The images burn into our memories: terrified faces on the news recounting how their entire village was destroyed and many were martyred for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ; victims marched to their deaths; ancient churches systematically destroyed in an attempt to erase the Christian faith and enforce the dominance of a false religion. It’s difficult to watch, even as we sit in the comfort and safety of our homes in the United States.
We watch as Christians living in the cradle of Christianity are tortured, beheaded, crucified and burned alive by Islamic terrorists. We watch and we want to do something. We want to scream “stop!” at our televisions, jump through the screen and try to save the suffering, or at least comfort them. We want to pull the sledgehammers from the hands of terrorists destroying churches. We shake our heads sadly at the murder and destruction fellow believers endure each day. We pray silently for God’s mercy and protection for so many who are suffering for His name. And we pray that this persecution will not come to us here.
One source estimates that each month in our world, 322 Christians are killed, 214 churches and properties are destroyed, and 772 Christians are beaten, kidnapped, raped, arrested or forced into marriage—all these things occurring only because the victims are Christians.
Why does this happen? We can blame a particular religion, a particular political group or just throw up our hands in confusion and defeat. But the answer to this question is simple: Satan is waging a war that began in the Garden of Eden and continues to this day. His goal is not to win—he has already lost. His goal is to destroy the souls of as many as possible in the time he has left. Using men and women to accomplish his goals through the persecution of Christians is a favorite tactic. Fear and violence often tear believers away from their Savior as victims choose earthly safety over eternal life, paying with their eternal soul to avoid suffering now.
In the midst of this violence, we also hear of strength and courage as many refuse to give in to persecution and are martyred, often in horrific ways. As they confess their faith and lose their lives to brutality, they are given the reward of eternal life in Heaven, earned for them by their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Persecution against Christians is not something new. It is described already in the book of Acts many times. Throughout history, it has come and gone in waves, swelling to horrifying heights and then receding to the background so that we hardly hear of it. We are now seeing a new wave of persecution that doesn’t seem to have crested.
In this time of uncertainty, pray. Pray to our Heavenly Father for Christians suffering around our world. Publicize their plight. Offer your assistance through the doors God opens to you. And do not be afraid. Remember Jesus’ own words to His faithful: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
A Prayer in This Time of Persecution
Dear Father in heaven, Your Son, our Savior, told us, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34–37). Therefore we ask You to be with us in our crosses and in the persecution we face for the name of the Savior. Continue to strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit through the means of grace so that we see Your loving hand even in trial and continue to bear our crosses after our crucified Lord.
We pray especially for the ancient churches of the East (in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt) who are under heavy persecution for the faith. Assure them that You are with them in this dreadful time, strengthen them through Your means of grace to have peace in trial, and give them the courage to be faithful unto death, receiving the crown of life. May, O Lord, the blood of the martyrs, as the new Coptic martyrs in Libya, always be the seed of the church. Then in these ancient lands the name of the Savior will continue to be proclaimed to the glory of Your name. We ask it in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.