John Piper has said that, “Books don’t change people, paragraphs do—Sometimes sentences.” I’ve certainly read paragraphs that are forever seared into my mind (like this one from C. S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory) and I know what it’s like to have a single verse from Scripture captivate me. But I hadn’t experienced (as far as I can remember) that same feeling from a sentence in a book other than the Bible. That is, until I read a sentence from 12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry.
In Chapter 11, Dieudonné Tamfu provides a moving overview of the life and importance of Janani Luwum, an Anglican archbishop in Uganda who was murdered in 1977 for his prophetic pronunciations against Uganda’s oppressive president, Idi Amin. 
But the sentence that caught my attention wasn’t about Janani Luwum.
Before Luwum’s ministry, other missionaries had traveled to Uganada to share the good news of Jesus Christ. One team successfully entered in 1877. However, the welcome was short-lived. Only eight years later, James Hannington, an Anglican missionary, was killed by the order of King Mwanga II of Uganda for fear that Hannington was an invader who would seek to “devour” the country.  Hannington would become “the first bishop martyr in Uganda.” 
But the sentence that caught my attention wasn’t about James Hannington.
After the martyrdom of James Hannington, those who embraced Jesus Christ became a “stench” to King Mwanga.  Like John the Baptist before them, the Ugandan Christians refused to affirm their political leader’s sin, which earned them a death sentence before the King. A year after Hannington’s death, another forty Christians were killed at the hands of Mwanga.
It was here, in reference to countless unnamed Ugandan Christians, that I read a sentence which hasn’t left me since. Amid this severe persecution, Tamfu writes about these Christians:
“By that time, believers had become known as the praying ones.” 
The praying ones.
I haven’t been able to shake that. As their Christian brothers and sisters, and perhaps their biological family members, were being murdered for their faith, these Ugandan saints garnered the title of “the praying ones.” They didn’t name themselves; others had witnessed their response to these grievous evils, and they couldn’t help but notice that they were a praying people.
I’m confident that under these circumstances most Christians would pray. What other options exist? But these Ugandan Christians weren’t just praying. They were praying with such a consistency, such a ferociousness, such a steadfastness that “praying” became the descriptor by which they were known. In the face of unspeakable terror, their response was to pray to their almighty God who hears his people’s groaning and remembers his promises (Exodus 2:24). And then pray again, and again, and again.
I wonder if today we would be better characterized as the busy ones, the scattered ones, or the indifferent ones. But what if we had even a seed of our Ugandan brothers’ and sisters’ commitment to prayer? Of all the things that we are and could be known for, what if our pattern of prayer was an unmistakable indicator that this world is not our home? What if our lives and schedules were oriented around prayer to such an extent that we too could share in the noble title of “the praying ones” with these Ugandan believers? Who knows what kind of difference that could make? As Luwun writes, it certainly made a difference then:
“In May 1886 the praying ones were tied up and executed. The older saints encouraged the younger during the execution, saying, ‘Don’t be afraid. Our Christian friends are with the Lord. We shall join them.’ . . . The courage of these saints inspired many to seek the Christ in whom these praying ones found so much joy and strength. Their blood also proved indelibly that Christianity was African; it was not merely a religion from the West. Thus, the seed of the gospel was sown through blood in Uganda.” 
These unnamed Ugandan praying ones leave us a model legacy of faith and hope and steadfastness in the face of evil. We do well to listen in and imitate them, even as they imitated their Savior, himself a praying one in the face of darkness (Matthew 26:36-46).
Dieudonné Tamfu, “Janani Luwum,” in 12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry, eds. Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018), 153-164.