Written by: Dr. Sharon Lantis
This morning in my time of prayer, my mind began to wander as I was contemplating all the persecution that believers suffer around the world. I was despairing of not knowing how to pray for such seemingly impossible situations so far from home, so far from where I live, so separate from the trials and difficulties that the people around me are facing. Isn’t it hard enough to pray for marriages that are breaking and children who are rebelling and loved ones who refuse Jesus? Heart wrenching, and more pressing and potent in comparison to the immediate threat of death for believing in Jesus.
I saw a video where a Christian in the Middle East struggled before God in prayer to find a place in His will where she knew there would be grace to stand, to not deny Christ, to actually give her life rather than deny Christ. Then she wrestled with God again to come to a place of being able to release her husband as well as her children to persecution and death if that was what it took to continue in their faith. And why not run away? Because there is such a need for the gospel to be proclaimed. In Acts 4:29-30 we read that when the early church was threatened with persecution their prayer was for the Lord to take note of the threats and grant that they would be able to speak His word with all confidence, while He extended His hand with signs and wonders to take place in the name of Jesus. This is the call of all Christians.
Even as I was considering the situation of the woman in the video, the Lord impressed upon me that my situation is really no different from hers. All Christians are called to stand in faith, to be willing to lay down our lives for Christ. To share in His sufferings. We all know the scripture that says, “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) We must see our lives as already given for Christ. As He lives in us, we are His hands, His feet, His voice, His courage, His boldness, His truth. We contain in our earthen vessels the Treasure that longs to be manifested to the world that the world can be saved through Him. The only hope that some people have is the Jesus they see in us.
I may not be threatened for reading my Bible, witnessing, going to worship services, or praying for the sick in Walmart, but I am called to lay my life down. To think of others as more important than myself. All the difficulties we face in our lives are overcome in one way, laying our lives down for Christ. The battle is not against flesh and blood, but against dark spiritual forces. We are fighting the same enemy that the persecuted church is fighting. We all need to take a stand for Christ, and give the enemy no foothold in our lives.
“If you have raced with men on foot
and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country,
how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? Jeremiah 12:5 NIV
Finally I came back to praying – after all I was sitting in my place of prayer where I meet God in the morning. How should I pray? What kind of prayer could I send up that would have any impact on the situation in Iraq and Syria, in Nigeria and Indonesia, In China or in India, all places where terrible persecution is normal for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Suddenly the Lord gave me this thought. Just as we have learned in the area of giving, if each person gives a small amount, a handful of rice, or a few pennies saved in coins through the month, all the small amounts put together make a big offering to the Lord. Just so, every small prayer, every simple prayer, from a few seconds to a minute, or longer, put together by people praying all over the world will tip the bowls in heaven with a powerful impact. The repeated request of the persecuted church is that WE would pray for them. And we need to offer up our prayers whether they be small or great. We need to become active participants in the fight! God wants to download His strategy into our hearts.
On November 2nd is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. At Lighthouse Church we are going to observe this day with prayer and fasting. Our morning service will be devoted to prayer and during the day we are going to ask God what kind of a fast He would desire from each of us. What kind of a fast would He choose to loosen the bonds of wickedness and let the oppressed go free as described in Isaiah 58. A fast that will identify with the suffering of those who are suffering for Christ. A fast that will break the yoke of hatred and rejection. To set aside a day to spend in awareness of those challenged to stand while we go on with our merry lives. Just one day. Just a few small prayers. But put altogether a marvelous offering to the Lord.
Let’s take up the challenge together.