In April of 2014, the Boko Haram kidnapped 276 Chibok schoolgirls.
An internet challenge was issued asking us to pick one girl off the list of those taken and to pray daily for her by name. I accepted the challenge. I began to pray for Rebecca Luka.
Some girls managed to escape right away. Over the years others were rescued in groups, but 112 are still missing. After a few years of praying for Rebecca, I saw new lists of the girls released and a list of those still missing. Rebecca’s name wasn’t on either. She may have been one of the girls who managed to escape in those first days from the transport trucks. I hope so. But there was a Naomi Luka still on the list, so I began to pray for both Luka girls, wherever they are.
And then one day, I also chose to pray for the Boko Haram. I prayed God might use the kidnapped girls to introduce the Boko Haram to Jesus.
It wasn’t an easy prayer. I despised them for their evil acts of kidnapping, forced marriage, murder and mayhem.
But I continued to pray for them as well as the Luka girls. And as time went on I found my prayers for them becoming more fervent, more heartfelt.
A few weeks ago, as I prayed for the Boko Haram to find the freedom available through knowing Jesus, I realized tears were welling up in my eyes. I wanted this for them so much. My response surprised me.
Jill Briscoe rightly expressed what had happened: “Prayer changes things—sometimes—but prayer changes you always.”
The Chibok schoolgirls still weren’t home. Naomi Luka was still a captive. Those things hadn’t changed. But I had. I now love the Boko Haram enough to want God’s very best for them—a relationship with himself. I see them as people God dearly loves.
We are in the midst of an unsettling and raucous election week. The last few months have been awash in anger and hatred and unkind words. It’s likely there will be more of all of that to accompany legal challenges over the next few weeks. Families and friendships have been severed over this election cycle.
Maybe you don’t particularly like that person anymore. It’s possible you’ll never hang out again. But can I encourage you to pray for them? Not that they would “see the light” as you see it, but that they would know the goodness of God in whatever way they need today.
It may be hard to do. Do it anyway. And keep doing it.