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Praying for the Persecuted Church

23 June, 2008

Thankfully, in the US and other similarly free and prosperous countries there has been in recent years an upsurge of awareness of and help and prayer for the persecuted church across the world. Still, for me it’s really hard to keep our suffering brothers and sisters on my heart and mind — not only is that kind of persecution foreign to my personal experience, but it’s difficult to think about and it hurts to feel. On top of all that, I’ve got it so good that I can so easily become numb to those who have it much worse.

I don’t think I have to argue that that’s not how it should be; the gospel tells us we are one in Christ as the body and temple and bride of Christ, and in fact the word of the one gospel, by the effectiveness of the one Spirit, is what makes us one (Eph 4:4). Hebrews 13:3 is so clear and powerful on this point:

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

That’s what I’m getting at when I confess it’s difficult to think and feel and pray for the persecuted church, because to really ‘remember’ them in brotherly love is in a real way to be there with them and experience their suffering, even if only in part. But on the other hand, our being there with them also works in the other direction; we are there with them in their suffering, which affects us, but we’re also their with them in our prayers and in our ministering, which affects them (and us, to boot). James calls us to pray whenever we are suffering (5:13), and assures us that a righteous person’s prayer is powerfully effective (v. 16). Our heavenly Father hears and provides all things we need, for our good and salvation, because we pray as his children in the name of his one and only Son Jesus (Matt 6:7, 32-33; 7:7-11).

To help us in this, my wife and I have been going through a booklet called Persecuted but not forsaken: A handbook of prayer for the Persecuted Church, which is put out for free every year by Open Doors, a British organization. Each year they rank the top 50 most difficult countries in which to be a Christian. They provide information about the country and the church’s situation, and pressing prayer needs for the church there. Here’s an example from the booklet, Uzbekistan, ranked 9th worst:

9. UZBEKISTAN

Key facts: Leader: President Islam Karimov — Population: 27.4 million (1% Christian) — Majority Religion: Islam — Type of Government: Authoritarian

The former KGB still operates, regularly ‘inviting’ Christians to the police station for questioning. Uzbekistanis cannot own more than one Christian book. Families and communities reject Muslim-background believers. Registering a church is an unending procedure, and many groups have been applying for years. Police raids often lead to Christians being arrested, beaten, and even tortured, their Bibles destroyed. A pastor was sentenced to four years in a labor camp in March 2007.

Prayer:

  • Pray for the safe delivery and distribution of Bibles and Christian literature.
  • Pray for wisdom for secret believers who are often women married to non-believers. Pray for pastors and churches being put under pressure.
  • Remember those in prison and those threatened with imprisonment, and also their families.

I’m sure lots of places put together booklets or similar materials (Voice of the Martyrs, Barnabus Fund, and so on). It’s really helpful; my wife and I pray for one country/church every night. We take turns, one of us reading about the country and the church’s situation, the other praying for the church there.

The booklet also has a picture of someone from each country to go along with each. One of the things that struck me the other day was that my (sixteen-month-old) daughter had picked up the booklet and was thumbing through it. She brought it over to me and started pointing out all the people — the men and women, the kids (all ‘babies’ to her), and their eyes, ears, noses, etc., all things she’s been learning lately. It was really moving because she does the same thing with our eyes, ears, noses, and the same thing with pictures of our family and friends. These are real people, our real brothers and sisters in Christ, as real as you and me, our families and friends. My one year old, it seems, lives in that reality better than I do.

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18 Comments
  1. merlotmudpies permalink
    23 June, 2008 5:08 pm

    thank you so much for this reminder. i find that, when i do think of persecution at all, i turn the thought back off again as quickly as i can because it’s so upsetting. i’d not considered for a long time that it is my obligation to pray and be aware in this way. our kids are often interesting mirrors, aren’t they? have been following this blog for a while and greatly appreciate it.

  2. creedorchaos permalink*
    24 June, 2008 10:54 am

    mmp~

    I’m glad you appreciate the post and the site.

    Yeah, the saying has been true for me so far, that you realize how selfish you are when you get married, and you realize how sinful you are when you have kids.

    ~B

  3. 24 June, 2008 6:16 pm

    I’m finding that out as we speak. I’ve been married for only 4 months or so and it’s like looking into two mirrors (the eyes of my wife and those of my step-daughter).
    As Rip says, “Marriage is a great tool for sanctification.”

  4. 25 June, 2008 5:24 am

    Dear Father in Heaven:

    Though we are weak and desire to ignore the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the LORD, You give us the Will to look again at their suffering and to have compassion. You work in us causing us to observe and pray. Thank You for Your grace and work within us.

    Because You cause us to observe and pray, and because You encourage us that a righteous person’s prayer is powerfully effective, we pray with confidence that You will hear us and that You will grant our prayer requests. We recognize that as a sovereign God You cause all things, even sufferings and persecutions, to work together for the good of Your Elect. And yet, You also simply command us to pray for those among us who are suffering. We pray that You will use our prayers and grant those requests that are according to Your will.

    We pray that you cause the persecutions of Christians everywhere throughout the world to immediately cease. We pray that You immediately set all persecuted Christians prisoners free. We pray that You eliminate and lessen the torture and abuse of Christians who are being persecuted. We pray that You comfort and encourage and give hope to all persecuted Christians around the world. We pray that You cause them to endure. We pray that You take care of and provide all that their families need. We pray that You restore the health, finances, and favor of the persecuted Christians in their communities, so that they may continue to reach others with Your Gospel. We pray that not one ache of the persecuted Christians will be wasted, but that You will use all of their sufferings for Your purpose.

    We pray for the safe delivery and distribution of Bibles and Christian literature. We pray for wisdom for secret believers who are often women married to non-believers. We pray for pastors, lay leaders, and churches who are being put under pressure.

    We specifically for the persecuted Christians in UZBEKISTAN. Cause President Islam Karimov, other national leaders, military, police, and others in power there to stop persecuting Christians and to set their persecuted Christian prisoners free IMMEDIATELY. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

  5. merlotmudpies permalink
    25 June, 2008 3:22 pm

    I’m assuming you mean Rip Pratt? This made me laugh as it recalled a conversation between my dad and my older brother just after he got married…

    “Son, marriage is the Great Illuminator.”
    “Oh Dad…I don’t know if I want to be illuminated!”

    Heavens, how I identify with that. And oh, how thankful I am that my salvation does not depend on my own perfection but rather, my faith in Christ.

  6. 25 June, 2008 5:50 pm

    Amen Bill.
    Yes, MMP that’s the Rip I mean. Best dude in the world. It’s funny how when you’re single those kind of sayings about marriage seem like cliches or christian ‘niceties.’ I was single for 44 plus years. Sigh. My poor wife and step-daughter. Lots of patterns to be broken for this old man.

  7. merlotmudpies permalink
    25 June, 2008 8:33 pm

    Thank you, Bill, for posting that.

    I do not know Rip well but I do attend New Life — since our days at Central School in the 80s, oh my! — and have loved having him as our family pastor there. He and his wife both are lovely people. We are so blessed at New Life with the men from WTS among our elders and also people like my dad who, though they are not elders or deacons, give their hearts and wisdom to the church’s ministry as well as the seminary’s ministry.

  8. merlotmudpies permalink
    25 June, 2008 8:40 pm

    forgive the constant comments — i might not have been 44 when i got married, but i certainly came into my relationship with set ideas and firmly ingrained habits. it’s humbling and sometimes hard not to feel utterly defeated in the face of my own failures and foibles. and then motherhood on top of this to get at another layer of it all…oh my!

    it makes me think of Lewis’ wonderful imagery in Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Eustace is with Aslan and trying to shed his dragon skin. he scrapes and scrapes and works and works and always finds another layer of that skin underneath no matter how much he sheds. yet when Aslan applies his lion claws and digs deeply, Eustace is transformed.

    how thankful i am for that work of Jesus on my own dragon skin, and that i know even in my worldly state here, He has conquered and won the battle already. one day, through his mercy, i WILL be redeemed and completely transformed. lovely to contemplate indeed. i recently lost my mother and i have been overcome often with the thought of her in glory now, seeing more of God’s awesome work than we can even begin to imagine here, worshiping until we all get to go home. what an amazing thing to look forward to…

    i will stop babbling on your blog now and take it back to my own. 🙂

  9. 25 June, 2008 10:06 pm

    I go to New Life too. Merlot, I think you meant to say “the men from WSC (Westminster Seminary California as opposed to WTS= Westminster Philly). Dr. Julius Kim, Dr. Joel Kim, Dr. Dennis Johnson, Dr. Peter Jones, Ted Hamilton, Kevin Daane…and the legendary Rip Pratt are all from WSC. But I agree with you. Those men and New Life’s elders are a bunch of studs that have been helping me and my new family a lot in spiritual matters. At least one elder and also his wife graduated from WSC (The Lees). Susan Ericksen also did. I think the list gets pretty long. It’s a great church.

  10. merlotmudpies permalink
    25 June, 2008 11:46 pm

    I did, indeed. Thank you. I didn’t know you went to New Life! My dad works at Westminster, too. Dan in the library. Spiritual studs, indeed! I am so thankful for all of them. Do you mean Newman and his wife? I didn’t realize they were Westminster grads. Newman, in particular, has been so faithful in prayer for me and my husband. What a lovely, lovely couple. I always am pleased when he is the one to do the elder prayer. He is a poet to the glory of God.

  11. 26 June, 2008 7:45 am

    Dan Wagner is one my favorite people in the world. He was always so kind to me. Woops. I owe him a book or two. Are you Mark or John? I’ve surfed with John once and have met Mark on a few occasions. I was blessed enough to speak with your mom only once and I was eager for her to meet my new bride.Rebecca Jones spoke often of her sacrificial kindness to the down and out. You have a great family.

  12. 26 June, 2008 7:49 am

    Oh, the Lees: I’m sure Lena went to WSC. She is full blast Klinian-Vosian. She has written a very good paper on Joel 2. Newman also graduated from sem and I think it was from WSC but I could be wrong. He was also a pastor. He’s a very good good man.

  13. merlotmudpies permalink
    26 June, 2008 10:50 am

    Actually, I’m Mary — Dan’s secret and only daughter. Hahaha. I attend with my two-year-old son, so we are usually over in the crying baby side of the church where he can squirm his way through worship and prayer before I take him in to nursery. My husband usually comes on holidays. He’s a tall guy with black hair and a black goatee and “surfer” written all over him. I have suddenly put two and two together and realized who you and your wife are! I will have to say “hi” this Sunday. Again, I’m sorry for the huge amount of rambling comments on this post. But what a small world — I randomly found this blog through the “grace” tag surfer function, and here we are a part of the same immediate church family.

  14. 26 June, 2008 8:37 pm

    Ah good stuff. You’ll have to meet Alisia. She just moved here from MO. and hasn’t met a lot of people yet. Say Hi to Dan for me. We pray for him every night since you’re mom joined the Lord in glory.

  15. 7 November, 2008 5:54 am

    Thanks for caring and praying. This Sunday is the International Day of Prayer (IDOP). Please remember to pray for those being persecuted. Please say a prayer for Dr Beatrice Danny and her husband in India where they have been forced out of the areas for helping orphans and their churches are being banned by extremists.

    Check out http://www.opendoors.org for more on the persecuted church and what you can do. They have some ideas for this Sunday at your church.

    Email me off line.

    Steve

  16. Irina permalink
    10 November, 2010 6:22 pm

    Hi! (First, sorry for my poor english, I´m from Uruguay)
    I want to ask you about the painting´s author. I love it, and I want to ask permission tu use this picture to some design, so, ¿Do you know something about this “LAF” (the author)?

    Thank you very much!
    blessings!
    Irina

    • 20 November, 2010 5:12 am

      Irina,

      Hi, sorry, but I don’t know anything about this painting. I found it through Google Images by searching for “praying for the persecuted church,” but the source lists nothing about the artist or title.

      ~B

  17. 2 December, 2010 5:58 am

    I will join in prayer with all who are praying for my persecuted brothers and sister throughout the world. I hope this does not happen in the US in my lifetime, but it appears it is coming.

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