Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Prayer for the Persecuted Church

We don’t hear much about persecution because we are insulated here in the United States. Our media is close-mouthed when it comes to the injustices perpetrated against Christians worldwide. However, if you are a vocal Christian today in China, Pakistan, The Middle East or the Philippines then it’s almost expected you will face beatings or torture.

The U.S. State Department said in 2013 that, “Christians are the single most widely persecuted religious group in the world today. It is estimated an average of 100 Christians around the world are killed each month for their faith.”[1]

John Phillips adds, “The church is God’s beachhead on this rebel planet. Satan hates it with a malice that defies description. He has persecuted it with tireless persistence down to the present day. He has used Roman Caesars, Spanish inquisitors, Holy Roman Emperors, Communist commissars, and other dictators as his tools . . . It is estimated that more Christians worldwide have been martyred for the cause of Christ in the last century than in all the previous nineteen centuries put together.”[2]     

This year we have seen ISIS militants running roughshod over Christians in the Middle East. The internet has been flooded with barbaric images and videos of Christians being crucified, beheaded, shot and buried alive for refusing to convert to Islam. Franklin Graham, son of world renowned evangelist Billy Graham and president of Samaritan’s Purse, recently said in a Fox News interview that there “is a war on Christians around the world” and that “the Koran gives them [ISIS] the basis” for waging holy war against Jews and Christians.”[3] So much for Islam being “the religion of peace,” as our politically-correct media outlets often claim.     

In light of these ongoing attacks against the church, I have been grieved in my heart over what is happening to our brothers and sisters in these hostile corners of the globe. Like you, I have felt a gamut of emotions—outrage, sadness, helplessness. Recently, the Lord has impressed on my heart that I do have a part to play in this battle of good vs. evil, and that I can lift these beleaguered believers up in prayer. While this seems insignificant, I am reminded of what John Calvin wrote, “Against the persecution of a tyrant, the godly have no remedy but prayer.”

So today, I have devoted to praying for the persecuted church. If you want to join in, feel free to recite the prayer below and share with others:

“Oh Lord, my heart aches today for Your Church. Troubling images of bloodshed and death have haunted me. Your followers, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, are being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and murdered. Just as the blood of Abel cried out from the ground, so too the blood of these martyrs screams out for justice.

If my soul is rent, then I cannot imagine how You must feel. For you first loved them, giving your life on a Cross for their sins. Amazingly, You even offer mercy to the terrorists who brazenly take life and Your Word says You “are not willing that any should perish but that all may come to repentance.” Jesus—You sympathize with deaths of your people since you too know what it’s like to be abandoned, humiliated and executed.      

Lord if it were up to me I would make the killing stop today. I would ask for You to return immediately for the Church. I desire for You to take your battered bride now and to make Your enemies a footstool. I too long for cosmic justice. But I know that your ways are not my ways. You have a purpose and a plan for this persecution. Even though I don’t fully comprehend why You allow the deaths of these believers, I trust that Your sovereign will is being worked out. Somehow, like the death of Christ, You will receive glory from these atrocities.

Lord we are told in Your Word that, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” I understand that no one, especially God’s people, gets a free pass from suffering. Didn’t You say, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” and that “no servant is greater than his master”?

With this in mind, I pray that you would strengthen those who are giving their lives for refusing to bow the knee to false gods. For those who are meeting in secret places to worship the true and living God, may they continue to have undaunted courage. For those who are imprisoned for their faith, may You give them peace in their hearts. For those who boldly proclaim the name of Jesus, may they hold fast to their confession. For those who are being martyred may their last words be of mercy and grace, so that they trouble their killers to the point of repentance. May all those who are being tested in the crucible of persecution know how much You love them and the great crown that awaits them in Your eternal kingdom.  

Like a stiff wind that blows dandelion seeds far and wide, may the gusts of persecution carry the Church outward in all directions. May others come to faith in Christ through the example of your persecuted people. Finally, Lord, even though I hope I don’t have to face these fires, I pray that in the event that I do, that I would not deny my Lord. In words of those tribulation saints who have yet to give their lives, “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Amen." 


[1] http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm#wrapper
[2] John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2004), 275.
[3] http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/rev-graham-isis-christians-crucified-beheaded-buried-alive

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