SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 1
In John 15:20 Jesus tells His followers: “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” From the time of Jesus, Christians in many parts of the world have experienced persecution because of their faith in Jesus. The severity of the persecution varies from boycotting Christian businesses to stoning people to death. We read stories of homes and churches being burned, Christians shot while fleeing, and others beaten and imprisoned.
The number of Christians who are martyred annually seems to be difficult to verify. According to Voice of the Martyrs, there were nearly 4,000 martyred in 2017. Other sources claim the annual figure is close to 90,000.
“The truth is two thirds of the 2.3 billion Christians in the world today live…in dangerous neighborhoods. They are often poor. They often belong to ethnic, linguistic and cultural minorities. And they are often at risk” – BBC. Imagine that 1.533 billion Christians live in dangerous neighborhoods. That calculates to more than 4.6 times the US population living in dangerous neighborhoods.
NOVEMBER 1 IS THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
Resources are available at persecution.com/idop/ to help you call your church to prayer on that day. This site offers at least one video, as well as downloadable resources.
So how do we pray for the persecuted church? How would they want us to pray? I am reminded of a video that I saw a number of years ago. It was a video of a Chinese pastor who had been imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. He spent many years in prison as his church prayed faithfully for his release and as they continued to share the Gospel. He told of how much his church had grown and the number of people who became Christ followers during this time of persecution. He looked into the camera and said, “Persecution, good.”
The church has often grown most during times of persecution. So how do we pray? Our tendency is to pray first for an end to the persecution. We don’t like to see people suffer. Continue to pray for protection for those living in those “dangerous neighborhoods.”
Pray that God will keep believers faithful in the midst of the persecution. Pray that their faith will remain strong and that the strength of their faith will be a witness to their persecutors.
Pray that God will give the persecuted grace to pray for their enemies and to model the love of Christ. Pray that God will use them to bring others to faith.
Pray for God’s comfort for those who have lost loved ones and for those who have been forced to live as refugees in makeshift shelters. Pray for God’s provision.
Pray that God will check our hearts when we begin to complain about being slighted because of our faith or have had an unkind word spoken to us or about us because of our faith. As Americans, we have lived under the protective grace of God. Pray that we will remain faithful if, and likely when, we face persecution.