A week ago, on Nov. 3, the church was asked to pray for Christians around the world that were experiencing persecution. This call to prayer is not new. The writer of the book of Hebrews also gave this impassioned plea. He said, “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”
This directive to intercede for those in bonds was probably given by the apostle Paul, who many believe was the author of the biblical book of Hebrews. Paul, before his conversion to Christianity, was a very zealous Jewish Pharisee and was offended at Christians, so much so, that he had them arrested and imprisoned. Once Paul became a Christian, the very thing he used to hunt down, he, himself, became the hunted. Scripture tells us he was beaten multiple times, stoned (with real stones) and imprisoned three times because of his belief in Jesus Christ. Paul pleaded with the church to pray for those imprisoned for their faith because he knew, intimately, what that felt like and how vulnerable those prisoners for Christ were.
Recently in the news, Pastor Andrew Brunson has been actively speaking out for the persecuted church. Pastor Brunson, an American missionary to Turkey, was imprisoned on Oct. 7, 2016, as part of a purge when a governmental coup attempt failed. He reported that he was held with 21 other prisoners in a cell designed for only eight prisoners. In total, he spent 735 days in the maximum-security prison. On Oct. 12, 2018, Pastor Brunson was finally released, due to intercessory prayer and the pressure of the U.S. government (especially President Donald Trump’s increased tariffs on Turkish products.)
According to the website opendoorsusa.org, a ministry dedicated to the support, prayer and release of persecuted Christians, in the last year,
• Over 245 million Christians were living in places where they experience high levels of persecution.
• 4,305 Christians were killed for their faith.
• 1,847 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked.
• 3,150 believers were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.
The ministry of Open Doors has identified the top five nations where persecutions of Christians are the most severe: North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Lybia and Pakistan. According to Open Doors, the reason for the persecution of Christians is this: “Sometimes, religion may be tied to ethnic or cultural identity. In other places, governments who thrive on power view Jesus as competition and those who follow him as threats. Still other areas put such a high value on their majority religion that any other faith is seen as something to be rooted out and violently oppressed.”
So, how can the American church help others in harm’s way? Sarah Cunningham, in her article, “Five Ways to Pray For the Persecuted Church”, gives some suggestions about how you could pray for those Christians around the world that are suffering persecution: Pray that those in bonds, whatever their situation, will be given just the right words to say. Pray Christians will see the grace and presence of God manifest in their circumstance. Pray that they would experience the presence of God, Jehovah Shammah (meaning the God who is there), with them and their families. One last suggestion, pray that those persecuted would maintain their witness, and that their testimony would inspire their persecutors.
Finally, it is important to remember that the body of Christ should support one another, and when we do we can know our prayers make a difference. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Nola Kurber pastors along-side her husband, Keith. She is an ordained minister and a former children’s pastor. She is also a former public school teacher, but is currently happily pastoring full time at Harvest Church. Insight is sponsored by the Tanana Valley Christian Conference.