2024: A year of destiny?

Jan 12, 2024 | Flashpoints, PRAY, READ

A Make-or-Break Year for Democracy Worldwide: that is the headline I read in Time magazine a few days ago, and it stirred me greatly. As many of you know, I have long carried a great burden to pray for the cause of democracy, and it is currently facing many undermining influences.

A staggering two billion people will have their say in elections across the globe this year, each one making a contribution to the well-being or otherwise of the whole world. It is always right to pray for the conduct and outcomes of the electoral process, and the polls this year merit our particular and prayerful awareness, including enormously significant ones in Taiwan as well as the United States and the UK. Let’s take note of the points made in both the Time article above and this one from Politico,  and do our best to weigh what the Lord is saying and how He would have us pray.

Just a very few of the threats facing Europe

Praying for Turkey, Hungary and Scandinavia

Predictions that Russia would collapse in the face of a sustained support by the West are looking decidedly optimistic nowadays, as Russia, with Vladimir Putin still firmly at the helm, enters the new year looking stronger than ever, and buoyed by Donald Trump reiterating his insistence that he will NOT come to Europe’s rescue should Russia attack a NATO country.

Putin has launched threats against both Scandinavian and Baltic counties, and is even speaking of ‘Berlin burning’ – and the simple truth is that Europe is a very long way from being ready for suJust a ch a confrontation. We could imagine a scenario whereby we come back to the desperate plight faced in both world wars, with Britain anxiously praying and working for America to enter the war and save the situation.

As this article warns most graphically, the US is about to cease sending the hugely needed Patriot missiles to Ukraine, and that country’s limited stock of air defence materials is being rapidly used up as the result of greatly increased drone and missile attacks from Moscow forces.

With grandiose promises to support Ukraine ‘for as long as is required’ now wearing thin, it is starting to look more and more likely that it will be at least partially thrown under a bus. Zelensky, who has begun to lose much of his original popularity amongst his compatriots, is looking increasingly worried. For his part, Putin continues to do all he can to play on and to play up internal wranglings in America and Europe, and to reduce their willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to contain him.

Our ultimate concern is the Kingdom of God, but we would be failing in our duty if we did not bring this matter urgently and repeatedly before the Lord in prayer, not least because there appears to be no immediate prospect of any viable peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. Given that all trust in Russia has been broken as the result of its invasion this is hardly surprising.

Whether there is any truth that an opportunity for peace was missed in negotiations in March 2022, we are now facing an increasingly divided world.

Hungary’s Moscow-facing leader, Viktor Orbán, is set to take over Europe’s presidency in July this year.’ It makes a mockery of any hope of a unified European response toward the war in Ukraine: especially now he is increasingly viewed as a Trojan horse within the EU. Utterly inappropriate though it seems, it is the nature of the rotating EU presidency to bring him into power.*

Pray for relationships with Turkey. Many in the West are finding it increasingly hard to coexist with the Russian-leaning tendencies of President Erdogan, who has long since declared that he trusts Russia as much as he does the West. Why should he trust a nation that has cynically broken every treaty it has ever signed? Meanwhile, his opposition is continuing to hold up the entry of Sweden into NATO.**

Finland is taking threats from Russia seriously, and is seeking to strengthen its defences by closer ties with the US. But all that will be greatly undermined if Trump wins the American election and fulfils his promise to leave Europe to her own fate.

Pray for Finland: Thirty days of prayer for Finland
Prayer cast for Finland
See also Operation World.

Sweden is also warning of the risk of finding itself caught up in a conflict with Russia, thereby ending decades of freedom from war. Like its Finnish neighbour, defence chiefs are concerned that too little is being done across Europe to prepare.

Norway has been a foremost country in its generous support of Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
Why not spend some time praying for Norway as representative of Scandinavia with this prayer cast.

See also this brief resume in Operation World
and my adaptation of a much-loved Norwegian hymn.

Meanwhile the UK’s all important naval defences are experiencing not the increase that is called for, but rather a serious downgrading and difficulties with recruitment and retaining its work force.

Naval crews are under considerable stress, not least in the Red Sea, where operators have barely 30 seconds to defend against scores of drones and cruise missiles that are being fired at supersonic speed. Not only that, but defending themselves comes at an immense financial cost, as Frank Gardiner reveals in this recent article.

The Houthis are a much more potent menace than the Somali pirates

Yemen, with its population of 28 million people is the poorest of all Arab nations. Almost all the population are hungry, and some 150,000 are thought to have died in the war with Saudi. A peace settlement has been made that Saudi is obviously concerned not to rock; at the same time no nation can permit the Houthis to fire missiles at passing ships. As you will have heard the UK and the US have not only been very busy shooting down drones and missiles but have now launched attacks of their own. The Houthis are well armed and organised by Iran. This is not a small matter.

As you will see from this prayer cast, Christians represent a tiny percentage of the nation, and life is particularly hard for them. Beyond the immense social needs, and the need for Christ, let’s seek the Lord and ask Him to deal with the spirits that are at work through Iran to bring yet more chaos and destruction into the region. In that sense, the situation is not so different from what is happening in Gaza – and the enormous risk of escalation with Hezbollah, which neither side really wants.

* See these two posts I have written on praying for Hungary.

**This call to pray for Turkey dates back to 2016. ’ Much that is illiberal has developed since then, but we can still use it as a basis for prayer.

At the cyber level
In common with the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) Finland and Sweden are also amongst many nations currently experiencing increased cyberwarfare danger. There are growing warnings concerning the ever-increasing danger of AI becoming concentrated in the hands of a few determined actors (to which we would add ‘and the state actors behind them’), the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report judges the rising tide of cyber threats and mis- and dis-information to pose the most severe global risk of all.

Cyber bomb hoaxes are a major threat, and ways must be found to counteract them.

(This article in Time magazine dates back to 2015, but remains a worthwhile overview of the threats of cyber warfare.)

It is important to remember that that President Putin once boasted that, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere [artificial intelligence] will become the ruler of the world.” These are not the sort of comments we can afford to treat lightly. Pray for cyber defences to hold firm – not least against the immense efforts that a number of state actors, very much including Russia, are directing against them.

The American election can hardly fail to dominate the headlines, given its strategic impact for the rest of the world. It is hard to believe that of all the possible candidates for the presidency, one of the two front-runners is charged with more felonies than Al Capone, and the other appears to be falling prey to the challenges of old age.

Indeed, Biden’s many decades of wide experience are increasingly overshadowed by his obvious difficulties and lack of stage presence. This does not enamour him to voters, and his determined support for Israel – despite the horrific loss of life in Gaza – wins him no favours amongst the younger elements of the electorate.

The simple fact is that there is currently no obvious outstanding candidate for the role. We can only continue to give the whole shebang to the Lord, therefore, enormously aware that millions of seriously godly American believers continue to place their trust in Trump – and that millions of others most emphatically do not.

In the short term, as former President Trump continues his implausible fight to argue that he is immune to prosecution.  His arguments themselves hold little weight: he is actually attempting to buy himself time in which to campaign for – and win – the election, secure in the knowledge that if he wins that he is much less likely to have to face any unpleasant consequences.

See also: Trump’s own lawyers dealt death blow to his immunity claim three years ago: George Conway (msn.com)

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May the Lord raise up a praying army
In all these things, our work is to seek the Lord’s heart, and preserve a spiritual (rather than a soulish) perspective. As we have shared so many times, our heart is always first and foremost for the Kingdom of God, rather than for national politics or politicians. But His Kingdom extends far beyond Church matters only, central and vital though the Church is in every way for revealing and releasing God’s purposes on Earth.

I have often written of the work of Rees Howells and his team of intercessors, who considered themselves to be as much on the front line of the Second World War, through their action in prayer, as were Britain’s military troops. May the Lord re-energise us for the task ahead and rise up younger ones too to share in this ministry of prayer for global issues.

Praise God that the leaders of Intercessors for Britain, Ashley Thompson and Josh MacDonald, are making serious efforts to do just that, and to find ways to disciple younger people in prayer. See this brief introduction to them, and read more about the current thrust of this long-established intercessory ministry that continues to proclaim the warnings from the Lord. They are very much the direct successors of Denis Clark and Alex Buchanan, both of whom we knew, who were previous leaders.

As we have shared so many times, our heart is always first and foremost for the Kingdom of God, rather than for national state politics or politicians, but the Kingdom extends beyond Church matters alone – central and vital though the Church is in every way for revealing and releasing God’s purposes on Earth.

Photo by BoliviaInteligente on Unsplash

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