Praying for Persecuted Christians

"Their pain is my pain" painting
“Their pain is my pain” by Ineke Hopgood

When hearing about the plight of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, we can often feel helpless. We want to help, but how? The most powerful thing we can do is to pray! Persecuted Christians around the world are facing terrible situations from slander to imprisonment, beatings and even death. They will only overcome these things with the strength of the Holy Spirit, and we can pray for them as Paul did, that they would be strengthened with might in their inner man:

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man – Ephesians 3:14-16

Our inner strength comes not from ourselves but from the Spirit of God Himself. Therefore, when enduring atrocities beyond our power to endure, strength comes from God, Whose might never ends, allowing us to endure beyond what we could on our own. It becomes imperative, then, that we pray for those being persecuted, that the Spirit of God would strengthen them with His might.

Following are a few specific things we can pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters along with the constant prayer for strength.

Pray for persecuted Christians to always have the right words to speak

praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverence and supplication for all the saints – and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. – Ephesians 6:18-20

Paul had been persecuted a great many times during his life in the gospel, but his main request was always to be ready to share the gospel with everyone he came across. Our words bring freedom and life, but it is hard to know what to say during times of suffering. For this cause, we should pray that God would give them the words to speak and to give an answer to those who demand it of them. As Jesus encouraged – “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10:19-20).

Pray for Persecuted Christians to find strength in the grace of God in their weakness

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

During times of extreme pressure, we cannot endure on our own. But when we have the grace of God and His strength, we can endure anything. Suddenly we are no longer relying on our own strength, which is weak but on the strength of God which never fails. That is why Paul said when he is weak, then he is strong – because he is suddenly relying not on his strength which has failed but on the mighty strength of God. We pray for persecuted Christians that they would remember the grace of God in their hour of need and find strength in Him even as their own strength fails them – “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Pray that persecuted Christians will trust in the power of God

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many. – 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

When our strength has failed and there is no deliverance to be had, we put our trust in Jesus who has delivered us from death. He is the Resurrection and the Life and though we are persecuted even to death, we do not die because Jesus has given us eternal life. As we pray for persecuted Christians, we join together with them in thanking God and trusting in Him as their deliverer, whether He delivers them from their present afflictions or delivers them finally into the arms of the Father. We thank Him and trust Him and we pray that our persecuted brothers and sisters can keep their eyes firmly fixed on Jesus who is their deliverer – “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Pray for God’s Will to be done

Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “Oh My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

There are instances throughout the New Testament when God delivers his people miraculously, such as when Peter is let out of prison by an angel in Acts chapter 12. However, there are also times when God’s purpose is greater and His children are called home to their eternal rest. In fact, almost all the disciples were eventually put to death for the sake of the gospel. There is no greater way to go home to Jesus! We pray that God’s will be done in each circumstance, whether it is to deliver them from persecution so that they might continue to preach the gospel another day, whether it is to deliver them in a miraculous way so that God is glorified or whether it is for them to enter into their rest in a glorious way – what matters is that God’s will be done. He is the one who knows what must be done in each circumstance – “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:55-60).

Pray that the persecuted Christians might be witnesses of Christ to their persecutors

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you – Matthew 5:33-34

When we begin to pray for those who persecute us, God gives us His heart for them and suddenly we do not wish them harm anymore but we grieve for their brokenness and wish to see them restored to God. When we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, that they would have the strength to love their enemies, they will gain the heart to be witnesses of Christ to their persecutors. They will demonstrate love to their enemies who will be stunned and will want to know why these Christians are so good to them in the midst of persecution, leading to their salvation. God is willing that none should perish, including the persecutors – “And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:27-30).

Pray for the advancement of God’s Kingdom in the earth

And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’ “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. – Acts 4:23-31

This is our prayer for all believers everywhere – that boldness would be granted to us all to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that God would confirm the word with signs following.

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