Lighting a Candle of Prayer

Mark Renfroe

Amy and I returned home recently from a week in Manhattan. New York is a great city in many ways, but in others, it reminds me of ancient Nineveh. It’s a center of both United States and global culture. Whatever you’re looking for, you can probably find it in that city. There are many expressions of religion but little light. Many historical representations of the Christian faith have sacrificed truth on the altar of cultural accommodation.

I do not mean to insinuate that there are not many God-fearing pastors and churches in the city. There definitely are. These pastors, like Elijah in his day, serve the Lord faithfully in a very challenging context. Indeed, thousands uncompromisingly serve there even though it is a difficult place to live and minister.

Nor am I saying that New York is unique. The same could be said of large and small towns in the Bible Belt and beyond. It’s just more visible in a place like New York. If anything, it is simply a concentrated manifestation of the brokenness of our broader society.

The dilemma is how faithful Christ-followers should respond when they find themselves in places like this. As a long-term missionary to the Muslim world, I have learned that my response should never be one of despair. What we see is only part of the reality. God is always at work, even in the most wicked context. So, our observations should drive us to our knees as we cry out, “Oh God, bring more gospel hope to this city!”

We do not call down curses like Jonah did. We might hear God say, as he did to Jonah, “Should I not have pity on this great city in which there are more than eight million people?” (see Jonah 4:11). Instead, with the heart of God as our guide, we pray and ask others to do likewise.

In the natural, it may seem hopeless; but with God, all things are possible. We’ll always bear more and better fruit when our approach is about lighting gospel candles instead of simply cursing the darkness.

Mark Renfroe and his wife, Amy, have been involved in field missions work for 30 years. Mark served as the area director for Assemblies of God World Missions and currently serves as the chief missions officer for World Challenge.