International (MNN) — This coming Sunday, November 5th, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). We’re doing a series of feature stories on the persecuted Church and how we can pray leading to IDOP.
First, we reached out to Todd Nettleton with the Voice of the Martyrs USA to ask, why is this day is so important?
“International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is a day where we hope every church will take some time out to follow the scriptural mandate that says, ‘Remember those in bonds as if you were bound with them.’”
He also says, “This is the first thing that persecuted Christians ask us to do. When our VOM staff travel around the world, we sit down, we meet with Christians facing persecution, we say, ‘We’re going back to America. How can American Christians help you?’ The first thing they ask is, ‘Pray for us. Please pray for us.’”
The power of prayer is clear throughout the Bible. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, believers are commanded to “pray without ceasing”. And when Jesus began the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18, verse one says, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
When it comes to the suffering, a tendency can be to focus our prayers on an end to the suffering. While not a bad thing to pray for, Nettleton says our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters tend to have a different perspective on suffering and faith.
“The challenging thing to me is that their prayer request is not, ‘Pray that we won’t have to suffer anymore. Pray that our government will change and suddenly we’ll be free to worship.’ Their prayer request is, ‘Pray that we’ll be faithful to Christ no matter the cost.’”
So on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, he reflects, “We’re literally joining hands with our persecuted brothers and sisters in hostile and restricted nations and we’re being unified with them through our prayers.”
Get Your Church Involved!
It’s not too late for your church to participate in IDOP this coming Sunday. The Voice of the Martyrs has several resources free for your church to utilize as you join the persecuted Church in prayer.
“One of the things we do every year is a video…to show in your service on Sunday morning as you lead into the prayer time and it really illustrates the need for prayer. The video this year from VOM USA is a video that shares the story from Richard Wurmbrand’s imprisonment. Richard Wurmbrand was the founder of our ministry. He spent 14 years in prison and one of the things that the video says this year is, remember, we’re not only praying for Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted but Jesus actually calls us to pray for the persecutors as well.”
Other resources include church bulletin inserts, powerpoint slides, and more! Click here to get IDOP materials from Voice of the Martyrs.
Even if your church already has something else scheduled on November 5th, Nettleton says, “Okay, do it on November 12th. Do it on November 19th. Do it even after Thanksgiving on November 26th. But some Sunday, have your church gather around the throne of God and lift up our persecuted brothers and sisters. Every church ought to do this.”
Finally, Nettleton implores, “Don’t make this a day you that you sort of cross off on your calendar and then say, ‘Okay, yeah, we’re done with that for this year.’ This needs to be a pattern individually. And again, Voice of the Martyrs has resources. We have an app for your phone that will pull up a new prayer request every day. We’ll send you an email every week with fresh prayer requests.
“Praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters is not just a once a year thing. This is a great day where we kind of unite and join hands and pray together, but we need to be praying for Christians facing persecution every single day.”
A Prayer for the Persecuted Church
As the Global Body of Christ prepares to pray together for the persecuted Church, we asked Nettleton to share his prayer:
“Jesus, we’re so thankful for our brothers and sisters who say ‘Jesus is more important than my personal safety or my comfort or even my freedom. Following Jesus is the most important thing in my life.’ And I pray Lord that their example would inspire us Christians in free countries that we would be inspired by their example to be more passionate about our own faith, to be more passionate about our own time in your Word, our own time in prayer, that we would just follow their example and be inspired by that.
“Lord, we pray for Christians who are in prison, Christians who are homeless because they are not allowed to live in their village or because their home has been destroyed. Father, firstly, we pray that you would just encourage them, that you would strengthen them to face the challenges and the trials that they’re facing. We pray, Lord, that you would protect them and provide for them. Allow other Christians to help them, even Christians from outside the country.
“Father, the last thing I would pray is that they would know — supernaturally even at this moment — they would know someone is praying for them, that they’re not alone, they’re not forgotten, but that they are being prayed for right even at this moment. Lord, we thank you again for their example.
“I pray for the American Church as we remember the International Day of Prayer, as we join hands to pray for persecuted Christians, let them inspire us and let this become a regular part of our prayer lives to lift up those who are in prison, those who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ. In Jesus name, amen.”