It happens almost 4,800 times a year. That’s 400 times a month or thirteen times a day. Perhaps even now, as you read this sentence, a follower of Jesus will be killed somewhere in the world. And today, many more will endure other forms of suffering because of Christ. (Statistics found at OpenDoorUsa.org)
Open Doors, a Christian non-profit that supports persecuted Christians around the globe, publishes an annual “World Watch List.” According to the 2021 report, “more than 340 million of our Christian brothers and sisters live in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination.” For the last 20 years, North Korea has been ranked the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. “Being discovered as a Christian is a death sentence in North Korea. If you aren’t killed instantly, you will be taken to a labor camp as a political criminal. These inhumane prisons have horrific conditions, and few believers make it out alive.”
It shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus warned us to expect it. The world hated Him, so it will hate those who belong to Him. His followers will be persecuted, delivered up to authorities, and turned on by friends and family. Some will lose their lives (Luke 21:12, 16-17)
But, this persecution is also an opportunity for Jesus’ followers to tell others about Him. Jesus promised He would give them wisdom and the right words. He declared that their accusers would not be able to oppose their testimony (Luke 21:14-15). (See also “Why Does God Allow Suffering in the Lives of Christians?“)
Since the birth of the church, as many as 70 million Christians have lost their lives for Jesus. (See “Christian Martyrdom: Who? Why? How?”) When we trace this long line of martyrs back through the centuries we find Stephen. The first to die for his faith in Jesus.
How Can We Pray for Persecuted Christians?
Right now, we in the western world don’t face difficult persecution. But, we can stand in prayer for our brothers and sisters around the world who do suffer. (Note: The following prayer prompts came from the International Mission Board.)
- Pray that whatever their circumstances, God will give persecuted Christians the right words (Ephesians 6:19-20).
- Pray that persecuted Christians will understand and find peace in the sufficiency of God’s grace, even in their weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- Pray that Christians facing hardship will draw from a source of power larger than themselves (2 Corinthians 1:7-9).
- Pray that God would be present with them in their hardship, protecting them according to His will (Matthew 26:39).
- Pray their witness would inspire those who seek to harm them (Luke 6:27-31).
What other Scriptures or specific requests do you pray for persecuted Christians around the world?
Note: Part of this post was adapted from “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts.”