Commemoration of Cyprian of Carthage, Pastor and Martyr
September 16, 2012
The Lord be with you
Cyprian (ac. 200-258 ad) was born in Carthage, North Africa, where he became a lawyer and a university lecturer. He did not become a Christian until he was about 46, and yet, within two years of his baptism, he was acclaimed bishop of the city of Carthage (around 248 ad). At the time, the Church was deeply troubled with schism. Cyprian had a profound knowledge of Scripture, and used that knowledge to contend for the unity of the Church. In his book On the Lord’s Prayer he wrote, “We say ‘Hallowed be thy Name,’ not that we want God to be made holy by our prayers, but because we seek from the Lord that his Name may be made holy in us, … so that we who have been made holy in Baptism may persevere in what we have begun to be.” It is easy to see how Martin Luther, in the sixteen century, echoed Cyprian’s thought in his explanation of this petition. “Hallowed be Thy name. What does this mean? God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also. How is God’s name kept holy? God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!”
During the persecution of Roman Emperor Decius (250 ad), Cyprian fled Carthage (for which he was much criticized) because he believed that he was still needed to guide and encourage his people in their suffering. He returned two years later and was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. Also in 252 a plague broke out in Carthage. Cyprian was tireless in comforting the sufferers, but the pagans blamed the Christians for the epidemic. In 258, another round of persecutions broke out under Emperor Valerian. Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in 258 ad.
Prayer: Almighty God, You gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and courage to die for the faith he proclaimed. Give us strength always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Other things Cyprian might inspire us to pray about:
- For Africa and African Christians
- For the unity of the church
- For the sick, specially for those are suffering from a plague like Malaria
- For all who are persecuted or exiled because of their faith in Jesus
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert