The Colosseum, where we lost and found our focus again.
Our prayer walk in Rome started at the Spanish Steps, known as a trafficking and prostitution center in Rome. We prayed, some at the bottom of the steps, some at the top, and some in the middle.
I prayed about human trafficking at the bottom of the Spanish Steps.
From there we hopped back onto the crowded subway to go to Circus Maximus. People think that the Christians were martyred at the Colosseum, and it’s possible that some were. But the vast majority of Christians martyred in Rome were killed at Circus Maximus. And there was a strategic reason to kill Christians at Circus Maximus: it’s much, much bigger than the Colosseum. The Colosseum could hold 50,000 people, while Circus Maximus could hold 250,000. Plus, the Colosseum was for the upper crust of Roman society, while Circus Maximus was for the commoners. So the whole idea behind killing Christians at Circus Maximus was for maximum impact: to warn the masses against joining this sect.
On the bottom right you can see what the original Circus Maximus looked like.
The fact that Christianity survived under such severe persecution proves the supernatural aspect of the Christian life. If Christianity were a mere human religion, it wouldn’t have survived its leader’s crucifixion and death, much less the gory deaths of thousands of its followers.
In looking at the death of Jesus versus the deaths of His followers, there is an interesting difference. Jesus was deeply troubled and suffering in the hour leading up to His arrest. He even sweat blood, which is a biological fact that happens to people who are severely stressed. It’s called hematidrosis. Meanwhile, the martyrs faced their deaths calmly and even joyfully. For example, Hugh Latimer told his friend, Nicholas Ridley, as they were about to be burned as heretics: “We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” The reason for this stark difference in suffering is because God looked away as Jesus hung on the cross. It was the only time that Jesus had experienced such separation. Besides the physical suffering, this caused Jesus severe emotional pain. Whereas the martyrs were comforted by the Holy Spirit, who never left them.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants, (Psalm 116:15, NIV).
Although I don’t personally believe that I will be martyred, still this gives me comfort, knowing that if I am killed for my faith, I know that God of all Comfort will be right there with me, comforting me through it all.
Before setting out that morning, the Lord instructed me to go to the grocery store and buy a bottle of red wine. I did. When we got to Circus Maximus, I opened the wine and poured it all out on the killing ground, praying for the ground to be cleansed of innocent blood. Everyone went their separate ways around the enormous grounds. One person went to the stairs in the middle of one side. There she found lots of discarded drug paraphernalia, and prayed into the obvious drug problem in modern Rome.
When we neared the far side of the field, one person observed a cloud that looked like a giant hand. We felt like God had heard and was pleased with our prayers. And spontaneously, we began to sing a joyful song: Victory! Indeed, it was a moment in which we felt that a victory had been won.
We could see the hand of God at work that day.
Continuing on we walked past the Forum to the Arch of Titus, which depicts the conquest and sacking of Jerusalem. To get in to see the arch, we would have to stand in a long line and pay a fee. We didn’t see the point in doing that. So we prayed outside the fence.
Likewise we walked past the Arch of Constantine. In a sense, what Constantine did to Christianity was every bit as damaging as what Titus did to Jerusalem. The Edict of Milan, legalizing Christianity, was strictly a political move. On a personal level, if Constantine legalized Christianity, then he wouldn’t have to kill his mother, who had become a convert. Plus, after 300 years of severe persecution, it was clear that Christianity was not going away. So he joined the Christians by taking over and forming a central leadership over the church. Immediately, Constantine announced that the Sabbath would be celebrated on Sunday—which was the current pagan day of worship. The main reason to do this was to expel the Messianic Jews from Christianity—or at least to make them less Jewish. I have done a lot of prayer on the subject of Constantine.
We continued walking to Mamertine Prison, where the Apostle Paul was imprisoned until his execution. By this time I was very tired, and opted to sit on a low wall outside the prison. Other members of the group went inside. I prayed for Paul’s words and legacy to continue and even to strengthen in these last days before Jesus’ return.
We might not have most of the New Testament if Paul hadn’t been imprisoned.
Then we approached the Colosseum. Coming at it from this angle (slightly down hill) made it clear to me why we use the word colossal to mean huge. It looms quite large from below like this. As we approached, one member of our group had us stop. She said that she felt like we had lost our focus. And she was not alone in that feeling, because I had been feeling the same, though I hadn’t found the words to describe the feeling. So we prayed right there for a renewal of our focus and purpose in this place. I began to feel the fuzz of confusion lift immediately.
The Colosseum is colossal from this angle.
With the return of our focus, we headed to Trastevere where the Ministry of Education is headquartered. We had promised Michele that we would pray there on behalf of his ministry to children. With all that finished by midday, we found a trattoria and had some lunch.
After lunch we went to the Pantheon, originally dedicated as a temple to the pantheon of Roman gods. I had wanted to pray at this church because of its pagan origins. It is another example of the mixing of Christianity and paganism.
Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).
It was a long day, but a good one. The next day we headed back to Milan—me together with His other Secret Weapons. Someday we will understand the good that our prayers did that day. Until then, we just have to take it on faith. God is good!
 “Hematidrosis is a condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood, occurring under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress,” (Wikipedia).
 2 Corinthians 1:3.
 See The Edict of Milan.