This coming Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, an initiative organised by Open Doors USA, a non-profit organisation.
What more can be said about the persecuted Christians? Perhaps you, like me, can feel a guilty fatigue when you read or watch the news. What can we do for the Syrian nuns bombed while helping their people in Aleppo? What can we do about the refugee crisis? What can we do when innocents are attacked and killed for their Christian faith? What can we change? We are helpless, or so we feel.
Watching the video produced by Open Doors for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, I was struck by the beautiful simplicity of the message. What is being said in it changed my viewpoint on the situation completely. It also made me feel less powerless.
The message of the video is simple. The persecuted church does not ask for us to pray for them. The persecuted church asks us to pray with them.
“If you pray for us, you will pray for the wrong things. You will pray that the Church will be safe. We do not pray for these things. We pray that when persecution comes, when they threaten us, when they kill us, that until our last breath we will continue to cry out: Jesus is Lord.”
That’s all that is said in the video. It really is that simple. But there is so much to unpack in the message.
It reminds us that the situation is not an “us and them” situation. We are all one. In fact, to use the label “persecuted Church” is to somehow imply that one part of the Church is persecuted and the other part is not. Which, technically speaking, is completely correct. However, as St Paul says, “there should be no division in the body… its members should have mutual concern for one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) Praying with persecuted Christians reminds us that we are all one Church, and persecution comes to all of us in one way or another. Maybe ours is simply just name calling, or the awkward conversation about faith, or the intrusive question. But we can respond to our own miniature persecutions with grace and offer it up for our brothers and sisters who run the risk of their own lives.
We can live in such a way that shares their “Jesus is Lord” in the most crucial moment.
So what does this mean practically?! On Sunday, 6th November, how can we pray with the persecuted Church? Here are a few ideas.
How to Pray With the Persecuted Church:
- Watch or read about the lives of persecuted Christians and commit to praying with individuals or countries, particularly ones that don’t often reach the news. You can start with this playlist here, which is full of individual stories.
- Commit to saying a daily prayer, rosary or psalm with the persecuted Church. Why not start with Psalm 27?
- Pray for our enemies. It’s what we’ve been called to do (Matt 5:44). It is not only a physical battle that is fought on the ground, but a spiritual one too. Only when people’s hearts change will persecution stop. Pray that those who carry out such atrocities will repent.
- Pray for your own faith. Pray that you will be able to defend it in little ways, whatever that may be in your life right now. Pray that you will be strong too.