Monday December 19, 2011
Prayer for Boldness and Courage? by Elaine CortezI am fairly new to the subject of persecution. I feel I probably represent the average western Christian in how we think about it. I've always known that scripture refers to persecution, and at times when reading the scriptures and I would run across those verses, and would be prompted to pray for them. My prayers for them were 'spotty' to say the least. Over the years however, those scriptures began to show up more often! My spirit within me quickened, and interest in praying for them increased. But I still did not really knowing how to pray, what to pray, and again didn't pray on a regular basis for them.
Recently the Lord grabbed a hold of my heart and drew me into a deeper understanding and devotion to remembering them in prayer. I'm now amazed at just how much scripture refers to the persecuted, and how often we are told by the Apostle Paul to pray for them, and embrace them. Later, I was introduced to International Christian Response. I met with an ICR Ambassador, several times and he encouraged me to read several books on persecution. It was through these readings that I began to have a deeper and clearer understanding of who they are, and why they are so set aside by the Lord. The more I read the more they become alive in my heart and mind - I feel connected to them. I have also had the opportunity to hear different speakers from some of these persecuted countries and again, my heart is blessed
I am now finding that instead of praying 'for' them, I am praying 'with' them as brothers and sisters in the Lord. I am constantly challenged by their deep, deep love for the Lord - their boldness in their witness - their zeal to stand strong before Him. I now see how their persecution has driven them even closer to the Lord, and their numbers are growing because of that. One man put it so succinctly - "Remember, as the idols are smashed, the gospel grows." (Faith that Endures, pg 15). In listening to a persecuted converted Muslim believer, I heard that same kind of thought when she said, "When Suddam's reign collapsed it was the best thing that could have happened for Christian growth in the underground churches, because thousands of people were desperate to find 'light' in all that 'darkness'." It actually made them desperate for God.
Many of us in the West are not desperate for God - instead, we take Him for granted. The persecuted are prepared for and ready to die for their Lord. That thought hasn't crossed most of our minds. We have much to learn from them. The persecuted believer understands that their witness for Christ could very well cost them their very life. In Romans 8:35-37 we read, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." In Romans 8:17-18 we read: "Since I am Your child, O God, I am Your heir, and a joint heir with Christ, if indeed I share in His sufferings in order that I may also share in His glory. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to me." This is how they face their persecution - as an honor!
Many of those who are persecuted say that their most urgent need is prayer. The prayer they desire is not for relief from suffering but for the strength and ability to endure suffering for the sake of Christ. Not all who are persecuted live a victorious life in Christ. Some are beaten down emotionally and physically and return to their Muslim families 'in disguise' - going back to the safety net of family, but worshipping undercover so to speak.. We are not to judge by any means. They as well need our prayers. I was most surprised when I read how the persecuted believer prays for their persecutor! The Lord has time and again responded to those prayers when something was said or done that stuck in the mind of that persecutor, and he then sought out the Lord and found Him. We have so much to learn from the simplicity of their worship - their devotion to their Lord - their boldness in their living for Him - their determination to share this new found faith with family and friends. I urge you to become acquainted with our persecuted believers all over the world. It' an experience you will never forget!