Religiously motivated persecution is on the rise around the world. According to a recent report, 75 percent of all victims of religiously motivated violence and oppression are Christians1. By some estimates, more Christians died for their faith in the last century than in the previous 19 centuries combined2, and Christians continue to flee their homes, cities and countries in record numbers. Now more than ever, followers of Christ have a responsibility to pray and advocate for our fellow believers worldwide.
In response to the urgency of this need, Sunday, Nov. 12, has been declared the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
As a participating Fellowship, the Assemblies of God encourages its churches and members to use this date for a special time of prayer. Pastors can highlight the subject of the suffering church during regularly scheduled prayer meetings, call for special prayer meetings, or use time in Sunday services to focus on the plight of persecuted Christians.
Along with this annual nationwide emphasis, AG World Missions spotlights key prayer needs of suffering believers around the world every week of the year on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.
“Many believers in the Western/Northern worlds have no idea about suffering. I believe the Lord is calling us (in our relatively suffering-free existence) to be informed, pray and advocate for those who suffer daily,” states AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis. “Consider this: When believers handle suffering joyfully and with stability, it becomes a marvelous testimony to the power and life of Christ that we claim and name. Suffering provides key opportunities to manifest and magnify the power of God through His servants to verify and confirm the messenger and his message.”
Such was the case of an Assemblies of God pastor in a restricted access country who served three prison terms for preaching the gospel. During his third imprisonment, he led 42 prisoners and two prison guards to Christ. One of the 42 prisoners became an evangelist who led more than 700 people to Christ during the first month after his release from prison.
“Until deliverance comes — or even if it does not come in this life — hardship and suffering can be endured in the power of God,” says missionary Randy Hurst, who serves on the WAGF Commission on Religious Liberty. “God never promised we would never suffer; instead, He promised that His grace and power are sufficient for us. Some suffering brothers and sisters say, ‘Don’t pray for our release from persecution. Pray that God will give us strength and an open door to witness for Christ.’ They want to accomplish God’s purpose in their lives, not escape their problems. Like the Early Church believers, they are rejoicing that they are worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name. However, those who are suffering persecution almost always plead with us to ask their fellow believers to remember them and to intercede for them regularly in prayer. The knowledge that we are aware of their sufferings and are praying for them is an essential comfort to them in their very trying circumstances.”
- That the many Christians forced to keep their faith a secret will experience fellowship and encouragement and will grow in faith and doctrine.
- For protection and steadfastness for Christians converts who are faced with major difficulties within their families.
- For comfort for imprisoned and maltreated Christians, healing of their physical and emotional wounds, and willingness to forgive.
- For God to work in the hearts of those who persecute Christians, and Jesus to reveal himself to politicians and other government leaders.
- For compassionate societies that do not automatically view Christians as enemies.
1 Aid to the Church in Need 2015-2017 Report, “Persecuted and Forgotten”
2 Center for the Study of Global Christianity
Source: AG News