Today, Sunday 6th November, is the International day of prayer for the persecuted Church.
According to Open Doors Ministries, every month, 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed, and 722 Christians suffer some sort of violence against them because of their faith.
The Pew Research Centre reports that over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions, with many of these people being Christians.
In addition, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbours, simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ.
However, in the midst of all of this persecution, God is at work, and there are many testimonies and stories of God drawing people to Him in ever increasing numbers across these regions of the world, of the Church standing strong and growing ever stronger.
By contrast, it is in the west, where we as Christians are relatively comfortable and have a freedom that so many do not, that the Church is actually in decline.
Not that we wish for persecution, but Jesus, Himself, said that in this world we would have trouble … but not to fear, as He has overcome the world.
And we are a part of that overcoming, as we join with our brothers and sisters around the world to pray for those who are in prison, persecuted, tortured and even killed for their faith.
To pray, not necessarily for an end to persecution, but that their faith will stand strong in the storms, their testimony be a light in the darkness, and for the presence of the Holy Spirit to be their source of encouragement and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.
So today, and over this next week, let us remember the truth of the words of Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors:
“Our prayers can go where we can not – there are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.”
Hebrews 13 vs 3: “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured“