International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) is a time for the Body of Christ to pray over our brothers and sisters living through persecution.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” ~1 Corinthians 12:26
Their suffering is our suffering, and their joy is our joy.
This past year saw an increase in violence against Christians, especially in Nepal, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. Tragically, a church member in Myanmar, a young man, was beaten to death last Christmas for singing carols. Just last month, also in Myanmar, a young girl was kidnapped from her widowed mother and sexually abused for hours before church members rescued her. In Bangladesh, a large group of new believers were refused the use of their water well, opening them to the risk of disease or attack while gathering water from other areas. This situation has been repeated many times in India and Bangladesh.
Most of our 200+ national missionaries in all eight countries had at least one instance of being beaten or stoned. Many were forced away from their homes, churches, or ministry area, and all received verbal threats. This is common, as one missionary in Bangladesh writes,
As a whole we always live in threat and our lives are always at risk. We the pastors and evangelists need His protection at all times because people know us as men and women who all the time are trying to make His disciples. That’s why we live in risk in this Muslim country.
Pray for faithfulness to stand up under this pressure. Pray for your brothers and sisters to trust in God, to grow closer to Him, and to bring glory to their Lord.
One of the most common prayer requests we receive from our missionaries facing persecution is to pray for the hearts of those who persecute them. For those men and women to be softened, and to become Christ followers. Below are perfect examples from several countries of what that looks like:
Last year on Christmas night, some non-Christians stoned us during our service. We spent that night in each of our homes, and we could not continue our service….But how wonderful it was to see two of those who had stoned us accept Christ in March of this year. Praise God!
Some neighbors are opposed to us conducting open air outreach and tell others not to join us. They threaten us, but after weeks of prayer, most of them have become open to the gospel.
One day our church leaders were preaching the gospel to the village people and some non-Christians called the witch doctor to try to cause a lot of trouble. Fortunately, after one month the witch doctor started to attend the Church and he renounced all his chanting and secrecy and followed the Lord.
At first, some neighboring people opposed us, but afterwards, when they come to know the reality of our message, they are very much open to the Gospel.
When we minister in tribal areas, non-Christians, especially drunkards oppose our preaching and continue to disturb our preaching. One day, one of our church members was preaching the gospel to the people there, the non-Christians tried to beat him, but fortunately he was able to escape safely. Now the people who opposed us attend our church!
God has the power to change the hardest of hearts. Let us trust Him in that.
Although there is great hope in what God is doing among the hearts persecutors, their attacks are still dangerous. In one of our countries, missionaries are threatened that they will be burned alive if they continue to share the Gospel. This is not an idle threat, and neither are the other threats of serious attacks.
Pray for the many new believers who are rejected by family, even physically attacked by those who once showed them love.
We especially beg prayer for the children of our missionaries, and all Christians in South Asia. Although a missionary may be willing to give his or her own life for Christ, to put their children at risk is a different matter. Pray for wisdom and peace as parents both proclaim the Gospel and protect their children.
This is not an easy path to walk. Your brothers and sisters need your prayer. Their faith will falter, and their bodies will grow tired. The Body of Christ must be there to strengthen them.
The goal is not for persecution to decrease, but for Christ to increase.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~2 Corinthians 12:9-10