Around the world, many believers are persecuted — imprisoned, even killed — for their faith.
Since Jesus laid down His life, 43 million Christians have become martyrs.
Right now 200 million people face persecution for believing in Jesus and 60% of those people are children, according to Christians in Crisis International Ministry, a prayer advocacy ministry for persecuted believers.
Sara (not her real name) knows first hand what it is like to be persecuted. The week before Sara and her husband planned to open a Bible School, 4 men attacked their family with metal hatchets.
Because of the attacks, Sara had 3 skull fractures, a punctured eardrum, internal bleeding and needed stitches badly.
“Before the attacks, I considered myself sensitive to the persecuted church,” Sara said. “But then I woke up one night and I was one.” The experience strengthened Sara’s resolve to support those suffering for their faith.
How to Pray from the Bible
Because the New Testament was written to persecuted believers, it is filled with examples of how to pray for our brothers and sisters under attack.
Here are 5 examples from Ephesians:
- Please pray persecuted believers would know the hope God gives (Ephesians 1:18).
- Pray the Holy Spirit would strengthen them (Ephesians 3:16).
- Please pray persecuted believers would know how much God loves them (Ephesians 3:17)
- Pray they would know how to share the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).
- Please pray persecuted believers would fearlessly tell others about Jesus (Ephesians 6:20).
To create additional ways to pray from the Bible, take any book from the New Testament (except the gospels). Search for verses with the word “pray.” Then use those verses to create prayer requests, just as in the 5 examples above.
How to Pray for Practical Needs
Along with the example prayers in the Bible, there are some practical needs persecuted believers would love your prayers for:
- Please pray persecuted believers would have access to a Bible.
- Pray they have the courage to remain in their homeland.
- Please pray for believers who have been rejected by family and friends. Pray that God would surround them with a new Christian “family” who loves them and supports them emotionally and physically.
- Pray for God to be an advocate for women who are socially vulnerable or have lost the custody of their children because of their faith.
- Please pray that God would provide persecuted believers with jobs and safe places to live.
Learn more ways to pray for the persecuted church and read news alerts on current crises by visiting the Web site for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
Support in Addition to Prayer
“These people we call the persecuted church are people just like us,” Sara says, remembering when she was attacked. “We need to pray for them. It weighs on them when they know the police are after them, but it also weighs on them when they can’t feed their families.”
“When we support them, it sends them the message ‘I am not forgotten — not by God and not by my brothers and sisters.”
- Send a believer in hiding their first Bible.
- Write letters to the government on behalf of persecuted believers.
- Help pay the legal costs to defend a Christian falsely accused.
- Help provide for a family whose father has been imprisoned or killed for his faith. (Help is given until they can find alternative means of support.)
Find a list of other Christian organizations united to help in these ways and more at www.persecutedchurch.org.
Pray for the Persecuted
When we read headlines about people groups being persecuted for their faith, it may seem—at first glance—that there’s nothing we can do. After all, in many cases, we live thousands of miles away and we often feel over-extended in just managing our own families and responsibilities. Nevertheless, our hearts yearn for a way to ease the hardship of Christians who are discriminated against, harassed, unjustly arrested, beaten, imprisoned or even killed by regimes who oppose Jesus Christ.
Fortunately, the Bible provides us with fitting examples of how Christians can make a difference for persecuted believers. One of the most powerful ways to support Christians facing hardship, of course, is prayer.
In Ephesians 6:18, for example, Paul instructs believers to be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. In the next 2 verses, Paul requests more specific prayer for himself as he faces persecution. “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
In this passage and in many other places, we find the Bible offers practical insight for how to pray for those facing persecution including these 5 compiled below.
1. Pray that whatever their circumstances, God will give persecuted Christians the right words.
In Ephesians 6:19-20, Paul asks fellow believers to “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
2. Pray that persecuted Christians will understand and find peace in the sufficiency of God’s grace, even in their weaknesses.
While facing physical threat, especially, Christians may be put into scenarios where they must make instantaneous choices under great pressure. For this reason, we pray for the persecuted church to understand the promises of 2 Corinthians 12:9 which says, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
3. Pray that Christians facing hardship will draw from a source of power larger than themselves.
Christians facing persecution often have very little control over their lives, including their own safety and health. They often battle against government accusers that do not provide them the right to a fair trial or representation that is more prevalent in the Western world. Because of this, it’s critical to pray that believers in trying circumstances are able to see, like Paul, that their hardship helps them rely on a God who is far more powerful than them.
“For we were so utterly burdened beyond out strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.” Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:7-9, “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
4. Pray God would be present with persecuted Christians in their hardship, protecting them according to His will.
In Matthew 26:39, Jesus Himself faced an unjust trial. Even He prayed to God, “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me,” which is the first part of his prayer that inspires us to ask God to deliver persecuted Christians from harm. At the same time, the second part of Jesus’ prayer goes hand-in-hand with praying this request. “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Part of our prayer can be that God will deliver Christians from chains, as he did for Peter in Acts 12. But we also pray that if God does not see fit to supernaturally intervene in such a way, that we will intervene to strengthen these believers no matter the outcome.
5. Pray their witness would inspire those who seek to harm them.
In Luke 6:27-31, the apostle said, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” When Christians are able to maintain perspective like this, their actions are often noticed by those who persecute them. In the case of Paul and Silas, in Acts 16:25, their behavior—praying and singing and praise in the face of hardship—were observed by both their jailers and other prisoners. In acting out of faith despite their circumstances, they were able to share the gospel with their captors in an opportune moment, and the jailer and his family came to believe, as well (Acts 16:34).
How to Pray for the Persecuted Church
By Anonymous March 22, 2010
(This Biblical study on how to pray for the persecuted church was submitted by a friend of Eden Communications—a pastor who prefers to remain anonymous.) See also the Handbook of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, from Open Doors.
Please pray that they would:
1. Have physical protection and deliverance.
Matthew 26:39 — “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
Acts 12:5 — “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”
Philippians 1:19 — “For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance (from jail) through your prayers.”
Philemon 22 — “I hope that through your prayers I shall be given to you (from jail).”
Romans 15:30-31 — “Now I urge you, brethren… to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea”.
God had predicted persecution:
Acts 20:23-24 — “the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course.”
And the suffering came:
Acts 21:30-31 — “And all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together; and taking hold of Paul, they dragged him out of the temple; and… were seeking to kill him.”
2. Be given the right words to speak and would fearlessly make Christ known.
Here Paul tells how to pray for him when he was suffering for Christ in jail—notice his prayer was not for release.
Ephesians 6:19-20 — “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Colossians 4:2-4 — “Devote yourselves to prayer… praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.”
3. See God’s grace as sufficient and God’s power perfected in their weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
4. Love Christ’s appearing all the more.
2 Timothy 4:5-8 — “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Hebrews 11:35 — “…others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection.”
5. Rejoice in sharing the sufferings of Jesus so that they will rejoice even more when Christ is revealed.
Hebrews 10:34 — “…accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.”
Matthew 5:12 — “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
I Peter 4:13 — “but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”
Hebrews 10:36 — “For you have need of endurance.”
7. Choose ill-treatment and the reproach of Christ, not pleasures of sin.
Hebrews 11:24-26 — “Moses… (chose) rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.”
8. Arm themselves with this purpose: to suffer so as to eradicate sin.
1 Peter 4:1 — “arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in flesh has ceased from sin.”
Hebrews 5:8 — “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”
9. Love Christ far more than life itself.
Revelation 12:10-11 — “they overcame (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.”
Philippians 1:21 — “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Acts 20:24 — “I (Paul) do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course.”
10. Love their enemies.
Luke 6:27-31 — “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
11. Not enter into temptation, an easy possibility under the stress of persecution
Luke 22:39-45 — Jesus in the garden.
12. Rejoice that they are considered worthy to suffer for HIS name.
Acts 5:41 — “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
13. Remember they were made for such persecution.
Acts 14:22 — “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Philippians 1:29 — “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
14. Live the joy of the Lord before their persecutors.
Acts 16:25 — “But about midnight Paul and Silas (in jail) were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
Philippians 1:28 — “in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.”
15. Remember their unbelievable future glory.
Romans 8:18 — “For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
16. Learn to more completely trust in God.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 — “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”
17. Rejoice that they bear in their bodies the “brand marks of Christ.”
Galatians 6:17 — “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.”
18. Rejoice in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s sufferings.
Colossians 1:24 — “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”
Note: Our sufferings do not add to the atoning worth of Jesus’ sufferings.
Rather, His sufferings are not known to the world and so we suffer to bring that news
to those His sufferings were meant to save.
Browse more articles on the persecuted church, as well as see Randy’s novel Safely Home.
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