By Becky Harling, Crosswalk.com
I remember sitting in a service in a part of the world where there are not many believers in Christ. Our host leaned over to me, whispered, and pointed out a group of young who were worshipping with tears streaming down their faces. Each of these young men had been forced to watch their parents burned to death because they had chosen to follow Jesus. I felt nauseated as I continued in worship. For me, living in a free country, I can worship whenever I please. But for the young men I met that day, it had coast them everything. As I reflected on those young men, I realized the only tangible thing I could do was pray. Yet, prayer is often the most powerful tool we have.
With recent events unfolding in the Middle East, Ukraine, and parts of Africa and Asia, many who follow Jesus are suffering. In different parts of the world, it is illegal to be a Christian. It is against the law to follow Jesus. As a result, many are being persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured for their faith in Christ. The encouraging news is that throughout church history, any time the church has experienced persecution, it has grown not only in maturity but also in numbers.
We know as we approach the end times that believers are going to experience more persecution for their faith. We are seeing this unfold right before our eyes. However, we know that as the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters around the world need us.
How should those of us who enjoy religious freedom respond? What is our responsibility as far as praying for those who are persecuted?
The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “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). One of the most effective ways we can remember those who are suffering for the cause of Christ is to pray for them. They need to know that the body of Christ is holding them up in prayer. How, then, should we pray?
Here are five prayers for persecuted believers:
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1. Pray that they will be comforted and have the grace to endure.
Lord Jesus, we pray for all who are being tortured and persecuted for their faith. Your word promises that your grace is sufficient and that your power is perfected in our weakness. I pray that you will bring tangible comfort and grant them the grace to endure their suffering for you. May they be strengthened in ways that surpass all human understanding to stand strong for you. Help them to have courage, recognizing that you yourself, are their light and salvation, they don’t have to feel afraid, because You are the stronghold of their lives. Lord, I pray that though they are experiencing horror, they will not lose hope but that they will have the grace to endure. Help them not to lose heart and give up their belief in the goodness of God. May their hope be placed confidently in you, and may they echo the words of the Psalmist who wrote, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Based on 2 Corinthians 12:9, Psalm 27:1, 13).
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2. Pray that they will have the courage and strength in the face of persecution.
Holy One, I pray that those being persecuted will be strong and courageous. Lord, would you strengthen their faith and protect their minds from doubt as they suffer? Help them not to be overwhelmed with discouragement and despair. May they remember that You are with them always. Your word promises you will never leave nor forsake those you love. Help them remember the times when you worked miracles in the past and let their hope be strengthened. May they hide in the shelter of your almighty wings even as disaster is all around them. Help them to say of the LORD that He is their refuge and fortress. Holy Spirit, remind them they don’t need to fear the arrow that flies by day or the terror of the night. You, yourself, will be their shield of faithfulness and surround them with your presence. May they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are for them and not against them. May they remember that you hear their prayers and you will not forsake them in their hour of need (Based on Joshua 1:9, Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 91:1-2, 4-5).
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3. Pray that they would experience the presence of Christ even in their suffering.
Holy One, we pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering greatly for their faith. May they see, just as Paul did, that their imprisonment will work to advance the gospel. Help them to be bold even in prison to share their faith. Remind them of the prayer of Paul, “I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:18-19). Would you comfort them through the power of your Holy Spirit? Would you allow them to experience your presence in remarkable ways? We echo the prayers of the Apostle Paul, who prayed that he might know Christ and the fellowship of His suffering. As these believers suffer, would you allow them to miraculously find comfort in knowing that they are granted the privilege of sharing in your suffering (Based on Philippians 1:12, 18-19, 3:10).
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4. Pray that their faith would grow and that they would be set free.
Father, just as the believers were praying earnestly that Peter would be released from prison, we also pray that those who are currently imprisoned for their faith in Christ would be set free. Lord, when Peter saw what you had done, it was a miraculous faith builder in his life. Holy one, may you strengthen the faith of those imprisoned. May they see the evidence of your miraculous power even while they wait for release. Holy One, as the early apostles did, we pray that you would empower them to sing songs of praise because we know that as we praise you, chains are loosed (Based on Acts 12:1-18, Acts 16:25-31).
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5. Pray that those who are persecuting will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus, we know that you have told us to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. We also know that you do not want anyone to perish but for all to come to a saving knowledge of your salvation. May all those who are inflicting pain on believers experience a life-changing encounter with You, Jesus Christ. We pray, Lord Jesus, that you would come in dreams and visions as you are doing in so many parts of the world. We ask that you introduce yourself to those who are hurting your followers. Just as you came to Saul in the book of Acts as he was rounding up believers to put in jail, will you come and reveal yourself to those who are hurting your children? We ask by faith and with boldness that those who are persecuting others will repent and discover your love and forgiveness in their lives (Matthew 5:43-45, 2 Peter 3:9, Acts 9:1-6).
As I close this article, I remember being in Africa a few years back in a region where terrorists were burning churches and shooting the believers who were worshipping. When we arrived at the church where my husband was to preach, we realized that the week before, a church twenty minutes away had been attacked. Every believer was shot, and the church burned to the ground. In between the services, we asked the elders if they would fight back if the terrorists showed up the following week. I will never forget their answer. They looked us in the eye and said, “NO. We know Jesus, and we are assured of where we will go after death. But these terrorists don’t know Jesus yet, and we want to give them every opportunity to find Him.” Their answer still rings in my ears but also reminds me that I need to be faithful in praying for those experiencing persecution. They are counting on my prayers and yours as they seek to remain faithful in the face of opposition. Let’s not let them down. Pray faithfully.
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