And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)
Annually, Open Doors publishes its World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries where it is most difficult to follow Jesus. “Around the world, more than 340 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution, just for following Jesus. That’s 1 in 8 believers, worldwide,” according to the organization’s 2021 report.*
How do Christians praise God while enduring persecution or confinement in prison? What does faith look like for believers of Christ in these situations? Our Women of Hope programs reach into the Middle East, Asia, Africa and many other places where Christians regularly face persecution. As people listen to the programs and interact with our teams, they receive God’s truth, hope and encouragement for each day. Our TWR Women of Hope teams in Paraguay and Romania go into prisons each week to share their lives and God’s truth with women inmates, helping them to find inner peace and freedom in Jesus.
The importance of support from other believers is described in Christianity Today’s cover story of its July/August 2021 issue, titled “The Girls Who Would Not Bow.” It tells of the survival of the nearly 300 girls from Nigeria’s Chibok Government Secondary School who had been kidnapped by the religious militant group Boko Haram in 2014 and held captive for nearly three years.
Most of the girls were Christian, and the reporters came to discover that “the teenagers’ will to survive was inseparable from their religious convictions.” As prisoners, they experienced physical malnourishment and hunger as well as emotional and spiritual pressure to convert and join the Boko Haram group. But their faith in God and relationships with one another kept them strong. “At the risk of beatings and torture, they whispered prayers together at night, or into cups of water, and memorized the Book of Job from a smuggled Bible.”
Whether our brothers and sisters in persecution are facing harassment, isolation, physical or sexual violence, forced conscription, or unjust imprisonment, the greatest way that we can support them is to faithfully pray:
- Ask our Father to strengthen them to stand faithfully in Christ no matter what the circumstances. May they remember that they cannot stand in their own strength. As they place their faith in God, he gives them the strength to stand. Pray for their ability to praise and worship our Lord, lifting their spirits above the circumstances.
- Ask God to give them the opportunity to share with others and the boldness to proclaim the hope, truth and peace of Jesus. Pray for those training in seminaries and Bible colleges to be faithful pastors, evangelists and disciples.
- Pray for those believers within closed nations to find the means to translate, print and share the Bible with others.
- Pray for the health and growth of the underground church.
- As believers, we gain our strength from God and one another. Would you join me in lifting up the persecuted church in prayer?
//Lisa Hall, international