The following statistics and information were taken from the websites: Open Doors, Eternity News by Bible Society Australia, Christian Today International plus other websites I may have taken notes from.
Sometimes it is good to come to terms with the agony of faith as believers around the world carry the cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus. When Jesus was predicting his death to the disciples, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “never Lord”, Jesus turned and responded:
Mat 16:23 ……….. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
Today there is 245 million Christians living in places where they experienced high levels of persecution. It has been estimated that over the past 15 years 1.6 million Christians have been murdered for their faith in Christ. That means every 5 minutes a believer is put to death when they take up their cross and follow Jesus
If you woke up at 7am this morning 36+ believers have been killed to this moment.
For those not murdered Christian torture remains an issue for believers throughout the world including imprisonment, loss of home and assets, physical torture, beheadings and rape. Of the 245 million Christians attacked for their faith last year, many are women and girls who are specifically and most frequently targeted through forced marriage, rape, and other forms of sexual violence.
In 2019, 1 in 9 Christians are persecuted for their faith
North Korea has been ranked as the hardest country to live as a Christian since 2002. Christians face extreme levels of pressure and violence in all areas of life, even just owning a Bible is illegal. If Christians are discovered, they are sent to labour camps, tortured or killed on the spot. Their families, considered guilty by association, share the same fate.
An Egyptian Pastor was asked how Western Christians could pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt. [Egypt is rated the 16th most dangerous country for Christians on the World Watch List]
The pastor responded by saying: “Please don’t pray for us. Please pray with us.”
A little confused by his answer, an Open Doors worker asked him what he meant by this. He continued, “If you pray for us, you will pray for the wrong things. You will pray that the church will be safe. You will pray for persecution to cease. We are not praying for these things. We ask God for the salvation of Egypt. We ask that he draw millions of Muslims to Christ. We ask that we will be bold and clear in sharing our faith with Muslims. And we pray that when the inevitable persecution comes… that we will not run away, that we will be faithful in that persecution even if it costs us our lives.”
This is the heart of the persecuted church – that by the gospel the Kingdom of God will advance. We pray with them, knowing that this desire matches the heart of God.
The Book of Acts
The commission to go to the ends of the world in Acts 1:8 came to a screaming halt in Jerusalem. The Apostles and 1000’s of new believers [5000 by Acts 4:4] have stayed put. No Judea Samaria and no ends of the world is on the radar until Acts 8. What happens? The Church is persecuted and scatters.
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 8: And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Praying for the Persecuted Church
We can “remember” those who are persecuted by praying for them. We don’t know their names or their stories, but we share a bond with them in Christ that is stronger and more profound than we may realise. With this thought in mind I will share seven ways based on Scripture that we can pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. As we consider each prayer point Revelation 12:11 a scripture we can memorise and hold at the for thought of our thinking as we pray.
‘They triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’
Our primary concern for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ is their perseverance in the faith. We want them to endure trials faithfully rather than abandoning Christ when things get difficult or when their lives are in danger.
When God’s people maintain their hope under circumstances that seem hopeless (from the world’s perspective), it becomes evident that they are living for something other than this world. Here’s how the apostle Peter put it:
It’s easy to take for granted the blessing of gathering with your local church regularly for corporate worship and for mutual edification we receive from the “one another” (Rom 12:3–21). We share each other’s joys and help bear each other’s sorrows.
Pastors have the privilege and responsibility of shepherding God’s people, which means that they are likely a prime target of persecution in many places. Satan would love to prevent pastors from proclaiming the gospel and shepherding God’s people to faithfulness. Paul calls
Timothy to such leadership:
God allows, permits, uses the persecution of His people for the spread of the gospel (Acts 8), but I don’t think that means we should seek persecution.
God saves, sustains, comforts, and teaches His people by His Word. It is often difficult or dangerous for persecuted believers to obtain a physical copy of God’s Word. The Bible is important for being strengthened in faith and growing in numbers Acts 16:5. Paul says it is useful 2 Tim 3:16.
Although the requests listed above prioritize the spiritual needs of persecuted believers, we also want God to sustain these believers physically. John provides a good example of this kind of concern:
In our human nature we can sense a powerlessness to make a difference in the brutality and violence the persecuted church faces. In faith however we do not walk in hopelessness but believe that God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit can do more than we can imagine possible as we join with believers across the globe praying for the favour and will of God to intervene in the lives of fellow believers.
As shared at the beginning of this paper we don’t know their names or their stories, but we share a bond with them in Christ that is stronger and more profound than we may realise.
Rev 12:11 They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death