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).
We live in a day when more Christians worldwide live in fear for their lives than at any time in history! Every day brings new accounts of discrimination, excessive and unfair fines, denial of humanitarian aid, imprisonment, torture, beheadings, expulsion from homes, property seizures, and even entire Christian towns destroyed by extremist- and terrorist-led mobs. Sadly, such persecution is often tolerated, sanctioned, or even encouraged by local, regional, or national government officials. Open Doors USA, in its 2015 World Watch List, reports that Christian persecution has reached historic levels, with approximately 100 million Christians around the world facing possible dire consequences for their faith in Jesus Christ. Some estimates run as high as 350 million believers who face constant oppression, discrimination, and death. And insiders state that a Christian dies somewhere in the world for his or her faith
every five minutes
! During the past months and weeks, my heart has been broken again and again to see the news stories and to hear reports from people who are standing faithfully in the face of such hardship.
God has increasingly compelled me to issue a call for Christians around the globe to agree in prayer for those who are enduring persecution and death threats. I pray this call touches your heart as you read these words. We must not forget them! It’s time to stand with fellow believers! Will you join me and a host of other prayer partners around the globe in lifting up our persecuted brothers and sisters during the coming days? Begin now by signing up for more information and to select a specific time to pray for those who are suffering adversity for their faith.
Stand with Christians Worldwide!
We are told in the Bible, “Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you” (Hebrews 13:3). You can do something right now to impact the lives of believers around the world. Join me and multitudes of other prayer warriors today in this global initiative of interceding for persecuted Christians. Click here to let us know what time, day or night, for 5 to 15 minutes, that you are committing to pray.
Are you (or people you know) being persecuted for your (their) Christian faith? Please complete this section with your account of believers being victimized, imprisoned, and tortured. We want to add this information to share with others, so avoid use of names or specific locations if you fear incrimination.
we worship You
and we acknowledge that You know all of those
who suffer in Your name.
We remember those who are imprisoned for their faith
and ask that they would join with the Apostle Paul
to see that even though they remain captive,
their chains have furthered the gospel,
not frustrated it.
May they inspire and embolden their fellow believers
to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
God of all comfort,
for those who are tortured both in body and mind,
give them the grace to endure
and to see their suffering as part of following in Christ’s footsteps.
for those asked to pay the ultimate price;
who are martyred because of their love for You,
may they truly know Christ
and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings,
becoming like Him in His death.
for those who are widowed and orphaned
may they know the comfort that comes from Your promised presence
even when they walk through the valley.
May they be strengthened by Your Spirit,
enabling them to rejoice with the psalmist
as they proclaim that the Lord will not abandon them in death.
we ask that You would make us ever mindful of our brothers and sisters around the world
who need us to stand with them
as they suffer in Your name.
Teach us what it means
to overcome by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of our testimony;
we pray that we would not love our lives so much as to shrink from death.
O Lord, hear our prayer.
– from Release International