Prayer For Persecution At Work
Christian Persecution Today
Today, just in the book of Acts, Christians are persecuted all over the world for following Jesus.
Persecution at a Glance
Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world.
While Christian persecution takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ.
Christian torture remains an issue for believers throughout the world including the risk of imprisonment, loss of home and assets, physical torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith.
Trends show that countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are intensifying persecution against Christians, and perhaps the most vulnerable are Christian women, who often face double persecution for faith and gender.Every day we receive new reports of Christians who face threats, unjust imprisonment, harassment, beatings and even loss of family because of their faith in Jesus.
Every month, on average:
- 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons
- 105 Churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked
- 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned
Every year, we release the World Watch List—a global indicator of countries where human and religious rights are being violated, and those countries most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilization. This is the 27thyear of the Open Doors World Watch List, and it remains the only annual in-depth survey to rank the 50 most difficult countries in which to be a Christian.
According to our research:
- 245 million Christians experience high levels of persecution in the countries on the World Watch List. And worldwide, 1 in 9 Christians experience high levels of persecution.
- North Korea is ranked #1 for the 18th consecutive year as the most dangerous country for Christians.
- Islamic Oppression fuels Christian persecution in 8 of the top 10 countries.
1. The shocking reality of persecution against women
In the 2019 World Watch List reporting period, there were shocking details about the persecution experienced by Christian women. In many places, they experience “double persecution”—one for being a Christian and one for being a woman.
Even in the most restricted circumstances, gender-specific persecution is a key means of destroying the minority Christian community.
This kind of persecution is difficult to assess because it is complex, violent and hidden—in many cultures where women are specifically targeted, it is difficult if not impossible to report accurate numbers.
2. Islamic oppression continues to impact millions of Christians
In seven the top 10 World Watch List countries, the primary cause of persecution is Islamic oppression. This means, for millions of Christians—particularly those who grew up Muslim or were born into Muslim families—openly follow-ing Jesus can have painful consequences. They can be treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against for jobs or even violently attacked
3. The world’s two most-populated countries on the World Watch List
For the first time since the start of the World Watch List, India has entered the top 10. Additionally, China jumped 16 spots, from 43 to 27. Each of these countries is home to more than a billion people, so these trends are distressing.
Hindu nationalists in India continue to attack Christians with what seems no consequences, and in China, the increased power of the government and the rule of Xi Jinping continue to make open worship difficult in some parts of the country.
4. The spread of Islam across sub-Saharan Africa
While the violent excesses of ISIS and other Islamic militants have mostly disappeared from headlines from the Middle East, their loss of territory there means that fighters have dispersed to a larger number of countries not only in the region but, increasingly, into sub-Saharan Africa.
Their radical ideology has inspired or infiltrated, numerous splinter groups such as Islamic State West Africa ProvinceIslamic State West Africa Province is a sect of Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.
(ISWAP), a deadly group that broke away from Nigeria’s Boko Haraman extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria that also enslaves Christian women and girls as an integral part of their strategy.
5. More laws added to control religion
State authoritarianism is increasing in many parts of the world, supported by the ever-spreading availability of personal digital technology, which governments can increasingly track through facial recognition, electronic chips and so on. Places Vietnam, Myanmar, China and North Korea all saw increases in stricter state control of religious rights.
At Open Doors, we’ve made a commitment to stand with the persecuted—so they can be the light of Christ to their communities.
For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians.
Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and equips the Western church to advocate for the persecuted.
Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries.
Prayers for Protection at Work, Home and from Enemies
On this page you’ll find a list of prayers and verses for protection at work and home. Prayers to keep you safe and protect you from evil and enemies stand in your way.
Unless we avail ourselves within the protective arms of our God, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the attacks of the evil one. We must be diligent in reading God’s word, and ask Him to watch over and protect us individually, as well as His children. When you pray for yourself, pray for those you love, those you have never met, and even those who have hurt you in some way.
Let it be known that with God, all things are possible. Not some things, ALL things. When we feel afraid in life, ask for His protection and safety. Our Father does not desert His children. These prayers of protection are offered as a way to preempt those attacks and keep oneself and one’s loved ones under the protection of God at all times.
If the need for protection whether in your own life, or in the life of someone you love is present, let us pray for you at the holiest place on earth, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
We have faith that sending your prayer request to the place where our Lord Jesus Christ gave his life for us will help your request be granted! It is our honor and privilege to be a part of your prayer warrior, and to ask the Lord to watch over you, protect you, and keep you, always.
The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou saved me from violence. I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
2 Samuel 22:3-4
Prayer for Protection from Illness
Heavenly Father, I adore you and I love you with all my heart and soul. I thank you for having created me, and for watching over me in all that I do, every single day. Pardon me for my sins.
I ask that you watch over me while I rest and recover from illness. Please protect my body, and help me heal from this sickness that weakens me. May your unending grace be with me forever and ever.
I trust in all that You do, and all that You are.
Prayer for Divine Protection
Grant me, O Lord, your protection. Within your protection, strength. And within your strength, understanding. And within your understanding, knowledge.
And within your knowledge, the power of justice. And within the power of justice, the love of all of Creation. Guide and protect my body, my mind, and my best judgment in all things.
For you, O Lord, will never leave my side. In this I trust. Amen.
Prayer for Protection Through Life’s Journey
In the name of God I move forth through life’s journey. May God the Father always be with me, God the Son protect and watch over me, and God the Holy Ghost to stand by my side as I travel through the life you have given me. Amen
Prayer for Protection While Traveling
I ask that God’s Angels guard and keep you. As you travel, may you remain safe and secure, with His presence known to you at all times. May He watch over you as you leave home, wandering and maneuvering in other parts of God’s great earth. You are not alone. For He is always with you. Amen.
Prayer for Protection Over Your Family
Heavenly Father, I pray for your emotional, physical, and spiritual protection over my family and loved ones. I ask You to keep evil far away from them, and to help them to trust You as their refuge and strength in all things, without ceasing.
I pray You will guard their minds from harmful instruction and sinful ways, and to grant them discernment to recognize the truth.I pray that You will make them strong and if they find themselves amist danger, recognizing that You have overcome and will set right all injustice and wrong.
Please help them to find rest in your shadow, and through your everlasting embrace, as they live in the spiritual shelter You provide for them. Let them know that the only safe place is in beside their Heavenly Father, and that their home on earth is only temporary.
Prayer for Personal Protection
Oh Heavenly Father, I come to You today, bowing my head and opening my heart, asking for protection from all the evil this world holds. Lord, we are assailed moment by moment with images on television, the internet, books and newspapers that leave us vulnerable to sin of every kind, every single day.
Surround us with your divine hedge of unbreakable protection. Encompass us round about with your strength and your glorious might. Let all who take refuge in You be happy and feel safe. Please shelter us, Heavenly Father, that those who love your name may exalt in You.
For it is You who blesses the righteous man and those who give their lives to You.
“And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:13-14
“A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.” Psalm 91:7
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
23 Short Prayers — Hope for Your Soul
Whether you have had a personal relationship with God for years or you are only beginning to discover who Jesus is, we all need guidance sometimes when it comes to prayers. It’s often hard to find the words to pray, that’s why we put together this collection of short prayers.
The following short prayers offer guiding words to use for praying over various topics including worry, anxiety, doubt, forgiveness, fear, and other areas of life where we need to ask for God’s help.
Please use these prayers and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you as you add some of your own words and personalize your petitions to God.
Prayer for Peace
Father God, my heart is filled with chaos and confusion. I feel as if I am drowning in my circumstances and my heart is filled with fear and confusion. I really need the strength and peace that only You can give. Right now, I choose to rest in You. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen. ~ Mary Southerland.
Prayer for the Broken-Hearted
Lord, my heart is broken but You are near. My spirit is crushed, but You are my rescuer. Your Word is my hope. It revives me and comforts me in especially now. My soul faints, but you are the breath of life within me.
You are my help, the One who sustains me. I am weak but You are strong. You bless those who mourn, and I trust You to bless me and my family with all that we need. You will rescue me from this dark cloud of despair because You delight in me.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Jennifer White
Prayer for Perseverance
Holy Lord, Thank You for grace. Please help me move beyond the hurdles that trip me up and give me the strength and wisdom to look up and see the hope I run toward in Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Gwen Smith
Prayer for Self Control
Father, today I ask forgiveness of all the negative and harmful words I have spoken about myself. I do not want to abuse myself in such a way again. Transform my thoughts and let me understand how marvelously you made me. Change my habits so I use my tongue to speak hope and favor upon my life. In Jesus' name, Amen. ~ Sarah Coleman
Prayer for Loving Jesus
Father, I have to thank You for looking beyond my faults and for loving me unconditionally. Forgive me when I fail to love others in the same way. Give me eyes to see the needs of the difficult people in my life, and show me how to meet those needs in a way that pleases You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Mary Southerland
Prayer for God’s Direction
Lord, help me not to lean on my own understanding but in everything acknowledge You so that You can direct my words, thoughts and actions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Sharon Glasgow
Prayer For Worry
Father, I am tempted to worry about so many things. Our world is a mess! Forgive me for focusing on anything or anyone but You. Thank You for the Bible that equips and empowers me to live each day. Right now, I declare that You are my only Hope. Please help me remember that You really are in control. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Mary Southerland
Prayer for God’s Strength
Lord, thank you for your greatness. Thank you that when I am weak, you are strong. Lord, the Devil is scheming and I know he desires to keep me from spending time with you. Don’t let him win! Give me a measure of your strength so that I might not give into discouragement, deception and doubt! Help me honor you in all my ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Debbie Przybylski
~ Debbie Przybylski
Prayer When Feeling Inadequate
Dear Lord, Thank You for fearfully and wonderfully creating each of us. Thank You for giving us worth in Your eyes. Help us live as the one You uniquely intended us to be. Help us abide instead of strive, living peacefully and joyfully as heirs to Your Kingdom and co-heirs with Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Julie Sunne
Prayer for Being Grateful
Father, I am so sorry for the way I complain about my circumstances. Please forgive me for my bad attitude when things don't go my way.
I want to see Your hand in every part of every day — good or bad.
Help me learn how to face every storm with confidence, knowing that You really are in control even though I cannot hear Your voice or see Your hand at work. In Jesus Name, Amen. ~ Mary Southerland
Prayer of God’s Provision
Dear Father God, Thank You for Your unfailing love for me, Your blessings, and goodness. Thank You for Your faithfulness to guide me and see me through times of uncertainty, for lifting me up, and setting me on high.
Thank You for Scripture that comforts and reminds me of Your promises, plan, and provision. Thank you for taking away my fears and worries, the what-ifs, and reminding me that my help comes from You. Help me be a good steward and to sow wisely.
In Christ’s Name, Amen. ~ Renee Davis
Prayer for Growing Faith
Dear Lord, help me — every single morning — to find faith in the midst of the chaos. Give me the desire and ability to see You, hear You, talk to You, and give thanks to You.
And as I do, I pray that I will draw nearer and nearer to You, and that my faith will multiply exponentially as I understand in new, deeper ways that You are everything I ever hoped You would be. And so much more.
Amen. ~ Kelly O’Dell Stanley
Prayer for Confidence
Lord, help me let go of my fear of failure. I know Satan wants to use my fears to hold me back from living boldly for You.
Forgive me for not living in faith, and help me from this moment on to live with bold confidence in You. Lord, help me not compare myself to others around me.
I pray instead that I can keep my eye on You and live a life that proclaims Your excellence. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen. ~ Rick Warren
Prayer for a Heavy Heart
Lord, I want to lay before you all that weighs heavy on my heart. Reveal even the sin I am not aware of, Lord. I lay these at your feet and pray your forgiveness on me. I believe you when you say that you wash us whiter than snow. Thank you Lord for your unending love for me! Help me start fresh right now to make choices that honor you. In Jesus' Name, Amen. ~ Rick Warren
Father, sometimes it does feel that you have left us in the battle. We know that you are with us, but so are our feelings of aloneness. The Enemy seems to be taking ground. Our crying out to you seems to go unanswered. We know you are at work, but help us trust you in the midst of our questions. In Jesus' Name, Amen. ~ Ron Moore
Short Prayer for Thankfulness
God, sometimes life gets me down and I find it hard to see things to be thankful for. Open my eyes to see the gifts you’ve given me in my life. I’m going to start by thanking you for loving me enough to come to earth and die so we can live together forever. Amen. ~ Wendy van Eyck
Prayer for Restored Relationships
Father God, open my eyes to see the ways I’m Cain.
What conflicts am I allowing to brew in my family? What anger is bubbling into murderous rage in my relationships? Thank You for the clarity to see how hatred kills relationships.
I choose instead the way of love. Love protects. Help me to protect those I love by loving them. Your way is always best, Father. I pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ James MacDonald
Which one of these short prayers spoke the most to you and how can we be praying for you? Comment below and let us know!
This article is part of our larger Prayers resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Visit our most popular prayers if you are wondering how to pray or what to pray. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.
Prayer for Healing
Prayer for Strength
Prayer for Protection
Good Night Prayers
A Birthday Prayer
Prayer for Forgiveness
Prayer for Guidance
Prayer for Peace
Prayer for Faith
Prayer for Love
Now available is our new Daily Prayer devotional! An easy way to find start your day with prayer, read today’s prayer and sign up to receive by email.
Youth With A Mission – Pray about Persecution
In this, the last of our three-part series on growth, we invite you to join The Invitation this month as we pray about the persecution that often comes along with growth. According to Christianity Today magazine, persecution of Christians continued at a high level last year: “For the third year in a row, the modern persecution of Christians worldwide has hit another record high.”
YWAM’s founder, Loren Cunningham, expects more opposition in the years to come. He says “The reason I believe that persecution is going to increase on us, and I’ve already seen the signs of it, is that we are going to have a release, not just of workers but of effectiveness.”
To hear more of Loren Cunningham’s comments on how to pray about persecution, watch this short video:
Recent examples of persecution of YWAM workers include a kidnapping, families expelled from countries, one YWAM worker killed for his faith and bold witness, a YWAM worker held by militia, family members held by police, all workers from a YWAM location expelled from the country, computers and phones confiscated, home burnings of YWAM associates, burning of a church planted by a YWAM team, government harassment, imprisonment, monetary fines, beatings, hours of interrogation, and intimidation.
YWAM Ozarks prays for the persecuted church
Loren Cunningham warns that persecution can also come by legal means such as media attacks, loss of jobs, and lawsuits against Christians. YWAM leaders also express concern over the ways governments seem to be tightening their control of, and opposition to, Christians.
Persecution is different by region and even from family to family as persecution extends to that level.One of YWAM’s leaders for the Middle East notes that there are some regions currently where “we are being much more bold and active than we have been before, but getting the same or less hassle than before, but there are some areas that have become more restrictive and are continuing to tighten up.” This YWAM Middle East leader thinks YWAM has been spared significant persecution up to this point and attributes this to “possibly quite a bit of prayer cover.”
Said Steve Goode, one of YWAM’s leaders, “As we experience growth, we will also experience greater persecution. Now is the time to review and count the cost of following Jesus to the ends of the earth. God hears the cry of the poor every day and he wants us to respond, ‘Here I am Lord, send me.’”
In some cases, YWAM does not experience the persecution directly but we find ourselves helping others who have been or are being persecuted.
Some of these examples are many YWAM locations sending teams to refugee camps that house Christians who have been persecuted in their home country.
Other locations offer immediate assistance to cities, towns, and villages where Christians and new believers are persecuted.
YWAM South Sudan staff: most have had to leave due to violence
The most recent World Watch List from the organization Open Doors predicts that the top ten countries for persecution in 2017 will be North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea. YWAM has had a presence or has a presence in most of these countries.
Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). Please join us for The Invitation in April, and particularly on our prayer day April 13, as we pray about persecution.
As you prepare to pray:
- Review these Bible verses and other resources regarding the cost of following Jesus: Luke 14:25-33, Romans 8:16-17, Revelation 12:11. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulations or distress, or persecution, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35, posted by YWAM Abuja, Nigeria.)
- Read the story of a young man, previously a Muslim, who counted the cost of following Jesus and did a DTS in YWAM, southern Nigeria. (Posted by Andy Brooks, YWAM Montana.)
- Review this article, this video and this one, regarding YWAMer Dan Baumann when he was imprisoned in Iran.
- As a group or individually, ask God to give you clarity on the cost of following Jesus for your specific ministries.
Pray about Persecution
YWAM Redding, California prays for persecuted Christians
Pray about the persecution that comes with growth:
- Pray for courage and protection as we make more disciples. Pray for safety for new believers as they become rooted in Christ.
- Pray for courage to bear witness when we are persecuted, imprisoned and brought to court (Luke 21:12-13). Pray that we would endure when we are persecuted (1 Corinthians 4:12).
- Pray for YWAM locations in countries known to be the worst for persecution including: North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, and Eritrea. Pray for more workers and disciples in these countries.
- Pray for YWAM locations that have had to leave certain areas including Syria and South Sudan due to persecution and violence. Pray for eventual YWAM growth in these areas.
- Pray for YWAMers in the field who must remain relatively isolated for security reasons.
- Praise God for the way that He works in all things, including persecution, for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
- Pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).
- Pray for persecuted Christians to be rescued from their persecutors (Psalm 31:15).
- Pray for the YWAM missionary kidnapped in Africa last year. Pray for his safe return, for comfort for his family and that his captors would know Jesus.
- Pray for God to create “Pauls” those who persecute today. Pray for God to provide them with mercy and to show them love through YWAMers and other workers.
- Pray for those who are displaced and marginalized to find safety and for YWAM workers who are ministering to them.
- Pray for loved ones of martyrs of the Christian faith to see their deceased as more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). Pray also for practical relief and spiritual support for these families.
- Pray for YWAMers and their friends and families who are directly impacted by persecution. Pray for strength, wisdom and provision.
- Watch Loren Cunningham on growth and persecution: Trees of Growth for YWAM (teaching video, 14:33 minutes, 2017); and Rise of Persecution explained (6 minutes). On the Voice of the Martyrs Persecution Blog see January 30, 2017 and February 7, 2017 to hear interviews with Loren Cunningham on distributing Bibles in the hardest parts of the world.
- Read books by YWAMer Dan Baumann, who was imprisoned in Iran, to see how persecution has shaped him and his teaching within YWAM: Cell 58 (Formerly Imprisoned in Iran); A Beautiful Way; and A Fresh Look at Fear.
- Track locations, stats and trends about persecution: Voice of the Martyrs Global Report; Open Doors USA World Watch List and Country Profiles.
- Consult Operation World for more prayer points on the persecuted church in each country of the world. Adopt a country and pray regularly or focus on a new country each month or week.
- Review the Back To Jerusalem 2014 Persecution Report. (There is more coming on Back To Jerusalem in The Invitation in June).
- Read books to gain a greater understanding of persecution and the cost of following Jesus: Tomorrow You Die (International Adventures), Reona Peterson Joly, 1996, YWAM Publishing; Singing Through The Night: Courageous Stones of Faith from Women in the Persecuted Church, YWAM Publishing; Jesus Driven Ministry, Ajith Fernando (See what it looks to follow Jesus through Sri Lankan women and men who have been imprisoned for their faith); The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
- Remember and honor YWAMers who have gone to be with the Lord as a result of persecution or other reasons on the YWAM Memorial site.
- If you missed The Invitation in February or March please review these short videos about growth that were produced for The Invitation: YWAM’s Lynn Green on ten-fold growth; and Loren Cunningham on global growth.
How We Prayed
In March of 2017 we prayed for supernatural increase in YWAM’s work globally:
- YWAM Kuwede Kara, Togo, West Africa received Genesis 1:11-12 regarding multiplication in the Horn of Africa and a vision of an open eye with the Lord saying “I the Lord have my eyes on you, I support you.” They also prayed for growth of faith for staff and students and for ending Bible poverty.
- YWAM Perth sensed God giving them Hebrews 12:26-29, concluding that if we want to see growth and breakthrough we need to refine our character. They also prayed for the children who grow up in YWAM that they would have a heart for the Lord, and for smaller locations to have an increase of staff joining and increase in finances.
- An individual prayed that YWAM would influence youth in their spheres of influence and that professionals and scientists would aggregate their knowledge to the kingdom of God and the advancement of the gospel.
- YWAM Vijayawada, India posted on that they prayed for women’s ministry growth.
Don’t Miss The Invitation
Future topics for The Invitation:
- May 11, 2017: Spiritual Formation
- June 8, 2017: Back to Jerusalem
- July 13, 2017 Two-thirds-world Workers, Financial Support
Here’s how to participate:
- Sign up for prayer updates. On ywam.org, find the “Stay Connected” box on the home page, put in your email address and click “Sign Up.”
- You can now listen to The Invitation as a podcast. To sign up or listen to past episodes, go to: ywampodcast.net/category/shows/prayer.
- Join the conversation about how God is leading in these prayer times. Comment on the post on the second Thursday on YWAM’s page.
- Follow YWAM on ; search for #praywithywam and tweet about your prayer time or post a picture.
- Download prayer updates in a specific language. Go to ywam.org/theinvitation. (Currently available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Indonesian, Korean or request other languages.)
- If you sense God giving you a word or a direction for YWAM’s prayer, please contact us.
Persecution and Prayer
Christians have always been persecuted. Peter reminded his readers of this in the earliest days of the church: “…knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by the brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9b).
But it does seem as if the suffering of Christians – whether at the hands of Muslims, Hindus, or totalitarians of another stripe – has been in the news more lately.
The testimonies of our brothers and sisters in these places are sobering; but often they are also encouraging examples of grace-fueled perseverance.
I sometimes wonder how I would feel or pray if I was faced with serious persecution. Would I be self-pitying? Vengeful? What are the key theological truths which need to be grasped most tightly during these times?
In Acts 4, we read about a prayer meeting which follows right on the heels of intense persecution. Peter and John had just been released by the temple officials, but they had been ordered not to speak about Jesus any more. The threat of suffering and death was real, and they had just experienced a foretaste of it. So what did they pray upon their release? What would you pray?
There are four main truths they meditated on in their prayer – four key teachings about God which they held tightly.The first is that God is the sovereign creator: “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and everything in them” (Acts 4:24).
The truth of God as creator is revealed to us in the very first chapter of the Bible. It is foundational to everything that follows.
God’s authority and his work as creator insured that he was over and above anything else that might come against them. What a comfort in times of persecution!
The second main truth is that God had promised judgment for those who opposed him. This is found in verses 25-26, and is mainly encapsulated in a quotation from Psalm 2.
Psalm 2 begins with a rhetorical question about human rulers: Why do they oppose God, since it is ultimately in vain? God’s response to their opposition is laughter and anger and he promises swift judgment upon them.
In our day, we shy away from affirming the judgment of God, but when facing God’s enemies, God’s righteous judgment is not an embarrassment, but a great comfort. God will make all things right; he will judge those who oppose him. Their ultimate end is in his hands.
Thirdly, these early persecuted Christians focused on the fact that God predestines. Specifically, they affirm his predestination in the death of Jesus Christ. Although those who killed Jesus are held responsible for their sin, yet nonetheless God had predestined for it to occur.
If that was true of the most wicked injustice in all of history, how much more was it true of whatever unfair persecution they or we might undergo? Once again, we shy away from this doctrine of predestination and of God’s perfect plan.
But when we are faced with persecution, it becomes a sweet and significant truth.Finally, these Christians knew that not only had God worked in creation, not only had he promised judgment, not only had he predestined that which takes place, but, in addition to all these things, he was at work even in their own day.
We know this because in verse 30 the Christians pray for God’s continued work: “…while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” God had not left these disciples on their own. He was not sitting distantly aside, merely watching what transpired in their persecution. No.
He was still at work through his church. This persecution, painful as it was, did nothing to thwart God’s work at all.
In the midst of all this, the earliest Christians prayed for boldness (29), and we should pray for this today as well. We need to be bold and clear in our presentation of the gospel.
But as we pray for boldness, let us remember these four doctrines which meant so much to them.
They are truths much maligned today, but they are vital to our lives as pilgrims here on earth; and to those of the brotherhood around the world who are suffering even now, they are simply indispensable.
The above article was originally posted at aplacefortruth.org and is re-posted here with the kind permission of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
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Persecution of Christians in the World Today — Lausanne Movement
Similarly, while the twentieth century was the ‘bloodiest century’, particularly in relation to Christian martyrdom, the twenty-first century is witnessing yet more Christian martyrs, with an estimated 100,000 in 2013 and a rising trend projected (Johnson and Crossing 2013, 33; Johnson 2012).
Religious freedom overview
According to Brian Grim, an expert on religious freedom issues, over five billion people presently live under religious restrictions or hostilities, the majority of them being felt by religious minorities (Grim 2013). Grim’s designations ‘religious restrictions’ (or ‘government restrictions’) and ‘social hostilities’ are important and helpful terms for our understanding of religious persecution today:
- Religious restrictions are laws set in place by governments. For example, a law making blasphemy of a religious tenet punishable by imprisonment or death is a government religious restriction.
- Social hostilities can be seen as consequences of functioning contrary to a norm enforced by a society.
As Grim illustrates, the antagonism, threats, and even physical violence Ahmadiyya Muslims sometimes experience as a result of government restrictions placed upon them (e.g.
, legally restricting their activity to their mosques) are social hostilities (ibid.).
Socio-political definitions these are helpful to our understanding of persecution and support our ability to measure, analyse, and aid victims of religious persecution.
With this in mind, Grim notes that two-thirds of the world’s population lives in countries with high government restrictions:
- More specifically, one-quarter of the world’s population lives in countries with laws restricting religious symbols, and over one-third of countries worldwide imprison people religion.
- Significantly, 23% restrict conversion, a restriction which, when broken, often leads to social hostilities.
Over half of the world’s population lives in countries with high social hostilities against religions:
- These include one-in-seven countries where sectarian violence is present.
- Religion-related terrorism exists in over 30% of the world’s countries, and in over one-third of countries world-wide social groups use force to impose religious norms (ibid.).
Of course, many of these demographics relate to restrictions and hostilities in countries where their occurrence is most frequent. However, some infrequent restrictions and hostilities also occur.
For instance, while Egypt or Russia may have high government restrictions (e.g.
, restricting conversion in Egypt or restricting mosques in Russia), religious symbols have been restricted in the United Kingdom, where restrictions or hostilities are not otherwise common (ibid.).
Persecution of Christians
Not only do these statistics show that religious persecution is a global problem, but they demonstrate that persecution is not only a Christian concern.
Nevertheless, it also remains the case that “Christians are the single most widely persecuted religious group in the world today” with one source estimating that “75% of acts of religious intolerance are directed against Christians” (Marshall, Gilbert, and Shea 2013, 4).
Christians in the Middle East
To take one region as an example, countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) rank high on Grim’s scale measuring government restrictions and social hostilities connected to religion. In this region, Christianity exists as a minority religion, often the largest religious minority among others:
- Many MENA countries favor one religion to the detriment of others.
- In fact, MENA ranks eight times higher than countries in the rest of the world in religious favoritism (Grim 2013).
- In a similar way, MENA countries rank nearly four times higher in sectarian violence related to religious restrictions than countries in the rest of the world (ibid.).
At the risk of some over-simplification, the reasons for rising religious persecution in MENA are numerous and ly a mix of religious, historical, political, and economic factors. MENA has a long history of controlling religious communities by means of government restriction:
- The Byzantines taxed their conquered and religious minorities.
- Later Muslim governors used a very similar system to control the non-Muslim groups they ruled.
- Under the Ottomans, religious groups were divided and subdivided into millets.
- Similar restrictive controls were also employed in the region under British and French mandates.
With such tight control over religious (and ethnic) populations, social hostilities are often inevitable, especially as one religious group rises in power.
Moreover, Christians can sometimes pay the price in reactions against Western dominance and influence in the region.
While the 2011 Arab uprisings, in general a reaction to perceived tyranny and Western-supported governments, brought some political freedoms, they did not often yield religious freedoms for the region’s religious minorities.In some cases, the perceived connections between Christianity and the West—a perception not helped by the West’s political presence, but also a history of Christian mission that was not always charitable—can make local Christian populations, as ancient as many of them may be, appear suspect to many.
In future, if the role of Islam in government becomes a more central feature in MENA, the place of religious favoritism, even if it is (mistakenly) seen as a means for controlling religious groups, must be challenged.
Further, as Western Christians seek to advocate religious freedoms for their brothers and sisters in MENA, local Christians must be allowed to take the lead as a spirit of true solidarity and unity with one another is emphasised.
Developing a theology of persecution
Christians must reflect on what the rising trend of religious persecution means for the Church today. Doing so will involve engaging in more developed theological reflection on persecution than the Church has exhibited in the past (Tieszen 2008, 18-35).
One of the Church’s most pervasive struggles in this area is its common misunderstanding of persecution as only physical violence.
In fact, as Grim’s work suggests, persecution can occur in a number of non-violent ways such as antagonism, ostracism, legal restrictions, etc.
In fact, even though restrictions can lead to violent hostilities, it can also be the case that legal restrictions on religion can be so strict that violent hostilities are curbed—or indeed redundant:
- For example, restricting a religious community’s life and activity to a ghetto would also proscribe interaction with other religious communities and thereby eliminate possible inter-religious violence as well.
- Over-emphasizing violent acts may thus risk overlooking non-violent restrictions that are still forms of persecution.
The Church must also work out a thorough theological definition of the religious persecution of Christians, one that complements socio-political definitions those of Grim and others (Tieszen 2012).
With a proper definition in place, the Church will be able to identify persecution wherever and however it occurs, engage in proper theological reflection upon the event, and offer comprehensive advocacy on behalf of victims:
- One area where this may be most felt is in the presence of rising secularization and privatization of religion in the West, quite possibly a form of persecution in its own right.
- If this is the case, then the Church, especially in the West, must reflect upon its role in a society where it is increasingly marginal and marginalized.
Advocacy and solidarity
The rising trend of religious restrictions and social hostilities also means that the Church must continue in its effort to advocate religious freedoms and to place itself in solidarity with those who suffer. Advocacy efforts are aided by the work of those Grim, the World Watch List, the International Institute of Religious Freedom, and others.
However, Christians in the West—still most able to help non-Westerners who are more frequently the victims of intense persecution—must give more thought to what it means to be present among those who suffer.Even more, the Church must consider the ways in which its efforts to promote and support religious freedoms complement its theological and biblical role as a suffering people.
This latter theological consideration may further point to the importance of large segments of the Church recapturing theologies of martyrdom and persecution, especially ones that offer a place for the memory and celebration of the Church’s martyrs.
Finally, while the Church’s advocacy is vital, the way in which it engages in this task alongside governments has important theological implications for Church-state relations:
If, in its effort to lobby governments, the Church cedes control of religious freedom to secular bodies, then the Church may lose its authentic, visible witness such that it cannot function as a body in authentic solidarity with those being persecuted (Hauerwas 1999).
When this occurs, the Church functionally interiorizes religion.
As a result the Church purchases its freedom from the state; Christians become responsible for the soul while secular groups and governments control the body (Cavanaugh 2002, 87).
Theologically understood, Christ is head of the Church, body and soul.
The Church’s true religious freedom, then, is found when it is a part of Christ’s unified body and functions from a position of solidarity, not just by caring for persecuted souls, but by having something to say to the world about persecuted bodies as well. This latter function is not just the job of governments, a point significantly impacting Church-state relations and what it means that the Church is a persecuted body.
There is a rising trend of religious persecution in the world today. While Christians have no monopoly on suffering, they are frequently the victims of it and will continue to suffer its presence in the world.
The Church is meant to be Christ’s suffering body in the world. The reality of persecution in the life of the Church also speaks to theological realities.
The Church must continue to reflect theologically on the persecution it endures even as it continues to advocate the religious freedoms that all of humanity deserves.Cavanaugh, William T. Theopolitical Imagination: Discovering the Liturgy as a Political Act in an Age of Consumerism. New York: T & T Clark, 2002.
Grim, Brian J. “The Numbers of Religious Freedom.” Lecture, TEDx ViaDellaConciliazione, Vatican City, April 2013. http://www.pewforum.org/Government/The-Numbers-of-Religious-Freedom–Brian-J–Grim-at-TEDxViadellaConcilizaione.aspx. Accessed 1 June 2013.
Hauerwas, Stanley. “The Politics of Freedom: Why Freedom of Religion is a Subtle Temptation.” In After Christendom. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999.
Johnson, Todd M. “The Demographics of Martyrdom.” In Sorrow and Blood: Christian Mission in Contexts of Suffering, Persecution, and Martyrdom, ed. William D. Taylor, Antonia van der Meer, and Reg Reimer. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2012.
Johnson, Todd M., and Peter F. Crossing. “Christianity 2013: Renewalists and Faith and Migration.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 37, no. 1 (January 2013): 32-33.
Marshall, Paul, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea. Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013.
Tieszen, Charles L. “Redefining Persecution.” In Sorrow and Blood: Christian Mission in Contexts of Suffering, Persecution, and Martyrdom, ed. William D. Taylor, Antonia van der Meer, and Reg Reimer. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2012.
Tieszen, Charles L. Re-Examining Religious Persecution: Constructing a Theological Framework for Understanding Persecution. Kempton Park: AcadSA, 2008.