If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. (John 15:20-21, NIV)
Christians around the world are suffering. They are being mistreated, persecuted, and martyred at the hands of governments, political groups, and individuals — simply because they are followers of Jesus Christ. Only a few of their stories are being shared by news outlets; as of this writing Voice of the Martyrs has identified 60 “restricted areas” and “hostile nations” around the world.
Those of us physically removed from the suffering can feel helpless. We do not have the power to stop the violence or change the mindset of the persecutors. But God has given us the means to strengthen and support our brothers and sisters who are suffering for Him: prayer.
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:3, NIV)
…There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it… (I Corinthians 12:25-26, NIV)
…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16, NIV)
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (I Peter 3:12, Psalm 34:15-16, NIV)
We can remember those who are suffering in our prayers. We can show our concern for the persecuted through prayer. We can strengthen and support those being mistreated through prayer. The Bible promises that God hears and acts on the prayers of His children. It also reveals that our prayers — which are sometimes ridiculed as useless and childish by non-Christians — are powerful and effective in God’s hands. In fact, our prayers often accomplish more than our actions.
What can we pray for those who are being persecuted? How can we, who have not faced severe hardship, know what they really need? Fortunately, God’s Word offers guidance.
My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. (Matthew 26:39, NIV)
First, we can follow Jesus’ example and pray that the persecution, mistreatment, and abuse stops. Our loving Father always wants to hear what is on our hearts, and we do not want others to suffer! It is perfectly acceptable to ask Him to intervene and rescue people from suffering. But, as Jesus models, we must ask in submission to God’s will. He has a purpose and plan that we cannot fully see or comprehend, and what we are asking may not fit with His will. Some may think this makes our prayers useless or worthless, but that is a lie Satan uses to discourage us from connecting with God through openness, prayer, and surrender. Far more life is confident that God hears our prayers and will answer them in the best possible way.
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29:11, NIV)
But as for me, afflicted and in pain — may your salvation, God, protect me. (Psalm 69:29, NIV)
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (Ephesians 3:16, NIV)
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, (Ephesians 1:18, NIV)
We can also pray for spiritual strength for those enduring persecution. We can pray that they will see God’s hand at work and that His provision, faithfulness, and love will be evident. We can pray that He keeps their hearts at peace regardless of their circumstances. We can pray that their hope is secure in Him and allows them to see their role in the spiritual battle raging around them. We can pray that they experience far more life as the Spirit empowers them with all they need to remain spiritually strong.
And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:38, NIV)
…What has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12, NIV)
…With the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. (I Thessalonians 2:2, NIV)
The way in which Jesus suffered and died caused at least one witness to recognize His true identity. We can pray for the gospel message — that forgiveness for sin and eternal life in heaven are found in Jesus Christ alone — to be heard and accepted because of persecution. We can pray for the light of salvation to shine brightly through the darkness of suffering and draw people to Christ. We can pray that our mistreated and martyred brothers and sisters reveal the power and glory of God in their lives and in their deaths. We can pray the places with greatest opposition are the places where God’s kingdom advances the most.
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer…Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. (Revelation 2:10, NIV)
Praise God that this life is not the end. Those who suffer and die for Him on earth will reap far more life eternally!
If you were surprised to read so many places are spiritually “restricted” or “hostile”, visit persecution.com to learn more.
Will you join me — and followers of Christ worldwide — in praying for our brothers and sisters who are suffering?
Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso