It is a nearly unbearable feeling reading about brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted for their faith and feeling helpless in knowing how to respond. This is true in situations like the current catastrophe of Iraqi and Syrian Christians as well as in the everyday persecution friends face in many corners of the globe.
Praise be to God that even in the midst of feeling helpless, Christ-followers have the greatest resource at their disposal: PRAYER. Never underestimate the power of prayer, for it is, at the very end of the day, one of the greatest expressions of solidarity we can offer our brothers and sisters facing such great trial and such extreme loss.
But how do we pray for our persecuted friends? We asked a number of Christian leaders how they are praying for those suffering violence and loss. Here is what they said. May these prayers spur you on to stand in solidarity with the Body of Christ suffering globally.
Those who know their God stand up and take action… (Daniel 11:32)
As I pray for my persecuted brothers and sisters, I pray four things:
1. For our brothers and sisters in Christ to not lose hope and heart. The eyes of our Heavenly Father are not closed to the current situation in the Middle East. May our friends experience the tender loving kindness of God and may they be assured that their global family is praying.
2. For the Global Family (the Church) to respond in benevolence. The hand of God is not short to reach the displaced and dislocated brethren. Let us pray for orchestrated and speedy delivery of resources such as food and clothing, especially to the bewildered mothers and children. Pray too that these goods will be channeled to honest and credible humanitarian organizations. Pray that these goods will not fall into the hands of corrupt, greedy, and godless government and political agencies.
3. For the Church to be refined as “pure gold” in the midst of these sufferings. The suffering of one is the pain of all members—the Body!
4. For the Church to arise and proclaim the power and glory of God, together declaring His glory to all nations and offering an imprecatory prayer that the work of the evil one be stopped immediately and destroyed and the evil forces be judged. Pray for good to triumph over evil!
Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me… (Psalm 69:1-4)
In this season of lament, during which my soul stands with those whose feet are slipping, whose bones are troubled, who are asking how long must they endure, and when will You judge those who persecute them, I cry out with my community, “How long must your servants wait? When will you punish those persecutors?” O Lord my God, may they take refuge in You; save and deliver them.
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 24b-27)
I pray for our brothers and sisters in Messiah Jesus who are being persecuted for nothing more than their love of the Savior. I especially lift before the Lord those believers who are in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and Iran. I pray that they are mindful of the deep love of the Lord for each one of them. Their persecution is aimed at us all as well for we are all of one body.
Laurel Bunker, dean of campus ministries and campus pastor at Bethel University:
Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. (I Thessalonians 5:10-11)
First Thessalonians reminds us to center our focus on the eternal and the promise of Christ’s return. We must build up our brothers and sisters experiencing persecution through prayer and petition, asking the God of mercy and of comfort to be with them, to uphold them, to grant them His peace and provision in the midst of this storm. Our prayers must be continual and fervent. God shall answer the prayers of His people.
Love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
These are real people. Some see their smartphones smashed, their laptops destroyed. Others flee on arthritic knees. Others move in with relatives whose child-raising practices drive them crazy. Others watch their children’s futures swirl down the drain. Pray for their human losses.
Pray that they will feel God’s presence with them powerfully as they follow the model of the suffering Servant. Pray for God’s mercy.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
I honestly have no idea how to call the suffering of my persecuted friend, a “light momentary affliction”; however, I do know that this verse is powerful in reminding us that God has prepared and is preparing a great prize for those who suffer for His Name’s sake. And, in fact, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). In being the victims of violence, they are lifted to an extraordinary place of prominence and blessed-ness. In light of this, I pray, “Lord Jesus, be a very present Love and Hope to our friends who are suffering for Your Name. Overwhelm them with your presence as they face persecution. Give them an indescribable peace as they face this affliction, knowing without doubt that You are near and are preparing an eternal weight of glory that can’t be compared to any earthly reward.”
Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Psalm 50:15)
My heart has been breaking the last several weeks as I stand with my sisters and brothers in Christ facing persecution today. The news brings us an onslaught of horrific stories of what is happening, whether it be in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, or beyond. At times, the feeling is so overwhelming that I fight compassion fatigue. Yet, despite the onslaught of bad news, I stand firm with my friends and do everything I can to support them. As the psalmist says, we can call on God in our day of trouble and He will deliver. I’ve seen this happen many times. One leader even just told me, “Joe, we thank God when we are persecuted because it makes people curious and several come to faith.” So, here is what I pray:
- That persecuted believers would know the hope God gives (Eph. 1:8)
- That the Holy Spirit would strengthen them (Eph. 3:16)
- That they would know how much God loves them (Eph. 3:17)
- That they would know how to share the gospel (Eph. 6:19)
- That they would fearlessly tell others about Jesus (Eph. 6:20)
I was disheartened to read in my daily devotions James 5:7-11:
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
It is fine for me, now in this moment. I need to be challenged to be patient, as I am impatient with the smallest of issues. However, the day I read this passage and meditated upon it was the morning following my coming to a place of reawakened recognition of the despairing in Iraq by the images and reports of Iraqis fleeing up and then trying to leave Mount Sinjar.
Across the world, do I dare urge my brothers and sisters to be patient and stand firm in the face of suffering? I pray my brothers going through it would be patient with me as I wrestle to know how to act, how to pray.
Would I receive such a challenge if their situation was mine? My wife’s? My children? We must, as this is the deepest of truth available in this world. These are the basis for such a miracle in attitude and perspective. There is no other hope for the mundane desperation or the direst of moments than that Jesus is coming again and that He will bring all things to right.
The Lord’s coming is near.
The Judge is standing at the door.
The Lord is full of commission and mercy.
Oh Lord, come soon.
For further resources of persecution and prayer, Asian Access has put forth a series of blogs and connections to other organizations who give great examples. Click here for ways to combat compassion fatigue.