After the devastating storms that struck Oklahoma, Rev. Rob Schenck paid pastoral calls on the offices of each member of Congress from Oklahoma to offer the prayers and suport of the entire Faith and Action family. Here Rev. Schenck prays with staff in the office of Congressman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma’s 3rd District. The Congressman had already left with the rest of the Oklahoma delegation so they could be with their families and constituents and so they could survey the storm damage for themselves. Congressmen Lucas, Cole, and Lankford and Senators Coburn and Inhoffe returned to Washington later in the evening. Rev. Schenck plans to make additional visits to them in the days ahead. Pray for the people of Oklahoma during this critical time.
Even I was tempted to wonder about “mission drift” when today we turned our attention to the people of Oklahoma City and its environs. Of course, it’s impossible to think of much else with the images, reports, and social media posts we’re receiving at our office here on Capitol Hill. We also know the members of Congress that represent the affected areas, and the two senators from the state. Most importantly, we have many Faith and Action supporters in the region that we have been unable to contact since the tragedy struck. All that makes Oklahoma very important to us now.
Another reason for this connection, though, is that first responders are again on the scene. These brave men and women in uniform, that bear the badge and uphold an oath, that are charged with doing their duty regardless of the danger, constitute the first and most visible line of government. A police officer, firefighter, paramedic, National Guardsman, even civilian or military chaplain, are the vanguard of the best part of government–whether on the community, local, state, or federal level. These are the “government agents” that are far from the villainous type held suspect by so many. They are neighbors and friends with the same accent and zip codes as the people they rescue, help, and comfort when emergencies hit.
I’ll admit it–I choke up a lot when I see these brave souls risking their lives for the sake of others. For me, they become signs of the Gospel. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) When everyone else is understandably and naturally running the other way, these noble souls run toward the danger. That’s rare–really rare. By considering others as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3), these literal public servants help us to be better disciples of Christ–whether they themselves are believers or not.
As we go about our regular ministry activities today and for many days following, our hearts, minds, and prayers will be with the people of Oklahoma–and I trust yours will be as all.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday introduced the release of the 2012 International Religious Freedom report, which is compiled by State Department employees annually to reveal the status of the advancement of religious freedom abroad.
The report chronicles global violence in democracies and dictatorships, and cites incidents of Holocaust denial and expressions of anti-Semitism by government officials, religious leaders and the media, which has led to desecration and violence, particularly in Venezuela, Egypt and Iran.
Kerry said increasing anti-Semitism was a troubling trend, and announced that Ira Forman, former CEO of the National Democratic Council, will hold the position of special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.
“Another troubling trend is the increasing use of laws governing blasphemy and apostasy,” Kerry said. “These laws are frequently used to repress dissent, to harass political opponents and to settle personal vendettas. Laws such as these violate fundamental freedoms of expression and religion, and we believe they ought to be repealed.”
“When countries undermine or attack religious freedom, they threaten their country’s own stability.
Attacks on religion are both a moral and strategic national concern for the United States,” Kerry said.
Providing details about the IRF report, Susan Johnson Cook, ambassador-at-large for the Office of International Religious Freedom, highlighted specific international concerns, including the targeting of faith groups and religious minorities in Syria, Iraq and Burma, among others, and sectarian violence in Pakistan and increasing anti-Semitism in Europe.
Cook, who recently visited Vietnam, China and Saudi Arabia to discuss issues pertaining to religious freedom with senior government officials, commended the Vietnam government for “taking a step forward by allowing large-scale worship services with more than 100,000 participants.”
According Schenck, Cook is a “bridge builder,” who has been able to transcend politics and communicate with leaders of both parties and an array of religious leaders to bring added attention to persecuted groups around the world.
“She’s a woman of deep faith and she takes these cases personally,” he said. “She’s very hopeful, even though she has seen the very worst.” Schenck also cautioned that even though it appears progress is being made in Vietnam and in China – where the government first refused Cook before finally inviting her to the country to meet with officials and leaders of an illegal house church – “we have a long way to go, and no one should understate that.”
In her outline of the IRF report, Cook also mentioned concerns for persecuted religious leaders including Saeed Abedini, the American pastor who holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Iran, and was sentenced to eight years in prison in his native country, because he’s a Christian.
The State Department’s annual report precedes an expected update from the department on the list of “countries of particular concern” – the category for the worst religious freedom violators. The secretary of state designated eight countries in August 2011 as CPCs, each of which remains on the list in the 2012 report and includes Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)
Jesus was referring to a demonic spirit that had possessed and tormented a young boy and his father. The disciples had attempted to exorcise it, but had failed and were frustrated. Jesus got it done, the boy was delivered and healed, but the disciples were vexed. They couldn’t understand why their Lord could do something they couldn’t. It’s worth noting, these guys had walked with the Master, God Himself in-the-flesh, but they still couldn’t get it. I guess that’s the human condition. When it comes to spiritual things, we can be terribly obtuse. So, Jesus gave them a lesson: Some things can only be done after prayer and fasting.
Each year I plan a two-to-three-day retreat during which I pray–and fast–for all the important people in my universe. These include the people I am called to minister to in Washington, DC, and the people that support me so that I can do that ministry year-in and year-out. While you may be tempted to think of this as a form of mini-vacation for me, I assure it is not. It is actually a lot of work. First of all, to keep anything on our organization’s master calendar for any amount of time is a Herculean task in itself. There are constant demands made on me, on our ministry team, and even on our facility near the Supreme Court. Some days I walk into “the O. House,” (our nickname for the ministry center formally named, “The Honorable William J. Ostrowski House”), only to find a beehive of activity with people and groups I don’t even know! All this to say, I have to set this prayer retreat as a priority and fight for it to remain as such. Then there is the background work: I want to pray for people not as anonymous collections, as in “Lord, I pray for all those working in government,” but by name, individually, often with their photos in front of me. And this includes not only all those in Washington who are part of my mission field, but maybe even you, if you’re a part of what I call our “extended missionary family.” You are as important to me and to my team as is the President, or a United States senator, member of Congress, or Supreme Court justice. Without your friendship, prayers, encouragement, and financial support, I couldn’t do what God has called me to do. You are His provision to me and to our entire ministry.
All of this means that we must mine a data-base and our memories for the names of hundreds of government officials and Faith and Action supporters to put together long and exhaustive prayer lists for me to take on retreat. We also need to manage the calendar so nothing interferes with this time. we even need to adjust demands on me because, well–to be frank–I’m not at my mental best when I’m fasting. Consequently, I don’t want to be making complicated judgement calls during these three days–to say nothing of not wanting the distraction from the important work of prayer.
And, oh, by-the-way, prayer is work. Boy, did I ever learn that the first time I took one of these prayer and fasting retreats. Back then, I naively took digital files of all of our important people–thousands of them–and just started praying aloud for them. (I’ll explain why I intentionally pray out loud a little farther down in this article.) Boy, it was tiring! Just the muscular work of reading so many names is wearying, but there’s also the eye-strain and mental activity of trying to remember exactly who this person is, and even how to pronounce unusual names! The greatest test in prayer and fasting, though, comes in the spiritual battle that ensues from it. If we really believe there is a devil, an evil one, and minions of demons, then we indeed have our spiritual work cut out for us, and I feel that every time I undertake one of these prayer exercises. But it’s not all “This Present Darkness.” There is also the marvelous, joyful, victorious, near euphoria that comes when you know the breakthrough has come–that indeed, “this kind can come out.” The deliverance, though, comes ONLY by prayer and fasting.
Look, if you know me at all, you know I’m a pretty practical guy. My father was a communications engineer. He raised me by teaching me that there is always a way to “manage the situation.” I like mechanical things. Just the other day I said to Cheryl, my wife, that since we moved from a house into an apartment three years ago, I really miss my tools. I like projects–and I love to fix things myself. I’m a very earthy guy, and that’s usually where I’m looking, to earth, for how to “manage the situation.” It’s a discipline for me to look upwards, to Heaven, to solve “unfixable” situations–and if there’s anything that’s “unfixable” these days, it’s Washington, DC. At Faith and Action, my team and I do everything we can to take the Gospel to our top elected and appointed officials. We stage all kinds of events, sponsor all sorts of programs; literally run here and there to deliver literature; preach, teach, and lecture; lead discussion groups; sit down in one-on-ones; hold press conferences; gather crowds; whatever it takes. In the end though, some things “come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
So, we spent the last several weeks fighting to keep my “prayer and fasting retreat” on the calendar. We fended off all kinds of temptations to reschedule or cancel it. I got up on Monday morning and had to resist internal temptation to think there was something more urgent, something more effective, some better way to spend 72 hours than to shut myself away in a literal cloister, and pore over list after list of names and collections of faces. Then, once again, as I learn every year, when it’s all done and I’ve called out the names of so many souls who are loved by God and that I care about deeply, and I have lifted up their deepest needs to the only Savior, and I have rebuked the Devil over them in the name of Jesus, and I have asked God to favor them with his saving, delivering generosity, and I have thanked God for each name that represents His generous provision for our work in Washington–every single financial supporter of Faith and Action, when I have done all that, it is the most fulfilling, satisfying, relaxing experience in faith that I ever know. It is done because God does it, and I’ve merely been present to watch, to feel, and to join with that finished work.
These are the things I learn again and again on my prayer and fasting retreats–and there is so much more to learn in the years ahead. Thank YOU for letting me pray with and for you–I’m so very grateful to God for that honor.
Oh–I said I’d tell you why I pray aloud for each of the thousands of names on my list: Because there is something intimate, something close, something very real and tangible about speaking out loud. I can actually hear the name myself, form it with my lips, and tongue, and facial muscles. It’s almost like laying hands on someone to pray for them; it’s tactile, palpable, personal. As I said to someone at the retreat center where I prayed, it’s like having all these people in the chapel with me–and it’s literally the only time they are all together with me in one place. I’ve come to call it my “sonic congregation.” They are all there just in the sounding of their names. Beautiful–and, now that it’s over, I already miss them.
I can’t wait until our reunion next year!
This article by Steve Ertelt first appeared in LifeNews and features a special project by Faith and Action’s associate missionary, Rev. Pat Mahoney. Rev. Mahoney is the president of the Christian Defense Coalition.
An historic prayer walk will take place soon with participants who hope to keep Ireland abortion free, given that the government is pushing a bill that would open to the door to legal abortions for the first time.
The 100 mile walk between the two capitals will be held on May 11-18, 2013. Rev. Pat Mahoney will be walking with a small group of American pro-life leaders which will be joined by members of the Irish pro-life community along the route.
The pro-life and faith community around the world will be able to participate in this “Global Prayer Event” through Facebook and Ustream. Beginning May 11, people will be able to pray with Rev. Mahoney and his team every day “live” from Ireland at 12:00 P.M. EST. All they have to do is go to: www.facebook.com/RevPatrickMahoney or Ustream under “Prayer Walk to Keep Ireland Abortion Free.”
Ireland is facing its most critical challenge in keeping their nation abortion free as pro-abortion legislation is moving forward quickly in the Irish Parliament, they say. This prayer walk is a reprisal of a walk Rev. Mahoney did 23 years ago seeking God to end sectarian violence in that country between Catholics and Protestants.
Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, states: “As Ireland faces its greatest challenge toward keeping their nation abortion free, it is critical that the pro-life and faith community passionately and urgently seek God in prayer. The greatest resource for bringing about social change an protecting human rights and justice is prayer. Through prayer, we can see God shift and shape history and keep Ireland abortion free. Through technology, we will be able to have people from around the world join us in prayer ‘live’ from Ireland. This ‘Global Prayer Event’ will unite the pro-life community in a way we have never seen before and people will be able to stand with Ireland from their homes, churches, schools and places of employment. 23 years ago I held a similar prayer walk asking God to bring and end to the sectarian violence in Ireland. We are so thankful for the amazing results we have seen in that regard. On May 11-18, I will be praying and asking God keep the violence of abortion out of Ireland and to ensure there are human rights, equality and justice for all.”
Rev. Rob Schenck talks to you about why he is going away to pray and fast for President Obama, the members of Congress, our Supreme Court justices–and for YOU!
Faith and Action president and lead missionary Rev. Rob Schenck has often said this ministry’s greatest asset is the circle of supporters that sustains it. Thousands of generous friends from around the country and from as far away as the United Kingdom and the Philippines each year make donations so that Faith and Action can continue to proclaim and model the Gospel among top U.S. Government leaders in Washington, DC.
“I can’t ever adequately say in words how grateful I am, and how thankful every one of our team members is, for each and every financial supporter of our ministry,” Rob said. “We don’t take anyone for granted. We know times are tough economically and people give sacrificially to keep this ministry moving forward. I also know there’s plenty of competition, ministries much larger and more well-known than ours, and so I appreciate all the more when individuals, families, churches, and even other ministries take us on for regular missionary support. We are deeply grateful to God for each one of our supporters. One way I can give something back is to pray for everybody, individually, by name.”
Rev. Schenck will comb through pages of names during his three days of fasting, announcing out loud each one as he intercedes for individuals, families, churches, and organizations that support Faith and Action financially.
“This is the way the Lord provides for us,” Rob continued. “The money to pay our team members, to buy supplies, to stage events, to maintain our buildings, all comes from the hands of those who share our passion for taking the Good News of salvation and biblical truth to those at the highest levels of power and influence in our country and, by extension, to other countries of the world. That’s no small thing. So, while I’m praying for our supporters, I’ll also be thanking God for each one, by name, of course.”
Specific prayer requests will be forwarded to Rev. Schenck while he’s away on his retreat. You can e-mail requests to him directly and confidentially at email@example.com, or post requests publicly so others can join you in prayer as well at https://www.facebook.com/PrayerRetreat.
This May 13-15, Rev. Rob Schenck will once again begin his annual Prayer and Fasting Retreat. This retreat allows Rev. Schenck to withdraw from the many demands and distractions here in Washington, DC, and concentrate on listening to the voice of God. You’ll be with him on this retreat because your name will be on this list of prayer concerns when you place your prayer request on the “POWER OF PRAYER” Facebook page.