Tomorrow is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. The concept of persecution is quite alien to American Christians because of the freedoms we’ve experienced for over 2 centuries. Issues of school prayer, prayer breakfasts, saying Merry Christmas, and restrictions on Nativity Scenes and plaques of the Ten Commandments are a joke in comparison to the daily terror that our brothers and sisters in Christ experience globally.
It should not be a surprise that the Church meets opposition because the Jesus told us many times it would happen. “You will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated…because of your allegiance to me” (Mt 24:9). Persecution is defined as “mistreatment; inflicting of suffering or fear, harassment, exclusion, imprisonment, torture, even death because of one’s beliefs.” It began immediately after Christ’s departure and the birth of the Church. John’s brother James was immediately beheaded, Thomas was impaled, Mathew met the sword, James and Stephen were stoned to death, Matthias was stoned and beheaded; Andrew, Jude, Bart, Simon were crucified, and Peter was crucified upside down.
In 64 AD, a controversial fire burned Rome to the ground and Nero launched the Great Persecution against the Church. In the arenas, crowds of Christians died before the gladiators and starving dogs. They were drawn and quartered, beheaded, boiled in oil, and sawed in half. Tacitus writes of early persecution: “Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”
Persecution is not just a thing of the ancient world. While it’s taken place throughout the history of the Church, we are told it would increase in the last days. “We should not be surprised if anti-Christian hostility increases but rather if it does not” John Stott.
- In 60 countries it is illegal to preach the Gospel, gather for worship, possess a Bible, or acknowledge Jesus as Lord
- 200 million live in daily fear of secret police, state repression, discrimination, death. This is 2/3 of the U.S. population, 60% of them are children.
- More have died for Christ in last century (110 years) than the first 1900 years combined, averaging about 170,000 per year.
- This is not just a thing of the Middle East or Islamic nations. Persecution is rampant in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
The Voice of the Martyrs is an excellent resource for those wishing to pray consistently and systematically for the Persecuted Church. The have collected hundreds of names and offer specific prayer requests for them, along with “trends” that are taking place globally. They offer mailings, email updates, and a website at www.persecution.com. Also check out the APP for VOM. They provide you with daily prayer requests right on smartphone.
Pray for the Persecuted Church
- For God’s hand of protection upon clergy, congregations, families, individuals who profess Christ.
- For unity in the Body of Christ within these closed nations.
- For Christians elsewhere to pray faithfully for our brothers and sisters who are in danger.
- Pray for Grace and strength to persevere and endure through hostility, persecution, and even in the face of death.
- That their courage and faithfulness would be honored with mass conversions to Christ, especially their persecutors and government authorities.
Pray for the 1040 Window
This is the area of the world located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator. It covers the poorest nations of the world numbering 4 billion people. It is 87% the world’s poor, 95% of the unevangelized. It is the headquarters of every major non-Christian religion: 1.61 billion Muslims, 900 million Hindus, and 500 million Buddhists. It is also where most Christian persecution is taking place.
- That God would raise up more Christian workers to serve these crucial areas
- That the Body of Christ would have favor with local authorities
- That doors would open wide for the Gospel to be preached
- For mighty demonstrations of God’s power and Sovereignty
- That non-Christian religious leaders, government officials, tribal chieftans, patriarchs, and key influential would repent and begin to follow Christ
- For relief aid and literature to get to the people who need it
Pray that the Church Would Continue to Stand Strong
- That the Body of Christ worldwide would remain unshakable despite hostility
- That believers would stand on the Word of God and boldy live by it
- That believers would communicate the Gospel with boldness and power, seasoned with patience, gentleness , grace and respect
- That God would be glorified!