John 21:18 – Truly, I tell you emphatically, when you were young, you would fasten your belt and go wherever you liked. But when you get old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten your belt and take you where you don't want to go. (ISV)
John 15:18 – If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (ESV)
Either today or next Sunday, many Christians around the globe will observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. This practice not only comforts those who are suffering, but it unites believers worldwide in taking a stand together for the sake of the gospel. Since the first century, it's been estimated that 43 million Christians have been martyred; thousands more have been intimidated and abused. Now, however, we have reached a critical time in church history as 200 million people face persecution every day simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ; sixty percent of those people are children.
The apostle Paul reminds us of the importance of prayer:
Romans 15:30 – I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (NIV 2011)
If you are wondering how you can pray more specifically for the needs of those who are victims of injustice, here are some suggested ways that we can pray for the persecuted church, based on the power of God's Word:
- Pray as if it were you – "Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." (Hebrews 13:3 NIV 2011)
- Pray that persecuted believers would know the hope that God gives – "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people." (Ephesians 1:18 NIV 2011)
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen them – "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being." (Ephesians 3:16 NIV)
- Pray that they would know how much God loves them – "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." (Ephesians 3:17b-18 NIV 2011)
- Pray that they would know how to share the gospel – "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." (Ephesians 6:19-20a NIV 2011)
- Pray for believers who have been rejected by family. Ask the Lord to surround them with a new Christian "family".
- Pray that God will provide them with jobs and safe places to live.
- Pray for their persecutors. Remember the apostle Paul's testimony: "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief." (1 Timothy 1:13 NIV).
- Pray that God will deliver them from their enemies – "Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel." (Psalm 71:4 NIV 2011)
- Lastly, ask how you may be an advocate for the persecuted.
Prayer: Almighty God, look with favour on all those who suffer persecution for Your name's sake. Grant them the grace to endure their trials with courage, patience, and the hope of deliverance. Keep their minds focused on You, O Lord, through the peace which surpasses all human understanding. In Jesus' holy name, we pray. Amen.