By J with thanks to Graham Lee.
Acts 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.
The power of God for salvation is clearly seen again and again in how the church grows under persecution. The Gospel spread all over the Roman Empire when the first-century church scattered after persecution broke out (Acts 11:19). It spread first only among Jews, but certainly didn’t stay that way. Similarly, no one knew whether any Christians would be left in China after the severe persecution of the Cultural Revolution, but the church not only grew but exploded. By God’s power and grace, the church still exists in North Korea. African Christians face a great amount of persecution especially in areas where Islamic Sharia law is enforced, but Africa is arguably the most Christian continent today. When we pray for and support the persecuted church financially we are investing in growing the church worldwide. We are taking up the privilege of being part of the powerful working of God which is especially evident in situations of human weakness; consider Jesus’ words to the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
How shall we pray for the persecuted church?
Often we feel awkward about praying for the persecuted church, but this is because we don’t know enough to understand the depth of their condition. Don’t shy away from praying general prayers, but you will find your heart drawn to a deeper identification and compassion when you read stories of specific incidents of persecution. Let me encourage you to subscribe to one or more of the following ministries who share such stories and guide our prayers.
Becoming informed about the persecuted church:
· Barnabas Fund: Patrick Sookhdeo is a Muslim background believer who publishes the bi-monthly magazine Barnabas Aid aimed at educating and challenging Western Christians about the challenges faced by those under persecution. You can also subscribe to their prayer diary or podcast. barnabasfund.org/pray/
· Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin: from Elizabeth Kendall, an associate of Melbourne School of Theology, amongst other roles as a Christian Faith and Freedom advocate. Her weekly detailed notes highlighting the plight in specific countries are very informative and come with helpful prayer points. www.elizabethkendal.com/blogs/religious-liberty-prayer-bulletin/
· Voice of the Martyrs: an organisation founded by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand who had suffered under Communist persecution. Weekly case notes are emailed to prayer supporters. www.persecution.com/
· Open Doors: Initially started by Brother Andrew who smuggled Bibles into Communist countries, Open Doors is now particularly concerned with persecution in Muslim contexts but shares news from all around the world. Consider signing up to their bi-monthly publication Frontline Faith, blog, podcast or prayer updates. www.opendoors.org.au
General prayer points:
· Pray for training to be provided to local people in teaching the Word of God. The Word of God is powerful to transform lives, and these people are the future of the Christian church.
· Pray for persecuted Christian to have access to the Bible. Pray for new Bible translations, more Bible printing and increased literacy so that more people can read God's Word for themselves.
· Pray against conflict which may come from within the church such as heresy or syncretism (for example, mixing tribal faith in animism with Christian teaching).
· Pray for the children of believers, that they might have the opportunity to learn about their parents’ faith. Pray for protection from being used against their parents by persecutors.
Will you take a step towards praying for the persecuted church with me this week?