13. Praying for intellectuals

From Henri Blocher

Intellectuals make up an important part of our society: we recognise them, or, more correctly, they recognise one another mutually through their shared interest in debating ideas; through their way of making thinking an integral part of their lives, often through their profession; and through their debt to a rich and brilliant intellectual heritage.

I. Reasons for prayer

There is a great temptation to forget intellectuals in prayer. Like the Kings of the II century, they seem inaccessible to any evangelical call made by poor Christians. They were so brilliant, so proud in their criticism of naivety, so caught up in their dialectic pirouettes, filled with a spirit of revolt! But Paul prayed for them. We need to remind ourselves that it is God’s wish to save all men: no matter what their social or intellectual status (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

The Lord’s divine will for the world should mobilise us in prayer.

The example of Paul proves that God does indeed save intellectuals. In Acts 17, the inspired sermon by the apostle at the Great Counsel of Athens led the conversion of many, including influential people such as Dionysius who was a member of the Académie française!

Compassion must drive us. In their very revolt, intellectuals are the victims of an education which makes faith difficult for them. They have been taught to value reserve in relation to faith; horror at the Religious Crusades could be the source of this characteristic attitude.

The Holy Spirit can use influential people in the evangelisation of the world.

The influence of intellectuals in the world gives us another reason for prayer. Considering French intellectuals in particular, the two most significant intellectual “waves” in recent times, structuralism and postmodernism (or deconstruction), have to a great extent arisen from the French intellectual community. If the Spirit of God were to work strongly within these French intellectuals, his brilliance would reach beyond France’s borders to the world! The same could be said about the potential of intellectuals in other countries to reach out and influence others.

II. Aims of prayer

What particular “strategic” goals should we concentrate on in prayer?

God makes use of our abilities, without limiting himself to them as they are always deficient. We need to ask him to improve our skills to make them more adequate for the tasks at hand: to create witnesses of the Good News who are able to attract and retain the attention of intellectuals through the quality of their testimony; who can give testimonies with excellent style and content. Student movements (such as IFES and Agapé) and editors should be particularly present in these prayers.

According to some recent publications, intellectuals from the up-coming generation are having a healthy reaction which contrasts with the extreme immorality, anti-Christian sentiment and nihilism which has predominated in recent decades. We must pray that these kinds of movements continue to grow and consolidate so that interest in the Bible does so too and people do not get lost in the misleading theories which the media promotes.

We need to ask for the conversions of people who are very gifted, likely to attract a large number of people to the Lord. In previous generations, spectacular conversions came into the public eye, such as those of the French poet Paul Claudel and the journalist André Frossard. These converts only knew the Catholic face of Christianity: the existence of evangelical Christianity is better known nowadays, in spite of the stereotypes; trips to countries where there is a large number of evangelical Christians are an opportunity for French intellectuals (some have been touched in this way and they should be the first of many).

Finally, it seems urgent to pray against the temptation of poisonous religions, which are nonetheless successful. Buddhism, in particular, in spite of its considerable contradictions and errors, attracts intellectuals.

May the Lord restore a truly critical spirit which is the enemy of credulity and open to the light of faith.