My relationship with God is the one that shapes all my other relationships. When I’m having a hard day and want to hide from human interaction; when I’m frustrated with someone in my family; when I just don’t feel capable of showing true kindness to an acquaintance – in each of those scenarios Christ knows me, loves me, and I am accepted in him. When I remember his love and acceptance, I can continue to try and show love to others, even – perhaps especially – when I struggle and fail.
A World of Complicated Relationships
Just like you and me, our Chinese brothers and sisters struggle to follow God in their relationship interactions. This month, our Psalms-guided prayers focused on relationships. It stood out to me that, when Chinese Christians meditated on relationships through the prism of the Psalms, they did not just pray for relationships in their families or with people they knew. Instead, many of our Chinese writers this May specifically applied the magnifying glass of the Psalms to their more public relationships, including the relationship between the church and the state.
This is not what I do. When I think about praying for relationships, I instinctively pivot to my family or people I interact with on a daily basis. Those relationships are very important, and certainly need prayer. But this month, in light of ongoing and severe lockdowns in Shanghai and other Chinese cities, Chinese Christians reminded themselves that their ultimate relationship is with God. When they prayed about relationships, they talked about struggling families, a society that feels as though it is fraying, and a desperation that comes from being unable to even go out their front door for months at a time.
After several years of COVID, many of us can relate to this feeling of being trapped. But right now in China, online masses chatter about finding a way to emigrate or “run.” (This is all based on 润, a Chinese word with the same pronunciation as the English word run.) Online searches for 润 have spiked at the same time as the Chinese government appears to be clamping down on issuance of new passports. All this to say, Chinese citizens right now intimately understand the importance of not only personal relationships, but how their most familiar relationships can be shaped by more administrative ones. As we pray for Chinese Christians, we ought to pray not only for them to show love and care toward those in their small circles, but for them to have wisdom living in a world that seeks to control and restrain every aspect of their lives.
Praying for Jesus’s Rule and Reign
As I pray for Chinese and their relationships, I am trying to base my prayers on how Chinese are praying for themselves. They prayed for strength to love others, and most of all, for God’s ways to be known and followed on earth. Below are a few prayers, straight from the reflections, which led my own prayers for China this May.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
From the Psalm 34 reflection, a reminder for my own soul in trouble: “Lord, help me continue to dwell in this intimate relationship with you, and to return to the cross when I wander.”
From the Psalm 128 reflection, a plea for the ways and righteousness of God to reign: “Jesus Christ, comfort our hearts in this troubled world…. When we look at the country we live in, we know that only under the reign of Jesus do we have blessedness. Raise up more preachers with a burden to plant new churches. Bring people to Christ and train them to become followers of Jesus.”
From the Psalm 55 reflection, another appeal for God to bring Chinese people to himself: “I implore you to give desperate Chinese people the hope that comes from you. I ask you to open not only our locked doors, but our hearts, which have long been sealed by lies and sin, that we may find true freedom in your salvation…Raise up your church to go into the midst of neighbors who do not know you in the darkness of the shadow of death. May they go with your love and compassion for the Chinese, that your light may shine on them and set them free in the truth.”
And most recently, from the Psalm 86 reflection, a prayer that God will use Christians to show his ways on earth: “Purify your church in the midst of trials and persecutions….I pray that your people (in these days when it costs more to persevere in love and righteousness) may prepare themselves, through their rock-solid relationship with you, to be vessels after your own heart, ready to do all kinds of good works.”
Please join us in praying for China next month, as we use the Psalms and the writings of Chinese Christians to guide our prayers for Chinese in the workplace.
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three young children. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.