Pray for the Suffering Church
By Cecil M. Robeck Jr.
Mar. 25, 2012
My ministry often takes me to countries where tensions exist. When you worship where the cross cannot be displayed, where the congregation is overwhelmed by loudspeakers aimed at disrupting its worship, or where machine guns are trained on you, the dynamics of worship change. I have found myself praying differently as I have entered into the life of the suffering church.
From these experiences come these suggestions:
• Pray for an end to the persecution, especially in cases where the loss of human life is a real possibility.
• Pray for the growth of the church where persecution flourishes.
• Pray that the leaders of our churches and our nations will find ways to end persecution worldwide.
• Pray for the strength of our sisters and brothers undergoing persecution. Ask the Lord to remove their fear and provide them with the peace only He can bring.
• Pray that our sisters and brothers undergoing persecution do not take on a “persecution complex” that keeps them from becoming a positive influence when circumstances change. This temptation is very difficult for them to overcome. One nation says it is looking for ways to foster collaboration with Christians there who are not part of the official church. But decades of control and persecution by the state make it difficult for unregistered Christians to trust any government claim.
• Pray that all governments will adopt foreign policies that are just and merciful. When it is possible, give action to those prayers by calling or writing to legislators. Tell them what you think. Ask questions and vote for those who support policies that will break down barriers.
• Pray that the Lord will give us forgiving hearts, enabling us to love our enemies. Our basic human response is to do unto others what they have done to us. But Jesus reverses this. He tells us to do to our enemies what we would like for them to do to us. We must evaluate our own lives so that we do not become persecutors. It is never “payback time.” In powerful countries, this is a real temptation. To the extent that we are able, we are to resist the use of force. Our job as Christians is to show the world a “more excellent way”: the way of love.
• Pray that the Lord will save those who currently persecute our sisters and brothers. If we pray for those who engage in persecution and cause suffering to the Church, the Holy Spirit will deal with them, and we may be surprised by the changes that will come.
• Give thanks to the Lord for sustaining those who suffer and are persecuted. Praise God for walking with them, for providing the grace that is sufficient to meet their needs (2 Corinthians 12:9). Thank the Lord for the opportunity to enter into the sufferings of our sisters and brothers, remembering that when that suffering is over and “one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26, NIV).
• Give thanks to the Lord for His faithfulness in bringing blessing to those who have undergone persecution for the sake of righteousness (Matthew 5:10).
By praying in these ways, we can take an active part in countering those who persecute our sisters and brothers around the world.
CECIL M. ROBECK JR. is an ordained Assemblies of God minister, a leader in the international ecumenical movement, professor of Church history and ecumenics, and director of the David du Plessis Center for Christian Spirituality at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif.
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