in Korea. Professor Lee is also the Director of the Esther Prayer Movement, and Joveci’s host.

The non-descript building which houses the Esther Prayer Movement is also a 24 Hour Prayer House for North Korea. In my very brief audience with Professor Lee, he shared with me the origins and mission of the Esther Prayer Movement and what is known as the Jesus Army.

The movement’s origins go back to 1990, at a time where, according to Professor Lee, “Korean society was being corroded. Bribery and corruption were rampant. The decaying morals of the country brought rise to a culture steeped in the love of money, obsessed with partying and filled with nationalistic pride, even within some churches. At the same time, the Lord was desperately seeking people who would offer up intersession, repenting for this people’s iniquities on their behalf, building up the wall and standing before Him, so He would not have to destroy us.”

A prayer group formed to meet for regular intercessory prayer – to pray for Korea, for its healing from negative values and “building a righteous society” to accomplish God’s justice. By 1994 the prayer group felt a burden in their hearts concentrate their intercessory prayers on North Korea.

 “The Lord deeply convicted us because we had been indifferent of the cries of agony and groans of 23 million North Koreans,” said Professor Lee. “It was like we could feel His sadness for the perishing North Koreans who were beaten and starved to death, without having an opportunity to listen to gospel. They have been dying of anti-Christ’s attacks -Communism and Atheism- just like the Samaritan beaten and robbed on the way to Jericho. God was asking ‘who would be neighbours to the starved North Koreans?’ In God’s eyes, we were exactly the same as the priest and Levite who turned away from their brother’s suffering.”

This focus became more concentrated as more information was received about the humanitarian crisis in North Korea. In July 1996, the Monday Prayer Meeting group considered it as an emergency and urged a praying movement, “Intensive Praying for North Korea” which continued for 63 days from June 30th to September 30th. The most critical shortage of food was anticipated in North Korea during this period. The intensive prayer programme included fasting.

However, Professor Lee felt that these programmes were insufficient. “Both South and North Korea were in spiritual crisis. Great fear of the possibility of communized South Korea and the inevitable judgment of war overwhelmed me every time I prayed for the liberation and salvation of North Koreans. The fear seemed to me to be a spiritual war in a national scale which would be unbeatable without day and night prayer. Life and death were in the balance.” He had a vision for a place where dedicated people could pray constantly for these issues. A place where Prayer Warriors could work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“Members of our Monday prayer meeting embraced the vision of 24/365 prayer ministry with one heart.” At the end of February, 2005, a retreat for the prayer school was held. During this retreat, 20 intercessory prayer warriors dedicated to full-time praying (more than 40 hours weekly) and many devoted to part-time praying (more than 20 hours weekly).

The Esther Prayer movement gets its name from the Esther Fast, a 3-day fast based on the Old Testament story of Queen Esther, who with the Israelites fasted and prayed for three days to stop a plot to have all Israelites killed (Esther 4:16). It is part of the Jewish festival of Purim.

Professor Lee understood that a three day fast will not solve all the problems Korea has been suffering from. “Esther Fast is merely a beginning of prayer movement for the nation’s salvation. God will anoint those devoted to prayer with Esther’s spirit and build up an army of prayer: spiritual Esthers. This army will be composed of powerful intercessory warriors who will be hated by this world. The Lord will lead a ceaseless prayer among this army united in the Holy Spirit. My expectation is that salvation for South and North Korea, and restoration of all nations to God will be accomplished through continuous prayer. I give all gratefulness, royalty, and glory to God.”

The prayer warriors meet daily in the 24/365 Prayer House (based on the concept of the International House of Prayer or IHOP) in Sinchon for intercessory prayer. There are also relay prayer teams so that 24 hours a day, someone is praying for North Korea as well as for South Korea.  In addition the movement sends out intercessor-missionaries for North Korea who are based along the De-Militarized Zone between North and South Korea. They form the frontline of the Jesus Army and their core activity is to pray for their neighbours in North Korea.

According to Professor Lee, the 24/365 prayer has always been running through Christian history. “The Moravian prayer movement, continued for more than 100 years, was a representative sample of it. Through this movement, John Wesley was converted and numerous missionaries were dispatched. Though it has not been often recorded by historians, the Holy-spirit has masterminded numerous 24/365 praying ministries at monasteries, local churches, and anonymous small prayer meetings for ages. The current trend of arising 24/365 houses of prayer all over the world, including IHOP has been expanding exponentially. The prayer movement’s rapid growth at this time is unprecedented.”

The Esther Prayer Movment holds a Candlelight Vigil and Prayer Rally for North Korean every Monday night at the Seoul Rail Station. This is part of a growing Station “Public” Prayer Vigil programme.

Back in 2009 I wrote the following in an article for column that was not published due to the Public Emergency Regulations: “Despite what some say, prayer is action.  We may feel powerless in our own situations but through prayer we can not only receive strength, we commit our concerns to a higher power, a God that moves in mysterious ways. Hearts can be touched, minds can be changed and relationships can be changed by the power of prayer.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever faith journey you travel, you have a space where you worship, where you can join with others to either silently reflect and meditate or actively pray for the nation.

When you pray, please do not just pray for yourself and your families, your village or community. Do not just pray for the people you know and the needs that you have. Remember that as you pray, others whom you may not know, whom you may never meet, may be praying for you. Please pray for all those in positions of community, religious and national leadership.”

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”

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