In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Despite its large population, rapidly expanding economy, and rich natural resources, the Nigerian people face many challenges. Since independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, the country has been plagued by political instability and corruption, owing in part to the arbitrary nature of its political borders which encompass many ethnic groups and, as an extension of this, the sharp social and religious divides between the three major ethnic groups, the Hausa in the north, the Igbo or Ebo in the southeast, and the Yoruba in the southwest. The nation’s infrastructure is poorly developed, making road travel between the major cities difficult. The power supply is unreliable and must be supplemented by generators. Sanitation is poor, with lots of trash strewn about even in the countryside. Security is precarious, between the advance of Muslim extremists in the northeast and good old’ fashioned highway robbers and opportunistic kidnappers in parts of the south. Life for the average Nigerian is difficult, a daily struggle for many of the basic amenities of life we Americans take for granted.
Their size and spiritual fervor, in the face of the many challenges of daily life in Nigeria, has allowed the national church to become a leading voice in global Anglicanism, the major champion of classical orthodoxy despite much underhanded opposition by some western Anglicans, and the ringleaders of a global realignment within the Communion which saw the birth of the GAFCON movement and the Anglican Church in North America, our church home. Our Almighty God, in his infinite mercy and wisdom, has chosen the things which look weak by the world’s standards to carry forth his almighty strength into the world and so humble the exalted. The God of the Magnificat is alive and well in Nigeria!
The ways of our God: As I have already had cause to mention, our God works so often by exalting the humble and humbling the exalted. By worldly standards, we Americans have much to boast about over against the Nigerian people. We are wealthy, secure, clean, and can rely in large measure on social, political, and economic equity and stability. But God does not judge by the world’s standards. We stand in the shadow of our Nigerian brothers and sisters when it comes to fervency of belief and joyfulness of faith. I went to Nigeria ready to learn from them, and they did not let me down. God surely has his hand on these wonderful people, and I am humbled and excited to get to even see it, let alone share in its spiritual benefits.
The power of prayer: The Nigerians have achieved this kind of spiritual prowess for two major reasons, I believe. The first is that they are a praying people. If the very theme of our gathering—“watching and praying” as the most basic solution of the church to the many social, political, and economic hardships the Nigerians face—were not enough to convince one of this, they need only spend some time in actual prayer with them. They love the Lord Jesus, and this was plainly obvious when I heard how they speak to him. You can tell a lot about a person’s faith by the nature of their prayer. The faith of the Nigerian people is joyful, hopeful, bold, and firmly rooted in the power of Jesus Christ to save. I want to pray like that.
I walked away strongly challenged and encouraged to cultivate a childlike faith like that of my Nigerian friends. I am convinced that this is the faith of spiritual worshipers, whom the Father seeks to worship him, and I desperately want to worship like the Nigerians. My soul yearns for this simple and earnest faith. Now, this is not a faith that ignores the complexities of life in this world. This is not a faith that dismisses the difficulties of biblical interpretation. This is not a faith that doesn't even sometimes wrestle with honest doubt. But it is a faith through which all of these things happen upon the bedrock of confidence that God has revealed himself perfectly to us in Jesus Christ, that God is truthful when he speaks and faithful to his word, that God means what he promises and will finish what he started, that God will never fail, whether in this age or the next, those who call on the name of Jesus. As the Nigerians are so fond of saying both at the beginning and end of their prayers, “In the name of Jesus! Amen!”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.