Praying for Our Christian Brethren in Egypt
Dr. Michael Milton, former Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, has written a prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Egypt, who are in great peril these days. I reproduced it here:
“A Prayer and Plea for Egypt on the Brink of Civil War”
Father, Thou who used Egypt as a place of refuge for Thy Son, Jesus, when Joseph led Mary and the little Christ-child there to escape a madman named Herod, grant the same refuge and peace to Thy people in Egypt this day. Deliver the Church in Egypt through the attacks of madmen. Convert the madmen, as Thou didst with St. Paul, or else remove them, lest they devour Thy Seed through bloody war. It is not too much to ask or too much to expect, O Christ, that Thou wouldst reign supreme through all of this and that the chaos of this unrest may be the first pains of the birth of a great revival. For the sake of Thy matchless name, the glory and honor of Thy dear Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, through the supernatural turning of pain into praise by the Holy Spirit, wilt Thou, Almighty God, demonstrate Thy might in our midst that all will know, “There is a God and He is the God of grace, who offers life in the presence of death, hope in the cauldron of despair, peace in the raging inhumanity of diabolically influenced bloodshed, and love flowing from hearts that know Thy grace and love, that is stronger than hatred.”
Protect the Egyptian people who desire peace and turn the hearts of those who lust for violence. Safeguard missionaries, aid workers, police, physicians, nurses, military personnel, counselors, and the many dutiful others who seek to either bring the Gospel, again, to that land, or to fulfill the Biblical mandate of Romans Chapter Thirteen in providing governmental order. We appeal to Thine own Word to apply to the ancient land of Egypt and her condition today:
“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail” (1 Samuel 2:9 ESV).”
We pray for this peace, Oh God, until the last dawn breaks, the canopy-skies are suddenly torn in twain and unfurled like a colossal curtain, and the Son of Man appears in triumphant splendor. Come again Lord Jesus to still the raging sands of Egypt, to comfort and embolden Thy true ministers, and encourage Thy people through Thy Word, Sacrament, and Prayer, until at length, Thy return will end injustice, destroy all wars, and put down all inhumanity. Through all of these petitions we humbly submit our pleas in order to establish Thy Kingdom, world without end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Who are these brethren in Egypt? Obviously, in every nation where there are Christians, there will be Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches. In Egypt, the majority of the churches belong to The Christian Coptic Orthodox Church Of Egypt, or commonly, the Coptic Church.
So we might know them and pray for them more earnestly, a good backgrounder to this church’s history and doctrines can be found at St-Takla.org. Here’s a summary of what I’ve read:
The word Copt comes from the Greek word Aigyptos, which in turn, comes from Hikaptah, one of the names for Memphis, the ancient Egyptian capital. The term “Coptic” today refers to Egyptian Christians, as well as the ancient Egyptian language script. It is commonly accepted that the word “Copt” is an Arabic mispronunciation of the word for “Egyptian.” Copts also believe that they are the original people of Egypt, and they speak the original language of Egypt.
Coptic tradition traces their history from Mark the Evangelist whom they say founded the church in Alexandria about 41-43 AD, according to the historian Eusebius of Caesarea. We might think that the Copts have always been a persecuted church, but they are proud of their “golden age” in the first 1,000 years from their foundation. Athanasius is the great 4th century Bishop of Alexandria. The Coptics produced thousands of important biblical and theological studies which are great resources for archaeology and early church history. As early as the 2nd century, they translated the Bible into their own language.
Alexandria was one of the great Christian centers in the early church. It was there were the first catechetical school was established by Pantanaeus in 190 AD, producing great scholars such as Athenagoras, Clement, Didymus and Origen. It wasn’t only a theological school, but also a learning center for the sciences, mathematics and humanities.
Monasticism was started by the “Desert Fathers” in Egypt in the late 3rd century by Anthony. Others followed, including Pachomius, who established the rules of monasticism. Copts claim that Basil of Caesarea, Jerome and Benedict modeled after the “Desert Fathers.”
The turning point in Coptic theological history came when the church rejected the formula of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD about the hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures. Because of this break, Copts have been persecuted by other Christians from the time of the Chalcedonian council.
In 641 AD, Egypt was conquered by Islamic Arabs. For the next four centuries under Muslim domination, the Coptic Church still flourished and Egypt remained majority Christian. This was due mainly to the freedom given to them by the Muslim authorities to freely practice their religion and to have “protected” status as long as they paid a special tax. Thus, the Coptic language remained the language of the land until it began to be slowly supplanted by Arabic beginning the second half of the 11th century.
This special status slowly eroded beginning 1000 AD, when Copts suffered from civil, religious, and property ownership restrictions, including their freedom of worship. By the end of the 12th century, Copts became the minority community under a predominantly hostile Muslim majority. However, in the early 19th century, they began to regain their equal status with Muslims, and the country became more homogenous and religious-tolerant. There were occasional persecutions against the Copts, but they generally co-existed peacefully with their Muslim countrymen until the Arab Spring of 2011.
The first major Protestant presence in Egypt did not arrive until Presbyterian missionaries came in the 1850s. At first, there was hostility against the Protestants, but the Protestants influenced the Coptic Church to incorporate preaching in the Mass, and hold Sunday schools and Bible studies. Over the last decades, relations between the Coptic Church and Protestants have greatly improved.
The Coptic Church claims that they never believed in monophysitism, the belief that Christ has one nature, the divine. According to the St-Takla website:
Copts believe that the Lord is perfect in His divinity, and He is perfect in His humanity, but His divinity and His humanity were united in one nature called “the nature of the incarnate word”, which was reiterated by Saint Cyril of Alexandria. Copts, thus, believe in two natures “human” and “divine” that are united in one “without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration” … These two natures “did not separate for a moment or the twinkling of an eye …”
In addition to their dispute against the Council of Chalcedon, Copts highlight other beliefs. Like Roman Catholics, they observe seven sacraments: Baptism, Christmation (Confirmation), Eucharist, Confession (Penance), Orders, Matrimony, and Unction of the Sick. There are three main liturgies in the Coptic Church: the Liturgy of Saint Basil of Caesarea; the liturgy of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus; and the Liturgy of Saint Cyril I of Alexandria.
The worship of Saints is expressly forbidden. However, like Rome, asking for their intercessions is central in any Coptic service. Like most major Christian churches, they also celebrate seven major feasts: the Annunciation, Christmas, Theophany, Palm Sunday, Easter, Ascension, and the Pentecost. The Copts are proud of their long seasons of fasting unmatched by other churches: over 210 days of fasting out of 365 days in a year. And unlike the Roman Pope, The Pope of the Coptic Church, although highly honored and respected by all Copts, does not enjoy any state of supremacy or infallibility.
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