Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Helping the persecuted through prayer (Persecution 101, #7)

This post is #7 of a series. For other posts please see here: #1 - #2 - #3 - #4 - #5 - #6 - #7 - #8 - #9 

Without doubt, the number one request of persecuted believers is "pray for us". 

This isn't their only request. They don't ask us not to get involved in ways that involve earthly action. We'll discuss some of those actions in the next blog pot. But first and foremost, they want us to pray. So we are going to talk about that first and foremost.

This isn't just my perception. People who have spent countless hours with those in persecution report the same request - "pray for us". Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, who has worked among persecuted communities for over 20 years, observes:
There is absolutely no question that when it comes to tactical assistance, it is prayer that the persecuted crave more than anything else from their less persecuted brothers and sisters. It's simple to see why. The persecuted realize the value of prayer because they are more experienced in it. Situations of utter helplessness are occasions when all one can do is pray. (Faith That Endures, 256)
Let's hear some words from the extremely persecuted. Moses Xie, who spent more than 20 years in jail in China, explains why he asked for prayer:
First, I want them to experience the blessing of prayer for themselves. They will go to God on my behalf, but they will receive a great blessing form being in the presence of God. I have noticed that Western Christians don't seem to pray that much. second, I know that as they pray, their burden for the persecuted will increase, and as their burden grows, so their commitment to assisting us in all sorts of other ways will increase also. Prayer alone makes them be the body. Third, I want them to release more of God's power into our situation through intercession.... (Faith That Endures, 256)
Brother Andrew, writing with Al Janssen in Secret Believers, also highlighted persecuted believers' requests for prayer. Quoting an unnamed brother called "Peter", he writes: 
"So how should we pray for you?" Al asked. 
"We need prayer that we remain strong and not fall back," Peter answered, "Also, pray for the second generation of Christians. Our children are really suffering. And pray that the church will be more sensitive to MBBs (Muslim Background Believers)."
 Another Middle Eastern pastor asked for prayer in a very specific way as well. After explaining the desperate need for Christians to love Muslims, and to pray for that love, he said:

"Don't pray for us. Pray with us. Can you see the difference? If you pray for me, you will pray for my safety and my prosperity. No, just pray with me for Muslims to know Christ."
(both stories found in Secret Believers, pages 249-251)

Of course, other persecuted believers do ask prayer for deliverance. There are many ways to pray. These specific requests are starting points. I highly encourage you to sign up for the monthly prayer guide from Open Doors, which gives a one or two sentence prayer request for a different country each day. Other prayer options are praying through the World Watch List, and getting email or physical newsletters with prayer requests from various ministries working with the persecuted. Finally, don't miss the opportunities to pray as you watch the news. When you see conflict, elections, confusion, drought - whatever is happening, pray for the church in that area, and for those who are persecuted.

As I have prayed for specific believers over the years, God has led me to some Scriptures to pray in different situations. Along with the requests above and those in the informational tools you sign up to receive, here are a few Scripture-based prayers to add to your arsenal. We never go wrong when we pray God's Word. He has a way of taking it and using it for His purposes, even when we don't quite understand it ourselves. The most important thing, of course, is to just pray.
  • That God will take what is meant for evil and turn it to good, and that many would be saved. (Genesis 50:20)
  • That God will send angels to minister. (1 Kings 19:3-9).
  • That God will open their eyes to see the spiritual forces at work, and the power God has unleashed on their behalf. (2 Kings 6:15-17)That God will deliver them to show His supremacy. (2 Kings 19:1-19)
  • That God would defend the cause of truth and rescue His oppressed. (Psalm 74:21-23)
  • That they will proclaim God's power to the children, the next generation. (Psalm 71:18)
  • That they will praise God in the presence of the saints once again (Psalm 116, below).
  • That they will have a strong sense of God's presence (Isaiah 43).
  • That God will enable them to rejoice in the face of false accusations and persecution, and to focus on the heavenly reward. (Matthew 5:10-12)
  • That God will calm any doubts and fears, and show them the evidence that Jesus is who He says He is. (Luke 7:18-23)
  • That they will be aware just how strongly Jesus identifies with persecuted believers (Acts 9:1-4).
  • That the church will be strong in prayer,united, bold, and that nominal believers would be "all in" and false members revealed; for a strengthening, purifying, unifying time for the church so that leaders won't have to worry about them if they are to be killed. (Acts 12:1-5)
  • That they will be delivered for continued fruitful labor with the congregation (Philippians 1:19-26)
  • That they will be delivered from these evil men and that God's word will speed ahead and be honored in future ministry (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
Psalm 116
Thanksgiving for Deliverance from Death.
1 I love the LORD, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
2 Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death encompassed me
And the terrors of Sheol came upon me;
I found distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!”
5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
Yes, our God is compassionate.
6 The LORD preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
7 Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
8 For You have rescued my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling.
9 I shall walk before the LORD
In the land of the living.
10 I believed when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted.”
11 I said in my alarm,
“All men are liars.”
12 What shall I render to the LORD
For all His benefits toward me?
13 I shall lift up the cup of salvation
And call upon the name of the LORD.
14 I shall pay my vows to the LORD,

Oh may it be in the presence of all His people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
Is the death of His godly ones.
16 O LORD, surely I am Your servant,
I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid,
You have loosed my bonds.
17 To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And call upon the name of the LORD.
18 I shall pay my vows to the LORD,
Oh may it be in the presence of all His people,
19 In the courts of the LORD’S house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!

Boyd-MacMillan, Ronald. Faith that Endures: The essential guide to the persecuted church.Revell, 2006.

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