durer hands 206x300 International Day of Prayer For the Persecuted Church 2016

Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer, 1508

This year’s International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (“IDOP”) is scheduled for November 6, 2016. On that date, more than 100,000 churches in 115 countries will gather to pray on behalf of Christians being persecuted and martyred around the world. Although it is a great privilege for me to write often on the topic of Christian persecution for Touchstone magazine and for Mere Comments, relatively few Christians in North America realize that more Christians have been killed annually in the 20th and 21st centuries than in the previous 19 centuries combined. Particularly in the Middle East and Africa, and in parts of Asia today, Christians have been killed by the tens of thousands in recent years. But persecution is not limited to those areas only, as the possession of a Holy Bible or sharing Jesus Christ with a neighbor is illegal in more than 50 countries.

Whether it is a story about an individual Somali Christian farmer and his family driven from his land, the present day suffering of Christians in Kirkuk or Mosul, or the horrors of living as a Christian believer in North Korea, few of their stories come to us. And when we do hear the stories, they are unimaginable. For 14 years, North Korea has ranked #1 on the Open Doors World Watch List as the worst place to be a Christian, where owning a Bible is punishable by death. It is estimated that 25% of the Christian population lives in horrific prison camps. The others keep their faith in secret, and many Christian parents choose to keep their faith a secret from their children, for fear that the children might accidentally expose their faith to their neighbors, teachers, or government officials. Imagine the heartbreak for parents to not have the ability to share their faith in Christ with their children. Many rely on the hope that, one day, God will allow them to share when they are grown.

The IDOP is so important for all Christians. It is my view that this vital day of prayer for persecuted Christians is a must for all churches. I would urge my readers to encourage your pastors, priests, and Sunday School teachers to teach about Christian persecution, and to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. The Holy Bible teaches us to pray without ceasing, and it is only through God’s mercy and the power of prayer that will have an amazing impact on our persecuted brothers and sisters. The Christian organization Open Doors has important resources available for all of us here. The church resource materials include a service guide, sermon outline, video files, social media elements, Prayer Partner card templates, and much more.

So in the run-up to the IDOP, please pray for the safety of Christians throughout the Middle East, in Moslem Africa, and in China and North Korea, and for their faithfulness and bold witness for salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. One of my favorite contemporary singers is Amy Shreve. Several years ago, she recorded a powerful song about the testimony of persecuted Christians, entitled “Beautiful Scars,” which is available here. I hope that her song will bless you as much as it has me. Hebrews 13:3 admonishes us, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” May we never forget. Amen!