Monday, February 20, 2012

International Prayer: France

{This was originally posted in October of last year before I hit reset on Fire & Hammer.}

At the age of twelve she claimed to have seen visions from God. At nineteen she was burned at the stake for religious heresy. In between she saved her country, helping reestablish its sovereignty. Today we pray for her nation.

The French Republic includes the area in Europe known as France along with the overseas territories of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Reunion. France is located to the north of the Mediterranean Sea and to the south of the English Channel which separates the nation from Great Britain. The country shares boarders with Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy to the east. Spain sits on France’s southern boarder just to the south of the Bay of Biscay. Andorra to the south and Monaco, located along the Mediterranean Sea, are also neighbors to the French.

A view of France from space reveals an area of diverse land types. At the center is a large flat area of fertile soil known as the Paris Basin. France’s southern border is marked by the Pyrenees Mountains. In between is an area known as the Massif Central, an area of mountains and plateaus situated across the Rhone River Valley from the Alps. The land of Massif Central is said to be rugged and in some places barren, with a number of mountain domes which were formed by once active volcanoes.

The ancestry of the French people is even more varied than the nation’s topography. Over its history France has seen wave after wave of immigrants, welcoming each group with the intention of integrating each individual into the culture. The nation’s long standing policy is to allow those who become citizens to be called French no matter their country of origin. So while the country’s original people were descendants of Celts, the term ‘French’ is an umbrella covering a number of different groups. However this by no means has lead to a fully unified country.

During the 100 years war the nation was divided between two families both claiming the throne. On one side were the direct descendants of the royal family, staking their claim on their birth line. Their adversaries staked their claim on a relative to the royal family, a Duke who became a ruler in England even as he was considered by France as subservient to the throne. The Duke and his family questioned the legitimacy of having to answer to a king who ruled over less land than did the ruler in England. The dispute between the two grew into what is known as the 100 years war, during which a peasant girl we know as Joan of Arc was born.

Claiming at the age of twelve to have seen a vision, Joan was able to convince Charles VII that she was sent to help him claim his throne. Desperate to turn the tide in a war he was losing, Charles sent Joan of Arc to the battle front. Dressed as a male solder she served in the army, leading Charles’ forces to a number of victories and changing the course of the war. While there is debate as to how much Joan of Arc contributed from a strategic stand point, it is clear that she was an inspiration in a movement that lead to Charles VII being crowned king.

Joan of Arc was later captured and sent to England where she was tried for religious heresy. The politically motivated trial lead to her conviction and resulted in her being burned at the stake. Years after her death the church conducted a review of her trial. Eventually her conviction was overturned and Joan of Arc would become one of the most important names in French history. Today she is a hero both to the people of France and to the Catholic Church. But she is not the only well person from France.

Perhaps one of history’s more recognizable names is that of Napoleon Bonaparte. His agreement with Thomas Jefferson (now known as the Louisiana Purchase) helped shape the continental United States. Frederic Bartholdi may not be well known in the U. S. but his design of a large sculpture called Liberty Enlightening the World is an icon in the states. You probably know this icon by its more common name: The Statue of Liberty. How many mimes can you name? I can name but one: Marcel Marceau of France. For the fashion conscious there is Pierre Cardin along with a number of other designers. Then there is the very familiar name of Eiffel, as in Gustave Eiffel designer of a famous tower located in Paris. Eiffel also contributed to the design of the Statue of Liberty. This is but a short list of the many world renowned citizens of France.

While the nation encourages inhabitants of all ancestries to take up French citizenship, certain of France’s policies have left large groups on the social fringes. In the mid 1800’s France began the first of many attempts in building adequate housing for what we would now call the working poor. More recent attempts of providing housing have created pocket areas of high unemployment, inhabited by a large number of immigrants. As described by several sources, these ‘ghettoes’ have become somewhat isolated from the rest of French society.

Please pray for the condition of people living in these low income areas. Pray for the family unit in France, where over 50% of children are born to unmarried families according to the website UnderstandFrance.org. Pray for attitudes towards abortion in France where abortions are legal and performed over 200 thousand times per year. Pray for France’s economy as the nation’s banks deal with their exposure to the financial crisis in Greece, and to financial issues in Italy and Spain.

While France is said to be a Catholic nation, only 2.9% of the French are practicing Catholics according to Catholicnewsagency.com. The same article describes how Islam is well on its way to becoming the dominant religion in France based on the percentage of people actively practicing religion. Pray for the spiritual climate of France and for an open door for the spreading of the Gospel.

It is all too easy to focus our prayers on what we consider impoverished third world nations. We must also remember our neighbors in nations like France who are dealing with economic issues and family issues. We should pray for the spiritual climate in these nations, remembering the Gospel is to be preached all around the world.

Continue always in prayer with thanksgiving and check back next week as we continue to pray for our neighbors here on earth.

For a shuttle view of France see earthobservatory.nasa.gov

2 comments:

Dave said...

Thank you for this history of France and current prayer concerns!

Please visit www.PrayforFrance.org to join in three weeks of concerted prayer this April!

Dennis said...

Thanks for the invite Dave. I did stop by the website and look forward to learning more. Also, I marked April 7th on my calendar.