Violence. Imprisonment. Discrimination. Isolation.
These are just a few ways countless Christians are persecuted every single day. It is tempting to pray for their mistreatment to end and to ask God to relieve their pain and suffering. But this is not what oppressed Christians are praying for.
In fact, many persecuted Christians are thankful for their tribulations. They believe these trials serve to grow their faith and strengthen the body of Christ in a powerful way.
One of our partners in China — where religious oppression is once again on the rise — said, “The prayer of Chinese believers is not that the persecution would stop, but that they would have the strength to remain faithful.”
So how do you pray for persecuted Christians? As we prepare for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Nov. 4, here are a few suggestions:
1. Pray that they will feel the comfort and encouragement of the Lord
Christians living in countries like North Korea face incredible pain and violence for their beliefs. They are told over and over to turn from the Lord, and yet they remain strong. Pray they will be reminded they are not alone.
In 1 Peter 4:12-14, the apostle Peter shares about suffering, a topic that he and the other members of the early church knew all too well. In these verses, he says:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14, ESV)
Peter took great encouragement from the knowledge that God is always with us, even in our most difficult moments. In Romans 8:35, Paul reminds believers that nothing — not even persecution — can separate us from God. This truth is what sustains us in the face of abuse, violence … and even death.
Pray these verses over Christians who are suffering and ask God to remind them of His constant presence. Pray, also, that they will remember that in their trials, they are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. They are never alone.
2. Pray that their persecutors will come to know Christ
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says, “… love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (ESV)
When Christians stand firm in the face of persecution, it changes the way people view the Christian faith. We hear numerous stories from countries including North Korea and China where members of the military or police decide to follow Jesus after seeing a believer’s faith. They begin to wonder, “What is this thing that so many people are willing to die for?”
We know that we serve a God who brings beauty from ashes. He specializes in redeeming the most difficult parts of our lives and turning them into something glorious. As you think about our brothers and sisters in Christ, pray that God will use their suffering to bring others to faith — particularly those who are carrying out the persecution.
3. Pray that in the midst of persecution, the church will be strengthened and continue to grow
Even though the purpose of persecution is to stamp out the church, it often has the opposite effect. Believers grow bolder and more passionate about sharing God’s Word with others. Despite attempts to stop it, the global church continues to grow.
As you gather with your church for the International Day of Prayer, ask God to strengthen Christians in areas of great persecution. Ask that He will increase believers’ boldness as they share the Gospel with those around them. And pray that despite all odds, more and more people will come to believe in Jesus as their Savior.
4. Pray that these believers will have access to God’s Word
The Bible is full of verses on persecution and faith in the midst of trials. These verses bring great comfort and encouragement, yet many persecuted believers have never had the chance to read them. They live in Bible deserts, where God’s Word is difficult to find and dangerous to hold. Still, they long to read the words for themselves.
Pray that copies of God’s Word will make their way into the hands of persecuted believers around the world. And if you want to go an extra step, you can give $10 today to personally provide one Bible to a person suffering for Christ. These Bibles will not only provide encouragement — they will also be tools to help grow God’s kingdom.
So, as we remember those who are brutally persecuted for their faith, please ask God to give them strength, wisdom, endurance — and that their lives will be a Christian testimony to everyone around them.
With these prayers, you can make an incredible difference.
Click here to find more information and resources on how to observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.