Standing in the Gap — no.12
— praying for children accused of witchcraft
‘The man asked him, “What is your name?” … “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel”.’ — Genesis 32:27–28a
Jacob was one of many people recorded in the Bible as being given a new name by God. Jacob was the second–born of twins, who were said to have ‘jostled’ during their mother’s pregnancy. Jacob was named as such as he was born holding the heel of his brother, who was born first. Commentators have associated this name, figuratively speaking, with deception by this act of trying to come first. In Jacob’s life, he continued to seek the importance of the first–born status and fully achieved this when he deceitfully received his father’s blessing instead of his older brother. But that is not his lasting inheritance: God changes Jacob’s name to Israel when, in later life, Jacob shows his dependence is on God. The names we give can reflect our appreciation of a person, but God gives names that reveal his heart for a person.
“The thing that causes me pain very much is when my mum's younger sister started calling me a witch. Often, when I sleep I wet the bed at night, or I speak to myself, and they started calling me a witch.” Naomi told her pastor of the accusations and she says that “the pastor came to our house. He made my parents sit down, and told them not to call me a witch.” Naomi, 15 years old, D.R.Congo
The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. — Isaiah 62:2
Things to thank God for…
- Give thanks that God has created all of us in his image. None are excluded from receiving his love and grace.
- God knows us intimately and names us with purpose. Even when we have been known by our past actions and behaviours, we are not bound to that reputation throughout our lives.
- Many accusations of witchcraft against children can start from or be influenced by a family member or a community or church leader. Please pray that families will cease calling their children ‘witches’. Please pray that, before this name is given to a child, people will consider the devastating and awful consequences of such a label.
- Please pray for reconciliation in families and acceptance of children who are living with wider family members.
- Please pray for all children who are living on the streets because of witchcraft accusations. Pray for their protection today and healing from the trauma and rejection they have experienced. Pray for a welcoming home, a place of safety and the opportunity to begin to hope.