In this season, as I am learning to fast and pray for the unreached groups in Singapore and around the world, I have also learnt how to pray for the persecuted Church in hard places. A group of us had the privilege to listen to a brother from MEC share about the work he does as well as the vision and mission of MEC. Most importantly, he shared with us a biblical response towards persecution and how pertinent it is for the body of Christ to come alongside the persecuted Church in prayer.
No, we don’t pray for the persecution to stop. No, we should not pray for these believers as if they were victims. We should not pray for God to take away the persecution from these believers living in hard areas.
Jesus had already warned His disciples:
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
We must pray for our brothers and sisters to persevere through the persecution. We must pray that they fix their eyes on Christ in the darkest days and rely on His unfailing love. We pray for their faith in Christ to be immensely strengthened and for God to be glorified.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
What should our response be towards persecution? Brother Kim offered three postures that individuals facing persecution can take. Firstly, we can accept it. Jesus was the model of enduring persecution, followed by Paul – who persecuted Christians and then became a target of persecution himself. Jesus was beaten and flogged by the Roman soldiers. He remained silent in the face of the crucifixion, knowing that it was all part of God’s plan.
Paul made it clear that “all who desire to live a godly life with Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). It was normal for persecution to happen when one made the decision to follow Christ.
Secondly, the persecuted should flee if he can. In Paul’s situation, when the Jews plotted against him, the disciples had helped him to flee from one town to another. It was a team effort and he sought help and advice from others. Thankfully he was not alone! Similarly, a team like MEC is formed to help the persecuted flee to safety and refuge.
Lastly, we may resist persecution. “Resisting” in this context means to exercise discernment and wisdom to find possible channels to appeal to higher authorities. When Paul appealed to the highest authorities at that time, the Roman tribune, he knew his rights as a Roman citizen and therefore they let him off. This is also where MEC steps in to help persecuted individuals through legal advice and paperwork with the respective institutions. However, this does not mean we forget that we have access to the highest authority of all times – God. Since God is our highest advocacy, prayer is key. We constantly look to Him in support of our suffering fellow believers.
Through it all, we recognise God is sovereign and He is our reliable refuge in times of trouble.
To find out more about Middle East Concerns (MEC), visit http://www.meconcern.org.
Nicole is an aspiring art therapist who hopes to eventually work with war trauma survivors and displaced peoples. She enjoys using art to tell stories and capture the heart of God.