Pastor Tanka, a church leader and human rights activist in Nepal.
One of the things I value most is faithful prayer: it’s the engine that drives everything else in the Christian life, especially for work like mine in Nepal, where I am a pastor and human rights activist. I believe that overturning unjust legislation is nothing for a God who can move mountains. But it can be hard to keep praying when change seems a long time coming.
The trial of eight Christians from Charikot was an especially difficult time: their trial hearings were delayed so often, and travel to and from Charikot was exhausting and expensive. They’d been charged with attempting to convert children to Christianity, after they distributed a pamphlet telling the story of Jesus.
Our prayers were eventually answered when the eight were freed. But persevering when victory seemed impossible taught me once more this vital lesson: that it’s often when we keep going through the hardest times that we glorify God the most, and our faith is encouraged and strengthened.
Sometimes our prayers take a long time to be answered, and that’s probably one of the hardest things we face as Christians. Yet throughout history people have faced this issue, and have recorded their experiences. Some of the most affecting Psalms deal with God’s seeming absence from our most desperate situations. Psalm 10 begins ‘Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?’ I’m sure most of us have said something like this to God at one time or another.
Passages like this show us, first of all, that this situation isn’t out of the natural order of life. There will always be times when we have to keep praying despite our doubts. And God is big enough to deal with our doubts when we speak to him honestly.
But Psalm 10 continues: ‘But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand.’ The psalmist reminds us that God sees our trouble and wants us to bring our grief to him so that he can help us bear it.
By committing our fears and doubts to God over and over again – by persevering in prayer when the answer seems a long time coming – we trust our Lord that even when things look desperate He is still sovereign. And often God will deliver the victory we’ve been praying for: just in His time, not ours. I’ll never forget the relief when those eight Christians were released. I was so thankful that God had answered all those prayers. But even if he hadn’t – I know he’d still be powerful.