November 5th is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. This comes in the wake of a developing story of a local church in Texas that just lost 25 members to an evil gunman. One of those murdered was the pastor’s 14 year old daughter. Although the gunman’s motives are still unclear, it is difficult to believe the shooter’s motive was not faith-based. The fact that this was a church is not irrelevant, or was not likely to have been coincidental or unknown to the shooter.
Whether it’s Texas or Iran, Christians all over the world are being imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith. Not only does the Bible tell us to expect this (2 Timothy 3:12), but martyrdom actually advances the Gospel and changes the world.
The very Gospel itself is the story of a martyr, and look at all it accomplished (Colossians 1: 19-23). In light of that, it is not surprising that every major advancement of Christianity was preceded by faithful men and women sacrificing their blood for the sake of the kingdom.
Although these great sacrifices are great victories, this does not mean we ought not to pray for the persecuted church. Here are three reasons to pray for the persecuted church today.
1) The Bible Commands It
One of the most powerful verses in Scripture is possibly one of the most neglected commandments among God’s people. Hebrews 13:3,
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”
Be honest with yourself, how often to you even attempt this command? How often to do you pray for the persecuted church? This verse commands us to pray, and it commands how we must pray also. We are to pray as if we were with them. How passionate and how often would you pray for yourself provided you were currently being persecuted in Egypt, or North Korea? That is how you should pray now.
If you’re like me, you have been disobedient. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters rightly today.
2) Prayer Works
We pray because it can actually do something for the circumstances of the persecuted. Prayer can cause change.
Notice what Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2: 1-2,
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Paul called Timothy to pray for people who have power over our lives because Paul believed prayer could influence how they use that power.
Prayer is not a tip of the hat. Prayer is not sentimentality. It is an effectual, powerful action of the believer which can bring about the power of God to make real changes in history.
Pray for the persecuted church because you can help them in their affliction.
3) They Deserve it
One of the greatest compliments ever given in Scripture to God’s people is found in the famous passage about the victors and martyrs of faith in Hebrews 11. After the writer of Hebrews lists all of the men and women who accomplished and endured much through faith, he describes these people, specifically the martyrs, in verse 38 as those “of whom the world was not worthy.” This is a description I covet.
These brothers and sisters receiving their martyr’s crowns are those this world is not worthy to be around. These brothers and sisters are heroes. They deserve much from us; they have earned much from us. But for many of us, the honor and love they deserve cannot be given. They are nameless, faceless, and distant from us. We don’t know them all, and cannot be near them all. The one thing, of the many things they deserve from us which we can give, is prayer. We can pray for them, and they deserve our prayers.
Pray for them, and thank God for them.