Yesterday’s news of North Korea launching an intercontinental ballistic missile test capable of striking North America gives us yet another reason to pray with Christians in both North Korea and South Korea. On top of this, we have never been more aware of just how horrible life is for Christians in the North Korean regime. Simply owning a Bible is enough to be considered an enemy of the state, and many North Korean Christians are spending the rest of their lives malnourished, mistreated, and dying in a prison camp.
While it’s clear as Christians that we are called to pray, what’s less clear is what we should pray. Below, we identify three biblical prompts Scripture gives us to guide us as we talk to God about this critical situation.
PRAY FOR JUSTICE
Nothing was more central to the prayer of life of the Old Testament people than the psalms. More than just songs that were sung, the book of Psalms is a devotional guide to God’s chosen nation of how they were to relate to him. Considering how often Jesus and the writers of the New Testament references these psalms, it’s fair to say that we as Christians can still look to them for guidance in how to pray to God.
One of the dominant themes in Psalms is a crying out for justice. Look, for instance, at Psalm 10, where we read…
O Lord, punish those wicked people!
Remember those who are suffering!
How can the wicked despise God
and say to themselves, “He will not punish me”?
But you do see; you take notice of trouble and suffering
and are always ready to help.
The helpless commit themselves to you;
you have always helped the needy.
Break the power of wicked and evil people;
punish them for the wrong they have done
until they do it no more.
This is just one of dozens of moments (and a fairly tame one at that) in Psalms where the writer cries out for justice, and it’s hard to hear how the psalmist rails against the evil, powerful rulers and not think of the atrocities occurring in North Korea.
God makes it clear that He hates the oppression of the innocent, and those who rule corruptly, and so one of our prayers for North Korea absolutely should be that God would overthrow the wickedness of Kim Jong Un’s administration and for His Kingdom to reign in this dark nation.
PRAY FOR OUR ENEMIES
Standing side-by-side with a plea for justice is the instruction to pray for our enemies. In Matthew 5, Jesus says the following:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
As Christians we believe that while there are different levels of evil, all of us have sinned and fallen short of God. We also believe the only way we have found salvation is through the unearned grace extended to us through Jesus.
Because of that, we are always rooting for everyone—even our enemies—to find salvation through our Savior. We are to be like God, who as we are told “does not desire that anyone should perish.”
A Christian prayer for North Korea then involves praying for all of the oppressors in that country: that God would somehow transform the hearts of Kim Jong Un, his administration, his soldiers, and the North Korean people.
PRAY FOR GOD’S WILL TO BE DONE
And yet how do both of these make sense? How do we simultaneously pray for the destruction of North Korea and pray for God’s mercy to fall on them? We live in this tension by remembering that prayer isn’t just about asking for God’s intervention in the world around us, but His intervention in us.
As we pray for North Korea, we acknowledge the fact that we don’t know what should happen. We pray that God would bring his peace, even as we can’t imagine a way that could occur. We remember that sometimes when we don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us on our behalf, and so we ask Him to do that.
In other words, we remember that we aren’t just asking for God’s Kingdom to come, but also His will to be done. We discover in prayer our fragility and inability to solve our world’s problems and throw ourselves at the feet of our Father in Heaven, asking “Please Dad, can you fix this?”
It’s this humble posture of prayer, we are told, that God hears most: “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Romans 8:26).