Friday, May 25, 2007

Response #4: Pray For Them

(The following is part of a series of "responses to the persecuted church" based on a sermon by Eric Schumacher at An Infant in a Cradle. As a preface to his sermon, Schumacher noted: "It is important that we hear these stories. However, hearing them is not enough. We are called to respond. So, I want to ask this question...: How do we respond to the persecuted church?" I'm breaking down his "ten responses to the persecuted church," listing his suggestions and adding my thoughts.)

4. Pray for them.

Last month, I had the privilege of attending a conference put on by The Voice of the Martyrs. Speakers included VOM staff members who travel all over the world to serve the persecuted church, as well as brothers and sisters from other nations who have themselves experienced persecution. Darcie Gill explained that her role is to go to persecuted believers overseas and ask them: What do you need? How can we help you?

Can you guess what is the number one thing they always ask for? It's not food, or shelter, or legal help, or even Bibles. They need prayer. More than anything, they want their brothers and sisters around the world to intercede for them.

A few months ago, I posted a list of suggestions for how we can pray specifically for the persecuted church. In addition to these requests, up-to-date information about specific nations and even specific Christians is easily available through blogs and email updates. This week's requests from VOM:

On May 15, government authorities expelled seven of 10 Christian families from their village in Laos, and transported them to another village 12 hours away. According to The Voice of the Martyrs' contacts, the authorities told the families, "If you want to continue believing in Jesus' religion, you need to leave this village and go live in a village where there are Christians." The husbands were forced into vehicles while the wives were working in the rice paddies and this has resulted in chaos. The families are separated and are having difficulties adjusting at the new village because their tools, utensils and belongings are at the old village. Pray God gives the families grace and protection as they deal with these hardships.

On May 14, Reverend George Minj and Sister Teresa Kindo, were attacked in a village near Ranchi as they returned to their parish in the evening after leading prayers in a nearby village. The priest sustained a blood clot in the head and is being kept under observation. Pray for the priest's speedy recovery and for protection as they continue their ministry in the area.
On May 13, more than 20 Hindu extremists attacked a worship service in the town of Kushalnagar. The extremists destroyed Bibles, and beat several believers. They told the pastors to stop converting people to Christianity. Pray for protection for Christians in India. Ask God to heal the believers that were beaten.

On May 11, a mob of Muslims attacked Christians in Bahma village south of Cairo after hearing rumors that a church was to be built in the village without government permission. Muslims left their Friday prayers and attacked the homes and shops of Christians, setting the buildings on fire. At least 10 Coptic Christians were injured in the attack. People from both faiths took up sticks and hatchets and began hurling bricks and firebombs at each other. At least 27 houses and shops were damaged by fire. At last report, 59 Muslims have been arrested on charges of arson and spreading sectarian strife. Pray these Christians will be encouraged to worship together, despite opposition. Pray they will demonstrate love to their neighbors.

Schumacher's original sermon offers a few more ideas to prompt your prayers:

Pray for their leaders: 1 Timothy 2:1-2 tells us that we should pray for “kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” We should pray that God would ordain leaders in those nations who will allow religious freedom so that persecution will end and the church can live godly lives in peace.

Pray for their deliverance: The early church was not above praying for God to release those who are persecuted. When Peter was imprisoned, the church made “earnest prayer to God” on his behalf [Acts 12:5-12]. In response to that prayer, God sent an angel to free Peter. ...The Apostle Paul sought to be free from imprisonment and requested the prayers of the church (Romans 15:30-32; 2 Corinthians 1:8-11; Philippians 1:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). ...It may be an indication of self-centeredness and a “love grown cold” when a church (or a Christian) is ignorant and prayerless in the face of persecuted Christians.

Pray for their witness: In Ephesians 6:18-20, Paul requested of the church, "[pray for me], that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak." We should pray that the persecuted church would be bold in their witness and that through it the world would come to believe in Christ.

Previously in this series:
Response #1: Do Not Be Surprised
Response #2: Remember Them
Response #3: Research Them

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