Saturday, August 18, 2012

Prayer for Macedonia: A 365 Day Global Prayer Journey - August 18

I've been privileged to know several Macedonians. They are among the most joyful people I've met - in fact, they will readily tell you that Macedonians love to find an excuse to have a party. They're also filled with pride over their country's independence. It's such a joy to pray for Macedonia today. Please read pages 545-547. I've included some wonderful insights and prayer requests from one serving Macedonia. I pray his words fuel your prayers

Macedonia has a rich history of Christianity, starting when the Apostle Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:9)  Paul obeyed the “Macedonian Call” when he sailed for Philippi.  However, with time, Christianity became stagnant because the Scriptures were never translated into the language of the Slavic common people.  It wasn’t until the ninth century that Cyril and Methodius of Thessaloniki undertook the challenge of meeting this need among Slavic peoples when they started a Bible school to train Slavs in their own language.  After the death of Cyril and Methodius, two of their students, Clement and Naum of Macedonia, returned to Macedonia in the city of Ohrid and continued the work by creating a new Slavic alphabet, called Cyrillic, in honor of their teacher Cyril.  Clement translated the Scriptures into the language of the Macedonian Slavs and founded the Ohrid University.  About 3,500 students were educated at Ohrid University.  Many of them were ordained priests, deacons, and arch-deacons; and many were sent on missions among the Slavic peoples on the Balkan Peninsula, and even further abroad.  A large number of them also reached far away Russia.  At the end of the fourteenth century the Ottoman Turks invaded the Balkans and brought about 500 years of Muslim rule.  Afterwards, Macedonia was under several decades of Communism during its time in the former Yugoslavia.  In 1992, Macedonia became an independent Republic.  However, as a people, they have lost most of their rich spiritual heritage.  

Today, about two thirds of Macedonia’s population is Slavic Macedonian.  They consider themselves Orthodox Christian but most of these are nominal in their beliefs and practices.  The Orthodox Church is seen as the national church.  To become a member of any other church (such as Protestant or Evangelical) is seen as unpatriotic, and these churches are even called “sects” or “cults”.  The members are considered traitors to their homeland because to be Macedonian is to be “Orthodox”.  Even though many of the people rarely attend Orthodox services, many converts to other churches face severe persecution and are ostracized by family and friends, and in a country that values family, this can be a burden hard to bear.

- Pray for Orthodox Macedonians to go beyond following traditions but to have saving faith, becoming true believers and having a relationship with the God they try to serve.

The other third of Macedonia’s population is Muslim.  Most of Macedonia’s Muslims are Albanian, making up about one fourth of Macedonia’s population.  The rest are Muslim Turks and Gypsies (Roma).  Most Muslims in Macedonia maintain a high identity as a Muslim but do not follow most of the practices of Islam.  Just as with the Macedonians, to be Albanian is to be "Muslim".  Though several churches have been planted among the Muslim Roma population, the Muslim Albanians and Muslim Turks remain essentially unreached.

- Pray for Muslim Albanians and Muslim Turks to have a revelation of Jesus Christ and to come into the Kingdom of God with saving faith as true believers.

Less than 0.5% of Macedonia’s population is Protestant/Evangelical Christian.  Most smaller cities and villages do not even have a group of true believers meeting together.  As a result of previous missionaries, most Protestant/Evangelical Christians place more emphasis on structure and knowledge from a Bible college than on godly character and spiritual giftings.  This has caused a lack of good leadership within the churches and has made it difficult for churches to grow and reproduce throughout the country.

- Pray for Protestant/Evangelical Christians to return to their first love, not trying to control the work of God but letting it multiply through their love and good works.

There is a historic tension between the Orthodox Macedonians and the Muslim Albanians.  These tensions are rooted in various things:  political, cultural, religious, etc.  Also, Macedonia has historic tensions with its surrounding neighboring countries:  Greece does not recognize Macedonia's name, Bulgaria claims that the Macedonian language is just a dialect of Bulgarian, the Serbian Orthodox church does not recognize the Macedonian Orthodox church, Albania wants to increase its borders with the Albanian populated part of Macedonia.

- Pray for peace in Macedonia and the Balkans.  Come against spiritual strongholds of religiosity and pride, lies and deception, division and disunity, greed and corruption, and gossip and slander.

My prayer for today: Lord, each corner of the world brings a unique culture, and each authentic church expression of that culture adds a dimension of richness to Your body that we cannot experience without it. It's so easy to see that Macedonian believers add much to our understanding of joy in the body of Christ. We thank You for that, and ask You to teach us from their joy. We thank You for their outward-focused ministry and the growth of the church as it reaches across ethnic lines. We pray for all of Macedonia to hear the Gospel and follow You. We pray for evangelical churches to be humble and find favor with the government. We pray for Your Spirit to move through the Orthodox church and breathe new life. We pray for all those who have only attended Orthodox churches and never heard the Gospel in their own language to find true lasting joy when they heard the Gospel for the first time. We pray for leadership and vision for the churches. We pray for those missionaries working in the land and ask You to give them wisdom and humility to work alongside national believers. Thank You for the church You are building in Macedonia. In Jesus' name, amen.

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