Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
-- Hebrews 12:3, NIV.
Persecution is not new to the Christian church. No sooner did the church get off the ground than the persecution began, as Peter and John were brought before the religious leaders and threatened. Not long after this, the apostles were jailed (Acts 5:17-18) and then flogged (Acts 5:40). Next, Stephen was seized and stoned to death (Acts 6-7) and a great persecution broke out in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-3). The conversion of Saul, one of the chief persecutors of the church (Acts 9) didn't stem the tide; we see James the brother of John beheaded (Acts 12:2) and Peter imprisoned Acts 12) shortly after this. It's no wonder that Peter later wrote to the scattered believers that they shouldn't be surprised at the persecutions they were undergoing (1 Peter 4:12-19).
Paul, once a persecutor of the church, found himself on the other end of that persecution after his conversion. Jesus had warned him how much he would suffer in his new role as proclaimer of the gospel (Acts 9:16), and much of the rest of the book of Acts chronicles not just Paul's successes, but also his suffering. Paul summarizes some of the persecution he faced in 1 Corinthians 11:24-26.
The situation of the church hasn't changed much over the centuries. Persecution by governments from Rome in the New Testament times to North Korea and the Islamic countries today; violence at the hands of institutionalized religion even within the church (common in the Middle Ages and still prevalent in some countries like Mexico); oppression and harassment from family, employers, and neighbors - these occur on a wider scale today than at any time in the church's 2000-year history.
And what is the response of those persecuted for their faith? What is their number one request of believers around the world? Prayer. Prayer, like the prayer of the New Testament church at the beginning of their persecution (Acts 4:23-31). Prayer, like the prayer of the gathered believers for Peter while he was in prison (Acts 12:12ff). Prayer, like the prayer commanded in Hebrews 12:3.
Each year, in response to the worldwide persecution of Christians, the church observes an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. The official dates this year are Sunday, November 1 and November 8; but prayer initiatives will be taking place throughout the month. And PrayNetwork Spotlight will focus in the month of November on various prayer initiatives for the Persecuted Church, as well as pointing out resources to help believers pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters.
A great way to get started observing this month of prayer is to watch the recorded IDOP webcast on the Open Doors website. It's a couple of hours long, so allow some time. You can find the link here: http://live.opendoorsusa.org/.
We'll feature further websites and resources in the next few editions of the PrayNetwork Spotlight. Please join us in prayer!
How about you? Do you have any stories of persecution and God's provision? Any special experiences in praying for the persecuted? Join the conversation!
PrayNetwork.org Spotlight by Andrew Wheeler.
See Andrew's website at www.togetherinprayer.net