Ten Ways to Pray for the Persecuted: Christians face surge of violent attacks in Middle East
First, some background information relating to just how bad the persecution is becoming in the region:
It is not receiving nearly enough attention in the mainstream media, but a disturbing development is underway in the Middle East: followers of Jesus Christ in the epicenter have endured a dramatic surge of violence and persecution at the hands of religious and political extremists in recent weeks and months.
In Iraq, Christians have been attacked and killed in their homes and in public, forcing nearly a thousand families to flee from Baghdad and Mosul to the safer Kurdistan region in the north. A separate siege on a Baghdad church on October 31 killed 58 followers of the Lord Jesus and wounded 67 others.
In Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the so-called “Supreme Leader,” publicly warned last fall against the "network of house churches" that "threaten Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims." Then, during Christmas, at least 70 Iranian Christians were arrested in their homes and separated from their families.
Coptic Christians in Egypt have also suffered severe persecution since 2011 began. As a result of two violent attacks this month, nearly 30 people have died and dozens more have been wounded.
Now, to the prayer part:
The Joshua Fund stands with and strongly supports Christian ministry leaders in Israel and throughout the epicenter who are facing this surge of persecution. We love these dear believers and will not forget them. In recent years, we have provided prayer and practical support to families of murdered and persecuted Christians in Israel, Turkey, Gaza, and Mosul (Ninevah), Iraq. We have also mobilized prayer support around the world for persecuted believers in the Middle East. And now we are asking you to join with us by making a specific point of praying regularly for our brothers and sisters in the epicenter during these tumultuous times.
Specifically, under the label of "10 Ways to Pray With Us", the following is offered:
* Gather with other followers of Jesus and those at your own church to fast and pray, lifting up the pressing needs of persecuted believers to their Father in Heaven who will hear and respond. Ask the Lord to bless them with courage and great wisdom during their trials. After all, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
* Pray for physical, spiritual and emotional healing of those wounded in these terrible attacks. Pray for the doctors who are treating the victims to have wisdom and special skill. Please also pray for the Lord to comfort the family and friends of those killed and wounded in these attacks with peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
* Pray that Christians in the Middle East will faithfully love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, just as the Lord Jesus commanded, even though this is so difficult to do (Matthew 5:44).
* Pray that true followers of Jesus in the Middle East would have the courage to continue being public witnesses of the gospel of Lord Jesus where they live. “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your Word with all confidence while you extend Your hand to heal and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30).
* Pray that these murders would not result in Christians living in fear or fleeing their countries, but that the believers would follow the Holy Spirit’s specific leading concerning where and how they should live and serve their Father in heaven (Psalm 32:8).
* Pray that this wave of martyrdom would lead to unprecedented opportunities to grow the Church, and that much fruit would spring up from these fallen grains of wheat (John 12:24); that what the enemy intended for evil the Lord would turn for good (Genesis 50:20).
* Pray that the thoughts, plans and intentions of those filled with hatred towards Christians would be confused and come to nothing; that even on their way to commit violence, they would meet Jesus and be transformed by His love forever, as happened to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:5,6).
* Pray for government leaders in the Middle East to publicly denounce these violent acts against Christians, and to aggressively and fairly prosecute and punish those who commit such crimes.
* Prayerfully consider financially supporting Christian ministries that are caring for your persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East, and those ministries working to stand with them and comfort them during times of pain and suffering.
* Above all, pray that these Christians in the epicenter would experience to the fullest all that Jesus promises to those who stand faithfully for Him, even while enduring suffering (Luke 6:20-23; 1 Peter 4:14).
And in closing:
The good news is that instead of being intimidated by the violence, many believers are standing firm in their faith. In a letter from a believer in Egypt, one anonymous Christian recently wrote, “I will go to church on Christmas Eve. All Christians insist on going to Church no matter what happens. Many demonstrations shout and say, ‘To Church I will go, no matter what you do.’ Many people will turn to Jesus because of that, those who are called Christians by name, are now declaring their faith with zeal. Today we said good bye to each other at work not sure if we will see each other on Monday or not.”
To add to the prayers above, we can also pray that these brave, courageous brothers and sisters can be comforted from their pain - that somehow God will lessen whatever suffering and hardships they are facing - and that God will give them courage and peace in Christ Jesus.
Please encourage your churches, prayer groups, Bible study groups, and any other organizations to pray for these persecuted Christians. It is always encouraging to remember what Jesus had to say about this situation:
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11)
The scriptures indicate that these great, noble Christians will be richly rewarded in Heaven. As they should. Amen.