Prayer For The Protection Of Persecuted Christians
PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS—Why and how should we pray and act for the suffering church?
See this page in: Dutch, Indonesian
“…as followers of Christ, we must take a bold step: we must shed the ‘enemy image’ we have of those who persecute us. Because the moment we have an enemy image of anyone, God's love can no longer work through us to reach them! We must pray for and even love those who hate us.”
Each year, millions of Christians around the world participate in an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. For those of you who take part, I want to thank you on behalf of all those millions of beleaguered Christians living in areas where faith costs the most.
We have to speak for the 200 million Christians worldwide who live under persecution (examples). We have to speak against those oppressive regimes where atrocities still happen, because we do not speak up enough as the church in the free world. We do not speak enough to God through prayer about the issue, and we do not speak enough to and through our governments.
what is the solution? The Bible clearly teaches us it is forgiveness and reconciliation, bathed in prayer
Around the world the situation is the same: the suffering cannot cope without our help. But what is the solution? The Bible clearly teaches us it is forgiveness and reconciliation, bathed in prayer.[Note: A Biblical study on how to pray for the persecuted church is presented below.]
I was in a Christian town totally destroyed in one night by a wild Muslim mob, leaving 10,000-20,000 Christians homeless, seeing all their possessions destroyed. We had a big gathering of Christians and Muslims right afterward, and we spoke about forgiveness and reconciliation.
Why? Because life goes on even during and after persecution! We have to look for those opportunities, not just the needs, not just the crises, but the opportunities and the solutions that God gives to those who are dedicated to him.
On that very same day, I received a telephone call from the main Imam [Muslim leader] of that country. He said, “Brother Andrew, can you please come and pray with me? I am very sick!”So I decided to take a local pastor with me who had just been released from prison; a man who had suffered because of the Muslims. Together, along with other members of our Open Doors team, we went to see him. There I explained exactly who Jesus was.
I gave a testimony of my personal faith in Christ. Then I began to pray, and I laid my hands on this Imam, and as I was praying I felt a hand on top of my hand. It was the pastor who had just come from prison.
What a perfect illustration of the teaching of Jesus: pray for those who persecute you.
Christians have an answer in those situations that the world does not know anything about. But as followers of Christ, we must take a bold step: we must shed the “enemy image” we have of those who persecute us. Because the moment we have an enemy image of anyone, God's love can no longer work through us to reach them! We must pray for and even love those who hate us.
I’m willing to die for Him, and I’m also willing to die for you
So in reality, the way Christians live out their lives before others is the most powerful message we can share. It far transcends the words or methods we may try to employ to impact a needy world in the face of the challenging question, “Who is God?”.
Christians must be able to point to our hearts and say, “Here is God! He lives in me.
And I'm willing to die for Him, and I'm also willing to die for you because that's what He did for us on the cross at Calvary!” Nothing else will work in this age of confrontation unless and until every Christian is not only willing to give their lives, but one day actually does it.
I challenge the Christians of the world to pray for their persecuted brothers and sisters, to act on their behalf and to live out the life of Jesus in this needy world around us. Only then we will see a radical change take place in the lives of people. Only then we will see the love of Christ replace the hatred of this world.
Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors
How to Pray for the Persecuted Church
For their physical protection and deliverance.
Matthew 26:39 “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
Acts 12:5 “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”
Philippians 1:19 “For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance [from jail] through your prayers.”Philemon 22 “I hope that through your prayers I shall be given to you [from jail].”
Romans 15:30-31 “Now I urge you, brethren… to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea”.
God predicted persecution:
Acts 20:23-24 “the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course”
And the suffering came:
Acts 21:30-31 “And all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together; and taking hold of Paul, they dragged him the temple; and… were seeking to kill him.”
That God would give them the right words and that they would fearlessly make Christ known
Here Paul tells how to pray for him when he was suffering for Christ in jail—notice his prayer was not for release.
Ephesians 6:19-20 “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
[See our Effective Evangelism section]
Colossians 4:2-4 “Devote yourselves to prayer… praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.”
That they will see God's grace as sufficient and God's power perfected in their weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
That they would love Christ's appearing all the more
2 Timothy 4:5-8 “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Hebrews 11:35 “…others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection”.
That they will rejoice in sharing the sufferings of Jesus so that they will rejoice even more when Christ is revealed
Hebrews 10:34 “…accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.”Matthew 5:12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
I Peter 4:13 “but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”
That they will endure
Hebrews 10:36 “For you have need of endurance.”
That they will choose ill-treatment and the reproach of Christ, not pleasures of sin
Hebrews 11:24-26 “Moses… (chose) rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.”
That they will arm themselves with this purpose: to suffer so as to eradicate sin
1 Peter 4:1 “arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in flesh has ceased from sin.”
Hebrews 5:8 “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”
That they will love Christ far more than life itself
Revelation 12:10-11 “they overcame (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.”
Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Acts 20:24 “I (Paul) do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course.”
That they will love their enemies
Luke 6:27-31 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
That they not enter into temptation—an easy possibility under the stress of persecution (Luke 22:39-45 – Jesus in the garden)
That they will rejoice that they are considered worthy to suffer for HIS name
Acts 5:41 “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
That they will remember they were made for such persecution
Acts 14:22 “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Philippians 1:29 “For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
That they will live the joy of the Lord before their persecutors
Acts 16:25 “But about midnight Paul and Silas (in jail) were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
Philippians 1:28 “…in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.”
That they will remember their unbelievable future glory
Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
That they would learn to more completely trust in God
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead”
That they would rejoice that they bear in their bodies the “brand marks of Christ”
Galations 6:17 “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.”
That they would rejoice in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's sufferings
Colossians 1:24 “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions.”
Note: Our sufferings do not add to the atoning worth of Jesus' sufferings. Rather, His sufferings are not known to the world, and so we suffer to bring that news to those His sufferings were meant to save.
This Biblical study on how to pray for the persecuted church was submitted by a friend of Films for Christ, a pastor who prefers to remain anonymous.
More about persecution
Brother Andrew, a Dutchman whose real name is Anne van der Bijl, has always been a trailblazer. He made history during the early days of the Cold War when in 1955 he began “smuggling” Bibles into Communist Eastern Europe.
On the last day of his first trip, as he sat reading his Bible, he says that the Lord spoke to him through Revelation 3:2 to “strengthen what remains and is on the point of death.
” His delivery of one suitcase of Christian literature to the suffering church in Poland was the humble beginning of Open Doors with Brother Andrew, now an international ministry that brings literature and much-needed assistance to Christians living in difficult circumstances in 58 countries around the world.
Authors: First portion provided by Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors, via Assist Communications, PO Box 2126, Garden Grove, CA 92842-2126, USA. Second portion provided by a friend of Films for Christ, a pastor who wishes to remain anonymous.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, Films for Christ, All Rights Reserved—except as noted on attached “Usage and Copyright” page that grants ChristianAnswers.Net users generous rights for putting this page to work in their homes, personal witnessing, churches and schools.
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5 Powerful Prayers for Protection and Safety
Our world is filled with events and situations that can cause great fear and anxiety. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and live imprisoned by fear.
We are promised in God’s Word that he is faithful and will protect us (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
God wants us to let go of fear and to live life to the fullest! (John 10:10) When you are overcome by worry, use these prayers for protection to remember who God is and the protection he has promised you.
1. Prayer for Personal Protection
Father, I come to You today, bowing in my heart, asking for protection from the evil one. 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. Surround us with Your divine hedge of protection.
Encompass us round about with Your strength and Your might. Let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy. And may You shelter us, that those who love Your name may exult in You. For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him favor as with a shield.
Lord, I ask that You protect our minds. Father, the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6) O God, set our minds on You.Let us not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we may prove what Your will is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:2) Help us by the power of Your Spirit to think on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, let our minds dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Strengthen us in the power of Your might, O God. Dress us in Your armor so that we can stand firm against the schemes of the devil. We know that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.(Ephesians 6:10-12)
You are our keeper, O Lord, the shade on our right hand. Protect us from all evil and keep our soul. Guard our going out and our coming in. From this time and forever. In Jesus' name, Amen. – by Lynn Cooke
2. Prayer for the Protection and Safety of Family
Lord, I pray Your emotional, physical, and spiritual protection over my kids (grandkids). Keep evil far from them, and help them to trust You as their refuge and strength. I pray You will guard their minds from harmful instruction, and grant them discernment to recognize truth.
I pray You will make them strong and courageous in the presence of danger, recognizing that You have overcome and will set right all injustice and wrong one day. Help them to find rest in Your shadow, as they live in the spiritual shelter You provide for them.
Let them know that the only safe place is in Jesus, and that their home on earth is only temporary. – Ryan Duncan, Culture Editor at Crosswalk.com
3. Prayer for Children's Security
Lord, I pray that my kids (grandkids) will develop an eternal perspective and purpose, not an earthly one. Help them to see life–and every challenge–through Your eyes, eager and unafraid to share with others the good news of Jesus wherever they go.
I pray that they will set their minds on things above, not just what’s going on here, and that they will be rooted and grounded in Your love. I pray they will come to understand the extent of Your own love for them–that it surpasses all the head knowledge they will acquire in school.
I pray they will be filled up with You from morning ’til night. – Rebecca Barlow Jordan
4. “St. Patrick's Breastplate” Protective Prayer:
Celtic monks used it to start their day.The hymn was several stanzas long, and the last two stanzas were especially memorable and moving:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name, The strong Name of the Trinity; By invocation of the same. The Three in One, and One in Three, Of Whom all nature hath creation, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
5. “Priestly Blessings” Prayer from Scripture:
Numbers 6:22-27 is known as the “Priestly Blessing” or sometimes the “Aaronic Benediction.” There are seven requests made in this prayer.
The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “’The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”' “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
1. The Lord bless you…
The word “bless” means to “provide favor or benefit.” Father, we pray that for our children. You are the Eternal God. Please place Your great kindness and advantage on those we love. May they be approved and favored by You.
2. and keep you…
The Hebrew word “keep” means to “watch, guard, defend.” This is a prayer for protection. Father, my children are not perfect. They are going to make mistakes. But please watch over them and guard them again mistakes of youth that are unalterable. Please defend them against temptation. Protect them against Satan who desires to devour them.
3. the LORD make his face shine upon you…
This is a request for God’s presence.Father, as a parent I know that I can’t be with my children all the time, but You can. Just they feel the warmth of the sun shining on them, please allow them to experience Your presence. Thank You for being with them wherever they go.
4. and be gracious to you…
Grace is God’s undeserved favor. He gives us what we don’t deserve. Father, thank You for Your gift of grace. I pray that gift to be poured out on my children. Following that great gift of salvation, please show them your kindness and love in all the endeavors of their lives.
5. the Lord turn his face toward you…
Here is a request for God’s fellowship.Father, thank You, that because of their trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in my children. Please walk with them in a powerful way. Enable them to submit to the Spirit’s control day by day and moment by moment.
The Hebrew word for peace used here is “shalom.” It means “completeness, wholeness, and contentment.” Lord, please calm my children’s fears; soothe their anxious souls. Keep them complete and whole in their thinking, emotions, desires, and actions.
7. So they will put my name on ___________ (the name of your child/children). This is a request of identification. Lord, please place Your holy mark on my children. Set them apart to be used by You.
I love them but You love them more. You love them with an everlasting love. May they represent You well on their earthly journey. And when their journey is completed, welcome them home to live forever with You.
(notes by Ron Moore, The Journey)
Prayers for Protection and Safety from the Bible
“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:3
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1
“My prayer is not that you take them the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” – John 17:15
'And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” – Matthew 6:13
“Because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:10-11
Read more Bible verses about protection.
What are you praying for protection over today? Comment below to join our large praying community.
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.
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Bible Verses for the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
Content manager for Bible Gateway[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, Standing Strong Through the Storm: Stories from the Persecuted Church] [See the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Staggering Picture of Christian Persecution: An Interview with Johnnie Moore]
[See books in the Bible Gateway Store on the subject of Christian persecution]
The International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (#IDOP) is a time set apart to remember millions of Christians around the world who face persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ.[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, International Day(s) of Prayer for the Persecuted Church]
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)
“Persecution is the daily reality of at least 100 million Christians around the world,” says Godfrey Yogarajah, executive director, World Evangelical Alliance, Religious Liberty Commission (@WEARLC1).
“These Christians, who face routine harassment and difficulties, often suffer in silence and isolation. Over the years, the IDOP has served as a platform to highlight their stories and advocate their plight.
Moreover, in so doing, the IDOP has also been a source of solidarity and encouragement to persecuted Christians by reminding them that they are part of a larger, global family of believers.”[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, I Am N: An Interview with Cole Richards and Jason Peters]
…We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out. We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies….
2 Corinthians 4:8-12 (CEB)
While the number of Christians martyred for their faith every year is difficult to precisely assess, Open Doors USA estimates that, in 2015, more than 7,000 Christians were killed specifically because of their faith.
Open Doors, with its list of countries where Christians are most in need of prayer, urges Christians and churches to remember those killed and pray for those in more than 60 countries still facing persecution because of their faith (see the Open Doors page).
“Under Caesar’s Sword” is a three-year, collaborative global research project by the University of Notre Dame to discover and draw attention to the ways Christian communities around the world respond to the severe violation of their religious freedom.
These strategies vary widely, ranging from nonviolent protest movements of the kind that Pope John Paul II led in communist Poland, to the complex diplomacy of Christian churches in China, to simply fleeing from persecution en masse, as Christians have in Iraq.
The project aims to raise solidarity with persecuted Christians worldwide and to help them respond justly and effectively. Watch the documentary film.
The above slide presentation is a production of the Office of Social Justice, a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church.
The following organizations have resources ready to help you help others become more prayerfully aware of the plight of Christian brothers and sisters around the world:
Jesus Warns and Teaches About Persecution
- Matthew 10:16-42; Luke 14:25-35; John 15:18-16:4
The Apostles and First Missionaries are Persecuted
- Acts 4:1-22 – Christ’s supremacy threatens the supremacy of the totalitarian and theocratic leadership. (vv. 2, 17)
- Acts 5:12-41 – Power and attraction of the gospel arouses jealousy. (v. 17)
- Acts 6:7-15 – Success of ministry arouses competition.
- Acts 7:54-8:4 – Stephen becomes the Christian Church’s first martyr; persecution breaks out.
- Acts 12:1-4 – Herod persecutes apostles for political gain.
- Acts 12:1-18 – While Peter is in prison, the church prays.
- Acts 13:49-14:7 – Opposition to the gospel forces missionaries to flee.
- Acts 16:16-34 – The gospel threatens trade, economic prosperity and the fortune-telling industry (v. 19); false accusations lead to missionaries being severely beaten. (v. 22)
- Acts 17:1-15 – Missionary success arouses jealousy; missionaries forced to flee. (v. 5)
- Acts 19:23-32 – The gospel threatens trade, economic prosperity and the idol industry; idol-makers incite riot that goes control.
- Acts 21:27-36 – Enemies of the gospel incite hatred and violence; Paul beaten and arrested.
Possible Forms that Persecution May Take
- By slander (evil report). (Psalm 31:13; Job 19:18; 55:12-14; Luke 6:22)
- Shame. Open embarrassment, dishonor or disgrace. Manner in which our Lord was accused of being conceived (born out-of-wedlock); also, manner in which his nakedness was openly displayed on the cross. (Hebrews 13:13; 11:26)
- Falsely accused. (Psalm 35:11; 27:12; Matthew 5:11; Luke 23:2, 5, 10; Mark 14:55-60; Acts 6:13; 16:19-23; 26:2, 7)
- Ensnare through deceit, trapping, tricks. (Daniel 6:4-5; Luke 11:54; Matthew 10:16-18)
- Object of conspiracy. (2 Samuel 15:12; Genesis 37:18; 2 Corinthians 11:32; Acts 9:23)
- Mocked, scorned, scoffed, and sneered at. (Psalm 42:3; Job 12:4; Matthew 27:29, 31, 41; Acts 2:13; 17:18, 32; Hebrews 11:36)
- Betrayed, treated treacherously. (Matthew 24:10; Luke 21:16; Psalm 41:9)
- Despised, to have contempt for, to loathe, to think nothing of, to consider without honor. (1 Corinthians 1:28; 4:10c)
- Hated by family. (Matthew 10:21, 34-36; Micah 7:6; Luke 21:16)
- Hated by people. (Luke 21:17; Matthew 10:22; Job 19:19)
- Defamation of character, libel, slander, evil report. (Psalm 31:13; Job 19:19; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Corinthians 4:13)
- Feared by own people. (Acts 9:26)
- Subject to special trials. (1 Corinthians 4:9-14; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
- Imprisoned. (Luke 21:12; Acts 4:3; 5:18; 12:4; 16:24; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:23c; Hebrews 11:36b)
- Beaten. (Acts 5:40; 16:23; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:24; Matthew 10:17)
- Contradicting. (Acts 13:45)
- Stir against. (Acts 6:12; 13:50; 14:2, 19; 19:23, 25-26, 29; 21:27)
- Charges pressed. (Acts 18:12; Matthew 10:17-18)
- Threatened. (Acts 4:18, 21; 5:40)
- Stoned. (Acts 7:58-59; 14:19; 2 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 11:37)
- Afflictions. (2 Timothy 3:11; Psalm 34:19)
- Expulsion. (Acts 13:50; John 16:2a)
- Exhaustion, extreme fatigue. (2 Corinthians 11:27)
- Hunger and thirst. (2 Corinthians 11:27; 1 Corinthians 4:11)
- Spectacle. (1 Corinthians 4:9; Acts 9:16; 20:23; 21:11; Hebrews 10:33a)
- Suffer physical need. (1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 6:4; Philippians 4:12; Hebrews 11:37)
- Martyrdom. (Luke 21:16; Acts 7:59; 12:2; John 16:2)
- Afflictions. (2 Timothy 1:8; 4:5; Matthew 24:9; Psalm 34:19; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 6:4; Hebrews 10:32-33; 11:25, 37; Colossians 1:24; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; James 5:10)
- Poverty. (2 Corinthians 6:10; Philippians 4:12)
- Loss of property and material goods. (Hebrews 10:34b)
The above list is a production of the World Evangelical Alliance, Religious Liberty Commission.
The above video is a production of The Voice of the Martyrs.
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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.
4 Ways to Pray for Persecuted Christians
Violence. Imprisonment. Discrimination. Isolation. These are just a few ways countless Christians are persecuted every single day. It is tempting to pray for their mistreatment to end and to ask God to relieve their pain and suffering. But this is not what oppressed Christians are praying for.
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In fact, many persecuted Christians are thankful for their tribulations. They believe these trials serve to grow their faith and strengthen the body of Christ in a powerful way.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
One of our partners in China—where religious oppression is once again on the rise—said, “The prayer of Chinese believers is not that the persecution would stop, but that they would have the strength to remain faithful.”
So how do you pray for persecuted Christians?
1. Pray That They Will Feel The Comfort And Encouragement Of The Lord
Christians living in countries North Korea face incredible pain and violence for their beliefs. They are told over and over to turn from the Lord, and yet they remain strong. Pray they will be reminded they are not alone.
In 1 Peter 4:12-14, the apostle Peter shares about suffering, a topic that he and the other members of the early church knew all too well. In these verses, he says:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.Peter took great encouragement from the knowledge that God is always with us, even in our most difficult moments. In Romans 8:35, Paul reminds believers that nothing—not even persecution—can separate us from God. This truth is what sustains us in the face of abuse, violence … and even death.
Pray these verses over Christians who are suffering and ask God to remind them of His constant presence. Pray, also, that they will remember that in their trials, they are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. They are never alone.
2. Pray That Their Persecutors Will Come To Know Christ
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says, “… love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
When Christians stand firm in the face of persecution, it changes the way people view the Christian faith. We hear numerous stories from countries including North Korea and China where members of the military or police decide to follow Jesus after seeing a believer’s faith. They begin to wonder, “What is this thing that so many people are willing to die for?”
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We know that we serve a God who brings beauty from ashes. He specializes in redeeming the most difficult parts of our lives and turning them into something glorious. As you think about our brothers and sisters in Christ, pray that God will use their suffering to bring others to faith — particularly those who are carrying out the persecution.
3. Pray That In The Midst Of Persecution, The Church Will Be Strengthened And Continue To Grow
Even though the purpose of persecution is to stamp out the church, it often has the opposite effect. Believers grow bolder and more passionate about sharing God’s Word with others. Despite attempts to stop it, the global church continues to grow.
Ask God to strengthen Christians in areas of great persecution. Ask that He will increase believers’ boldness as they share the Gospel with those around them. And pray that despite all odds, more and more people will come to believe in Jesus as their Savior.
4. Pray That These Believers Will Have Access To God’s Word
The Bible is full of verses on persecution and faith in the midst of trials. These verses bring great comfort and encouragement, yet many persecuted believers have never had the chance to read them. They live in Bible deserts, where God’s Word is difficult to find and dangerous to hold. Still, they long to read the words for themselves.
Pray that copies of God’s Word will make their way into the hands of persecuted believers around the world. These Bibles will not only provide encouragement—they will also be tools to help grow God’s kingdom.
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So, as we remember those who are brutally persecuted for their faith, please ask God to give them strength, wisdom, endurance—and that their lives will be a Christian testimony to everyone around them.
With these prayers, you can make an incredible difference.
Emily Towns writes for World Help, a Christian humanitarian organization serving the physical and spiritual needs of people in impoverished communities around the world. To learn more about religious persecution around the world, click here.