Prayer is HUGE among Christians in Egypt. Prayer and fasting. During and after every visit, whether by the pastors and their families or guests I had short visits with (or another huge meal!) the request to "pray for me/us" was always asked. Meet a seminarian. Pray for me. Speak with a medical student. Pray for me. Talk with an Elder or Deacon. Pray for me and our church. Visit in a home. Please pray for us. Meet a young person or couple. Pray for us.
I have tried to keep my own prayer life rich with these prayers. Praying for my folks, brothers and their significant others, our children's families and situations back in the States are on my daily list. Sitting out on the 7th floor balcony in our dorm suite, my coffee getting cold, I pray. For all of them. So, too, the seminary, the synod, special friends, the pastors and churches and leaders, and President Sisi of this lovely, precarious, vulnerable nation.
Add to these the requests from Heliopolis Community Church (HCC) or St. Andrews. Add to this the emails and Facebook messages.. Of course, I look at the monthly prayer list from my former church, Westwood First Presbyterian on the west side of Cincinnati. We're on it. Many are praying for Cinda and me. Thank You, Lord. My own pray list should keep me in prayer for hours everyday. "Pray without ceasing" the Bible teaches. Given all the requests, of course.
For two years I was able to attend the major Prayer Conference of the Synod largely organized by Dr. Tharwat Wahba and Rev. Hani Jack. The last one was in mid-November in Minya. These three days included lots of singing and short prayers followed by long prayers and the reading of prayer requests in front of, oh, 500 -1500 people.
There is preaching and some teaching. More prayers. The evening was more praising, preaching and prayers. First Presbyterian Church of Minya, a large church, was packed. I cannot imagine Americans in such numbers willing to fill a church to the brim for three days, 9:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. or so in prayer! (Ok, they did take a 3 hour lunch and "Egyptian nap break" in the middle of the day but I have no doubt some where praying even then!)
What is going on here? Trust. Trust that God cares, hears, forgives, loves and responds. Everything in your life one brings to our Lord. Hold nothing back. Open yourself and the needs of your church, family and friends to Him.
People at these events suddenly stood and prayed out loud for 5- 10 minutes, pouring out their thanks and requests. Women and men. Yes, some emotions came to the surface. Tharwat had handed me a packet of tissues before the conference began. "You will probably need these," he said. It was all so powerful even if I only knew some of what was being said in Arabic. God knew.
Or, we would be asked to pray with the person beside us or to form a group of 3 or 4 standing in the pews together. I prayed with Rev. Zahar Lotfi, a young pastor and recent graduate of ETSC. His church is north of Sohag in the village of Gizzaret Chandawheel. I prayed with the strangers of any age around me. They prayed in Arabic; I prayed in English. God hears us all. For school. For a job. For heath. To have a baby. And thanks for their family and friends and Jesus, Himself. To be hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, heads so close you felt their breath, praying long prayers together was so powerful.
Whenever I visited a church to encourage the pastor and preach, the service always, always ended with people coming up to me in the center aisle or out in the courtyard, asking me to pray for them, for their health, their marriage, to have a child, to bring a family member to Jesus or for peace in their anxious lives. Poor people live on the edge. I would hold their hands. Sometimes the man - and even the woman -would hug me. Sometimes I placed my hands on their head. Tears. Smiles. It didn't matter. These people had the pastor praying for them, with them. That was enough. Pray. Pray. Pray for us.
This experience of prayer has made my faith and trust in God grow. It has made me give so much more of my life to Jesus, opening all of my concerns and hopes, joys and fears, before our Almighty Lord. Prayer has become more frequent each and everyday of my life.
It was always there. But I truly believe that the Christians of Egypt have helped to expand both my understanding and practice of prayer. This sharing and reliance upon God has been so enriched as I have prayed devotionally and communally in this nation.
So, "Pray for me." Please.
Rev. Dr. Steve Gorman
PCUSA Liaison to the Synod of the Nile
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Egypt