Rejoice, Remember, and Realize: How to Pray for the Persecuted Church
A timely challenge and some inspiration from iGo staffer, Rachel Partridge to get you focused on this Monday morning.
3 Ways to Pray for the Persecuted Church
Rejoice: I’m fully aware of how strange it sounds to say that we should rejoice, and that in our prayers we should praise God for persecution. But when I read the stories of persecuted believers in the New Testament, I see that they rejoice, and that God’s name is made famous through persecution.
Peter and the apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41). Paul says that he rejoices in his sufferings because they are an example of the suffering of Christ (Colossians 1:24).
How can they rejoice when they have physically been beaten down, in some cases to the very point of death? Because God’s name spreads and is made known through the suffering of his people. In Acts 8 a great persecution arose against the Church immediately after the stoning of Stephen. The believers that were in Jerusalem were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria and they went about preaching the word. Because of the persecution, they began to do what Jesus commanded before he ascended. People from every nation, tribe, and tongue began to hear the gospel because the Church was persecuted.
In your prayers for the persecuted church praise God, because even in the hardship God is sovereignly working for his name to be made famous among all nations. That is a reason to rejoice.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12 (emphasis added)
Remember: In the comfort of our American lives, it is easy to forget that there is a whole world of people that suffer great physical harm and deep earthly loss for the sake of Christ. There has been no shortage of stories circulating recently about persecution around the world. While it is difficult to hear and see, it has caused me to remember and pray more than ever.
Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” In 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7 Paul tells the church that he has been comforted because he received word that they had remembered him in his distress and affliction.
In praying for the church we must pray earnestly and frequently for those that are being persecuted that God will be near to them in those dark times and supply comfort and endurance through other believers. Pray that the persecuted church will hold on to the truth that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” that they will praise God for his love that is better than life itself, and that they will know the hope that nothing, not even death, can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Realize: It is so easy for us to pray for those people, over there, in that country we’ve never been to, and then praise God that we can worship freely in America without having to deal with suffering. But then I read the words of Jesus that say, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10) Jesus doesn’t call the ones who are safe and comfortable “blessed;” he calls the ones who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness “blessed.” And in Matthew 10:22 he tells his followers they will be persecuted for His name’s sake.
In praying for those around the world that are being persecuted, realize that it could very well be you. Pray that God will give you grace to value obedience over earthly comfort, and know full well that obedience may one day mean suffering for His glory to be made known among the nations.
At iGo, we always challenge you to pray with insight. Check out Voice of the Martyrs for an interactive prayer map and more info on the persecuted church that will help you pray.