Contralesa (Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa) suggests that the 8th of May become a public holiday called Ancestors Day – a day for the veneration of the ancestors. Ancestral worship includes the veneration of the dead.
In some cultures, ancestors are seen as being able to intercede on behalf of the living, as messengers between humans and God. The goal of ancestral veneration is to ensure the ancestors’ well-being and their positive dispensation to the living – giving them assistance, favours and the guarantee of a good life. If bad things happen, it is believed that the ancestors must be appeased. Thus, ancestors are worshipped so that they will be the benefactors of their descendants.
It is mostly in the African churches where there is often much division on the role of the ancestors in daily life. Many African Christians who believe in Jesus Christ still fear the ancestors and are afraid to speak out against the practice of ancestral veneration.
As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ came to save us from our sins and reconciled us with God. He died, was buried, was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of God as the only Mediator between God and man. He conquered death so that we can inherit eternal life.
How to pray about 8 May?
Here are a few Scriptures to pray for the proposed day to honour the ancestors on the 8th of May.
1. God sent His Son to earth to deliver people from the domain of darkness.
Let us call on the Name of Jesus Christ and pray that the people of South Africa will turn from their wicked ways and accept God’s ways.
Matthew 4:16-17 (NKJV)
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
2. People who are in the kingdom of darkness cannot turn to Jesus Christ, unless they hear the gospel message preached to them.
Let us pray that Christians in South Africa will take up their responsibility to share the gospel. Let us not attack the darkness in the first place. Darkness only reigns in the absence of Light. Let us take Jesus as the Light to people. The church must be very clear on its message about Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that He is sufficient for all our needs. When we have a need, we go to Jesus who promised to provide for us and to protect us.
Acts 26:17-18 (NKJV)
I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’
Romans 10:14-17 (NKJV)
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? … So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
3. Christians cannot continue to serve two masters.
It is time for Christians in our nation to let go of the cultural traditions that honour Satan and evil spirits – this includes ancestral worship. Let us pray that Christians will make the choice to serve Christ and Christ alone. That they will have the courage to openly confess their faith and to renounce all evil practices, including the veneration of the ancestors.
1 Peter 3:14-17 (NKJV)
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
1 Kings 18:21 (NKJV)
“And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”
4. Pray that pastors will take responsibility to teach biblical truth in their churches and will openly renounce the veneration of the ancestors and every evil ritual.
Pray for all Christians to clearly and boldly explain the gospel of freedom in Jesus as the last and final Mediator between God and man: total forgiveness of sins, spiritual protection in Jesus Christ against all demonic and other forces that want to harm us, abundant provision for all our needs when we pray in the name of Jesus, the assurance we have that if we believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we will go to heaven when we die, and that no other sacrifice or ritual is necessary.
Acts 20:26-31 (NKJV)
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
5. Pray for Christian political leaders to openly confess their faith in Jesus Christ.
Pray that these leaders will use their influence to resist evil while they still have the opportunity to do so.
John 9:4-5 (NKJV)
I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Matthew 10:32-33 (NKJV)
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
6. Pray for the works of the powers of darkness to be destroyed.
How? By destroying arguments that are contrary to the true knowledge of God. We do this by living lives that honour God, thus showing people a better way by our testimony and behaviour. The “weapons” of Christians are love, grace, compassion, preaching Jesus as the way to salvation, submitting to the Lordship of Christ, living testimonies of and witnessing in the power of the Holy Spirit, and not submitting to fear of demonic attacks, the vengeance of the ancestors or the threats of people around us.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
7. Proclaim the Lordship of Christ.
Let us exalt the Name of Jesus and confess that He is the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Make it your confession that Jesus alone is Lord. Our task is to worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as God. We need to proclaim Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.