Each November, believers around the world plan special services to pray for the persecuted Church. This International Day of Prayer is a time to remember in prayer the two hundred and fifteen million Christians around the world persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. The 2019 event is planned for Sunday, November 3rd and in Canada will highlight the believers in North Korea, whom live in a country where only 1.18% of citizens share faith in Jesus Christ. Since 2002, North Korea has been ranked as the most dangerous country in which to live as a Christian. “
A noteworthy understanding that often comes out of IDOP services is that those who are persecuted are often unconcerned about prayers that persecution will end or be avoided—which seems as more of a concern among advantaged believers—rather, many who suffer for Christ’s Name rejoice in their suffering. Requests for prayer usually center on a country’s current affairs and their implications on local believers. However, there are also important elements that are generic to the prayer needs of all persecuted Christians that ought to impress on the hearts of all who pledge allegiance to Christ; this article attempts to cover these in detail in what I call the Persecuted Prayer.
This prayer is founded on the hope that is referenced by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:9-11:
“Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many,” (New International Version, Italics added).
As mentioned, there are several elements making up the Persecuted Prayer. These are inclusive, as they apply not just to those in restricted or hostile nations, but to all those committed to faith in Jesus Christ.
Praying for Courage
Christians in persecuting nations undergo threats to their freedoms, securities, and to safety to themselves or their loved ones. It is while under these threats that apprehension to spread the Gospel becomes the most legitimate. Genuine fears generated from such imminent threats necessitate boldness that comes through dedicated, diligent intercession by others.
Courageous faithfulness stands firm in the face of opposition, without cowardice, showing a continual zeal in witness for the Gospel, despite the physical outcomes that may follow.
When we pray for such courage, God is faithful to supply strength in weakness.
Praying for Contentment
Contentment is perhaps something that separates the faithful from the unfaithful. Finding one’s joy in the Lord, apart from all else, is a key component to discipleship and an identifier of those belonging to the Family of God. It is also one of the most vulnerable. Where government powers legislate restrictive laws designed to intimidate citizens committed to following Jesus, contentment is a common deficiency.
Our persecuted brothers and sisters need prayers for contentment, for the overriding joy found in Christ that motivates us to lose all earthly things to gain closer knowledge of Him.
Praying for Consolation
Where the misguided pursuit of earthly comfort remains within western Christendom, an honorable pursuit of persecuted Christians is the intimacy, peace, and strength coming from the Holy Spirit, who consoles the downtrodden.
When faith is met with aggression such as imprisonment, exploitation, torture or death, the human spirit breaks and the feeling of abandonment is often acute, leaving one possibly to doubt God’s nearness. These times beckon for the prayers of others, in the Name of Jesus, for His ever-present love and nearness to be felt by those left destitute.
Praying for Compassion
A key distinction of Christ Followers is the capacity to love our enemies. This is beyond any human capacity and comes only through the work of the Holy Spirit. Compassion for one’s enemies comes in the form of forgiveness: laying down the right to seek vindication and relinquishing the desire to retaliate. In the place of retribution, acts of charity are administered to those having afflicted pain.
Compassion in the face of oppression testifies to the love we believe God has for us. Committed prayers for persecuted believers ought to involve appeals for compassion and concern for oppressors.
Praying for Composure
Perhaps composure during persecution undergirds the other components of the Persecuted Prayer. Indeed, patience to endure and wisdom during suffering ground the believer and help to re-focus one’s heart on the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. In that light, one may pray for courage, contentment, consolation and compassion more freely.
Regularly praying that our brothers and sisters remain in step with God’s Word, grounded in faith, reliant on the goodness of God, and remaining confident during extreme struggles, we also align ourselves with God’s word as written by the apostle in 2 Corinthians. For our hope is in God alone.
Reflections of the Persecuted: Applying the Prayer
It cannot be stressed enough that praying this way for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world ought not to be prayed just once a year. Albeit, an appointed time to pray for the persecuted church is a very good thing, for it awakens us to the needs of others, whom, by their example, encourage us to serve the Lord with utmost devotion. However, by regularly committing ourselves, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, to “[c]ontinue 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, New International Version) we are united with persecuted Christians in their struggles, but also in their witness.
Reflecting on the experiences of those suffering for Christ in praying the Persecuted Prayer, we learn to identify with them, and through God’s power, we should anticipate taking away a portion of those experiences with us and embody what 1 Corinthians 12:26-27 tells us: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it,” (New International Version).
Understanding that we are part of the same body of believers suffering for their faith allows us to find the same hope in suffering for Jesus’ Name. Praying the Persecuted Prayer then becomes more than an entreaty for those mistreated, but a transition into a life fully submitted to Christ, and with it, the willingness to lay our personal rights down before God, in suffering. As this occurs, we can anticipate the wondrous revelation of God’s power working through the prayers of many, meeting the needs of those suffering for Jesus’ sake, bringing glory to His Name and showing the world that ours is a hope like no other.