Editor’s note: At the end of each month, the editorial team shares a brief wrap-up of how that month’s content encouraged and challenged us. This month, SOLA editor Hannah Chao writes about her interactions this month with the Chinese church on our blog.
Every night before my children go to bed, our family reads from The Jesus Storybook Bible. This beautifully written book retells the stories of the Bible in ways that point us not to Biblical “heroes” but to Christ himself. One of my children’s favorite chapters is the one on Daniel in the lion’s den. They are shocked that prayer could get someone thrown into a pit of lions, and yet my children understand that it was this strange habit that made Daniel stand out to the king’s jealous advisors.
The Same Prayer
This same story is retold by Simon Liu in “Prayer is War: Dangerous Mission.” While my children are eager to get to the conclusion of the story, Liu focuses on the action that the government now labeled as subversive: prayer. Pointing out that Daniel went back to prayer after hearing the king’s decree, Liu reminds us that “in the face of persecution, you must continue to act as you have always done.” It made me wonder how I would act if I suddenly came under persecution.
Do I have spiritual disciplines that I would return to, even if I knew I could be punished for it? I have to admit that oftentimes prayer can be a simple checkbox off a mourning routine. Worse, prayer can be a Hail Mary attempt.
But Liu writes, “Prayer should never be the last option for a Christian. Prayer is the first choice. Prayer is war, initiated by those who worship and fear God. It is an offensive move, not the last option at the end of the road.”
Would You Pray With Us Today?
I wonder too if prayer is the last option for the American church. When we feel persecuted by a government policy, we attend board meetings or attempt to vote through new changes. But I wonder if we put too much stock in political solutions because we haven’t been using the greatest weapon of all—prayer. Instead of returning again to our knees, we seek ways to react.
Perhaps we must begin to practice prayer as Daniel did and continually return to it as a way to suffer through and overcome our troubles. Through prayer, Daniel was prepared to face the consequences of his actions. We too know that troubles will come because of our faith. But with prayer, we can be ready to be thrown into the lion’s den.
No Easy Fixes
While Daniel’s story has a quick and happy ending, not all of our stories will have such neat resolutions. In “Another Winter Turns to Spring,” Elder Li Yingquiang reflected on the arrest and detention of two of his fellow Christian brothers in China. Li himself had already been arrested and jailed for about eight months during the December 2018 crackdown on Early Rain Covenant Church.
As he tried to rebuild his life, his friends had come alongside him to help him and his family. But both were arrested, with one now imprisoned for four months, and another for more than a year.
And yet, in his essay, Li writes, “I am thankful for Chunlei and Hao Ming, and I know they are more blessed than me today as they sit in the presence of God himself.” While he is still saddened that they are separated, he is reminded that God is with them and that they are giving glory to God through their suffering. It is a powerful picture.
So often we want a quick end to our suffering, and it is also true that God ultimately does not want us to suffer. But by preaching a gospel that has easy fixes, we sell short the full beauty of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. We do not linger on the weight of Christ’s suffering on the cross nor on the devastating circumstances of sin. Li’s story of his brothers reminds us to not push aside our pain and grief but to hold onto it. Ultimately, God will be glorified in all the sufferings and joys of his children.
I am constantly blessed by the work of my brothers and sisters in China. They remind me of the beauty of the gospel in ways that I simply cannot see in my Western context. They exhort me to think about the Word of God day and night, no matter where I am—whether China, Ukraine, or Los Angeles. They remind me that my kingdom is not on this earth, but in heaven! I do not have to buy into the ideas of American capitalism or productivity when I am part of Christ’s kingdom. Instead, I can find rest in knowing that I am loved by the God of this universe, no matter what the circumstances around me.
I am so thankful for the words and witnesses of my brothers and sisters in China. I am eager to learn more from them.
Hannah Chao is the editor of SOLA, where she also often writes. She has been editing for SOLA’s website since its inception in 2016. Hannah is a member of All Nations Community Church, and a wife and mom of two beautiful girls.