How to Pray for Persecuted BelieversBy Grant and Janice McClung
June / July 2011
Followers of Jesus Christ will suffer persecution. This is a basic, but often forgotten fact of Christian discipleship. Jesus used the word when (not if) as he prepared his disciples for coming persecution:
- "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 5:11-12).
- "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20).
Early Christian leaders taught this same truth. Paul reminded Christians that “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12) and “…when we are persecuted, we endure it” (1 Corinthians 4:12). Peter reminded suffering believers that “…Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Millions of contemporary believers are following his steps as they endure persecution. According to scripture, as our family they belong to us and we belong to them. Therefore, we must pray for those suffering persecution.
How Then Shall We Pray?
How shall we pray for the suffering in our global Church family? The basic prayer guidelines that follow (along with Bible studies, sermons, and resources) are available in a free, online ebook resource at www.Globalbeliever.com. Here are practical ways that you, and those you mobilize and gather for prayer, can effectively pray for persecuted believers around the world.
Pray sensitively. Hebrews 13:3 teaches us to, “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Here, God is reminding us to put ourselves in the place of others. With Christian compassion and empathy, we are to identify with our brothers and sisters in persecution as if we were there with them, enduring the same hardships.
Pray scripturally. As we follow key word searches throughout the Bible, using words like “persecution,” “suffering,” and “tribulation,” multiple stories of individuals and the collective people of God will begin to emerge. These were real people suffering real persecution. Their stories, filled with their responses to suffering, form a pattern for our personal prayer time and also for group Bible studies and intercessory prayer.
For example, some intercessors pray through the Psalms, using the models of David’s prayers as he cried out for refuge, rescue, deliverance, and preservation. Here are just a few of his cries for help:
- “Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men” (71:4).
- “Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me” (71:12).
- “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name” (142: 6-7).
- “O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief” (143:3).
We can pray and plead those same phrases (and hundreds like them in scripture) on behalf of our suffering family around the world. God gives us words, thoughts, models, and directions for our intercessory praying. An elderly Methodist lay preacher, Uncle Am, always had assurance his prayers would be answered. A young preacher asked for his secret. “Young man,” he said, “learn to plead the promises of God.”
Grant and Janice McClung mobilize and train for missional involvement and intercession through www.MissionsResourceGroup.org. They also serve as international missionary educators with Church of God World Missions.