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The power of prayer for God’s mercy

Jesus told Sister Faustina that the sources of his mercy were unfathomable and inexhaustible (cf. Diary 692). History gives strong evidence that Jesus saves those who plead for his mercy.

The power of prayer for God’s mercy

In the tradition of the Egyptian Christians, the Copts, there is a story of God showing special mercy to his people.

The church on the Mokattam Mountain

The largest church in the world (capable of holding about 20,000 people) stands on the Mokattam Mountain in Cairo. Today, the church witnesses many conversions, healings and instances of people being freed from demonic possession, including many Muslims. Having experienced the actual presence and love of Jesus, these people abandon Islam and become Christians. The church on the Mokattam Mountain is a place where merciful Jesus bestows incredible graces on people.

The origins of the church involve a miraculous intervention by God. In the tenth century, the Muslim invader Caliph Ma’add al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah (932–975) demanded that the autochthonous Egyptians (Copts), who had professed their faith in Christ since the first century, convert to Islam. This is one of the doctrines of Islam, faithfully following Muhammad’s behest: “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property” (Sahih Al-Buchari, hadith 25). Sneering at Christianity, the Caliph ridiculed their “naive” faith: “You say that your Jesus has said that it is enough to have faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain.” When the Coptic patriarch, Abram ibn Zaraa (d. 979), confirmed that this was what Jesus had promised, the Caliph demanded: “Prove that your faith has the power to move mountains! If it is untrue, you will adopt Islam, leave the country or die. I order you to move for me the Mokattam Mountain in Cairo with your faith.”

It is necessary to pray for the conversion of Muslims and that the joyous truth of Jesus Christ who lives, acts, preaches and heals in the Catholic Church should reach them

The desperate Patriarch ordered a three-day fast and prayer in this intention. Legend has it that the fasting Patriarch had a vision of Our Lady, who revealed to him that help would come the next day. The next day, there appeared a man known as Simon the Cobbler, who said, on God’s instructions, that the Christian people gathered at the foot of the mountain should pray for God’s mercy with the words Kyrie eleison. When the Copts started to pray, the Mokattam Mountain rose — and not just once, as the Caliph had demanded, but three times! The Caliph died the same year for impudently putting God to the test.

Fasting and praying for mercy

This story, only sketched here, has been widely known in Egypt for centuries.

Even if some historical details are not accurately conveyed, it is incontrovertible that the Copts are the only Christian nation of North Africa that has been allowed to profess its faith in Christ under Muslim rule. In the liturgical year of the Coptic Church, the period of Advent is longer by three days, in order to commemorate the mountain moving three times. At Easter, the faithful remember the story by saying the prayer Kyrie eleison 400 times during the liturgy whilst turning east, west, south and north. In daily prayer, Kyrie eleison is repeated 41 times on a single breath. The tradition explains that 39 supplications correspond to the number of blows Jesus received when being scourged, one is for the wounds inflicted by the crown of thorns and one is for the piercing of His side.

The Copts are the only Christian nation of North Africa that has been allowed to profess its faith in Christ under Muslim rule

The awareness of the power of the prayer for mercy, combined with fasting, is shared by the Copts’ persecutors. The situation of Christians in Egypt is difficult: terrorist attacks on Coptic churches and houses, abductions of women and girls to force them to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim, and political and social discrimination are all on the rise. However, when the Copts announce a national fast, the Muslim media (for instance Al-Jazeera Television) claim this to mean that they do not want to settle disputes peacefully and that they are breaking their agreement with the State. The media believe that pleading with God and fasting bring an end to political dialogue. Since the matter was entrusted to God, the relations between the State and the Copts may deteriorate. The panic ensuing each time the Church decides to fast shows quite clearly that the Copts’ opponents fear this form of action and are aware of the fact that God, with whom the Christians are pleading, has real power and will defend them.

I strongly encourage you to plead with God for mercy as often as possible, not only in the intention of solving your own problems, but also in that of your country, the persecuted Church and, above all, the conversion of the Church’s enemies and persecutors. God, who is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4), will surely hear your entreaties and will show mercy on us and the whole world.

The conversion of an ISIS jihadist

The blood of martyred Christians begets many conversions of Muslims in the Middle East. In Syria, a few months ago, an incredible conversion took place. During heavy fighting, an ISIS jihadist was seriously wounded. He was accidently found by Christian missionaries, who gave him first aid and took care of him, seeing that he was about to die.

After a few days, however, the jihadist regained consciousness and related to the priest who had been nursing him a shocking spiritual experience, after which he wished to be baptised.

“The jihadist told me”, Father Groschlin remembers, “that being a Muslim, he was certain that a martyr’s death in the struggle against the unbelievers would open the gates of paradise for him. In the course of his clinical death, as his soul separated from his body, demons appeared, which dragged him into the terrifying abyss of hell. He began to suffer terribly, due to the harm, persecution and crimes he had committed in his lifetime. He went through the executions as if he had been in the bodies of his victims. Christ gave him to understand that if he died he was to expect eternal damnation, but if he returned to life he would be given a chance to convert and repent his sins.”

After regaining consciousness, the jihadist wanted to learn something more about Christ. After listening to some preaching, he entrusted all his life to Christ and was baptised. After a few days, his wounds miraculously healed, and the young man stayed with the missionaries to help them in their evangelisation work in Syria. Now, he is convinced that it is necessary to pray for the conversion of Muslims and that the joyous truth of Jesus Christ who lives, acts, preaches and heals in the Catholic Church should reach them.


The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in September 2020.

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