The promise no one likes to talk about

Of all God’s promises, the one Christians like to talk about least is persecution. No less than 90 times1 in all but two books of the New Testament, Christians are promised one thing: Persecution will come. Just as we are assured of God’s love for us in Christ, just as we can be confident that our sins are fully paid for in the death of Christ, we can be sure that we will experience persecution for the sake of Christ.

Yet despite this promise, Christians in North America continue to find this idea foreign, although as time goes on and western culture sheds the last remaining vestiges of Christian influence, it’s becoming less so. In Canada and the United States, our trials tend to come on the legal front: Do Christians who own businesses have the right to refuse to provide services in situations that violate their consciences? Are graduates from a Christian university’s law school permitted to practice law?

These are the questions we are confronted with on a regular basis, and they are serious issues. However, what we might see as persecution is not what a believer in Syria or Iraq might experience. Here, our livelihoods are threatened. There, the threat is to their lives.

This is why the Church needs our prayers, not just on a day like the international day of prayer for the persecuted church, but every day. Christians—both here in North America, and around the world—need to pray for one another as we endure these trials in whatever shape they take. That we would truly believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain. And we would be willing to stand firm on the foundation of the gospel, as people certain that our lives are no longer ours, but Christ’s, and therefore He can do what He wants with them in order to bring Him glory.

Why we need to pray for the persecuted Church

Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshipers of God through the name of Jesus. For just as if one should cut away the fruit-bearing parts of a vine, it grows up again, and yields other branches flourishing and fruitful; even so the same thing happens with us.1

For many of us in the West persecution is a foreign concept; but for millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s daily reality. “In this past century alone, more Christians were murdered for their faith than any other century in human history, an estimated 200 million.”2

They face persecution from both society and governments—sometimes as severe as detention and imprisonment, or as “minor” as culturally accepted harassment. They experience property damage, displacement from homes, physical assault, and death. All because they’ve put their faith in Jesus Christ.

So what can we do? We can pray. Tim Keesee writes:

When we pray for persecuted brothers, we don’t only seek their deliverance, though that’s legitimate. We pray for their boldness (Acts 4:29; Ephesians 6:19-20). We pray for the further glory of Christ, something accomplished both by life and by death, from the pulpit and from the prison cell (Philippians 1:12-21).  God’s purposes are sometimes accomplished through suffering. A courageous Christian journalist in Turkey once told me that if human rights organizations had existed when Joseph was unjustly imprisoned in Egypt, they would have sought his immediate release. But God had a higher purpose than just delivering Joseph.  God’s design was not only to deliver Joseph but also deliver nations (Genesis 50:20).3

Both Justin Martyr and Keesee give us an important reminder: We pray for that our brothers and sisters in Christ would be strengthened to endure their trials—and we pray that the Lord would continue to grow His church.

Two resources to help you pray:

1. Sign up for Persecution.org’s prayer list for regular updates on prayer needs.

2. Use the 31 day prayer calendar put together by Frontline Missions to guide your prayers:

Prayer-Calendar1-980x757

You can download it here.