Praying for the Persecuted Church
Originally posted at: https://anglicanfrontiers.com/praying-for-the-persecuted-church/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=praying-for-the-persecuted-church
by Tad de Bordenave
You may not live where persecution takes place, but 260 million Christians do. They live in one of the 50 nations who carry out severe persecution. Numbers don’t have faces, but they do tell a story. Imagine what it means that every week over 150 churches in these nations are burned down. In the larger picture, during the first ten years of this century there were on average 100,000 martyrs per year. Christ’s sufferings continue in the lives of his followers.
We know that we should pray for the persecuted Christians, just like we know we should brush our teeth every day. But we don’t see these churches or these martyrs when we look in the mirror. It is easy to forget to pray for them
Caring about our suffering brothers and sisters
The more we care for them, the more we will pray for them. That is what Hebrews 13:3 tells us: “Remember the prisoners as if in prison with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.” That means to put ourselves in their places and absorb their experiences—their fears, the loneliness, trials, desertion, anxiety. If we had a friend with those conditions, we would realize how they needed prayer. How much more so for those experiencing these with intensity.
This thread shows up throughout Scripture. Rarely is it isolated as in the verse from Hebrews, but the theme is there. We should learn to recognize the references. Here are a few passages, coming in contexts better known for other images:
- John 15:20 in the midst of the True Vine image
- Matthew 5:11 at the end of the Beatitudes
- Mark 13:12 during the discourse on Christ’s return
- Matthew 10:17 when he is giving missionary instructions
- John 16:2 while teaching about the Holy Spirit
The plight of the persecuted fits in many of the Psalms. Psalm 91, for example, holds well-known images of comfort for Christ’s followers and give sweet assurances. But look at the Psalm with the persecuted in mind and see how the Psalm speaks directly to them. These brothers and sisters fit in many other Psalms.
Aids that help us pray for them
We need reminders to pray, ways that move our caring to praying. Since they are not in our daily sphere, outside sources can help. Here are four ideas:
- Choose a country from the list of the 20 worst offenders. Stay with it. Research the people there, the attitude towards Christians, the evidence of persecution, what is done to defend them, what stories circulate about those imprisoned. Put it down in a notebook and keep it near your Bible.
- Read the news with a scrutiny that asks about the church. What are the implications in the news for Christians? Today’s news carried stories from these countries: China, Sudan, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and India. Each of these has a known history of bringing terror for Christians. This scrutiny requires training our minds to think behind the news to the church.
- Sign up for a daily prompt. These always help us, no matter the cause. Jeff King with International Christian Concern sends a daily report on persecution. Sometimes he has a video, sometimes an interview, other times a news item. Reading him can easily move us to a few moments—or more—of prayer.
- Read stories of martyrs, survivors, and missionaries. These stir the heart and amaze the mind. Voice of Martyrs offers a source of books and further links for good reading.
What to pray
That depends, doesn’t it? The circumstances may be for release, or protection, or endurance. My own list for these prayers consists of these:The right words to say when arrested or questioned. These words can mean imprisonment, mild or severe punishment, or release. Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit will give words to say. Paul asked for words when he was in prison (Eph. 6:19).
- For power in his or her weakness. The trials and the agonies will stretch the prisoners. Many will renounce and give names and places under torture. In their torment they can find Christ supplying his strength in their times of weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
- For grace and favor before the courts and guards. Paul requested this in giving comport to Corinthians (2 Cor. 1:7-9).
being discovered and after when imprisoned. God may deliver the believers from being caught. The prisoner can hold a shield of faith to surround him during the torture and in the cells (Eph. 5:15-18)
- Witness by the believer. Christians are in crammed cells, interacting with guards, and sometimes reporting to the church outside. In every instance comes the occasion for the fruit of the Spirit to come into view in the most adverse conditions (Luke 6:27, 28).
- Forgiveness. Unlike our enemies, theirs are violent, evil, hostile, and hateful. They are told to forgive our enemies, with the help and the example of the Lord (Romans 12:20).
I am sure these can be improved and would welcome suggestions. I include below a link to a suggested list of prayers for Muslims.
At the end, I ask two questions: what can we offer, and what can we receive from these other children of God?
We can offer the effort to move into their lives and understand their condition. If we can see ourselves as if in prison with them, our prayers will have more passionate heart and hope.
What we receive is a larger view of God. We can see he cares for these his children, neither slumbering or sleeping, but protecting them and keeping them. We learn of his sorrows over them. They, the apple of his eye, are treated with hatred and violence. He knows this and he sorrows over them. Lastly, we see his rightful justice in bringing recompense on the persecutors. For “those who are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph” (Amos 6:6), it will be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living, righteous, holy and eternal God.