Pray for the Persecuted
14th March - 20th March 2021
Each week until Easter, please join us in prayer for brothers and sisters living in the top 10 most dangerous places to be a Christian. We will focus our prayers each week on those living in different persecuted nations around the world. Across the globe, more than 340 million Christians - one in every eight believers - experience high levels of persecution, just for following Jesus.
Luke's account of the early church in Acts shows just how powerfully the gospel spread in the face of persecution. Luke writes,
And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. 4Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:1-4)
Persecution type: Islamic oppression
Estimated number of Christians: approaching 1,000,000
How Christians are suffering: The Iranian government sees the conversion of Muslims to Christianity as an attempt by Western countries to undermine the Islamic rule of Iran. Christians from a Muslim background are persecuted the most, primarily by the government, but also by their families and communities. Secret churches are often raided, and their leaders and members have been arrested and given long prison sentences for ‘crimes against national security'.
Recently, the Iranian Government has also sought a policy to get Christian converts to leave the country voluntarily. They have done this by arresting converts, intimidating and threatening them if they stay, and then releasing them in the hope they will flee to safety. Because many do leave the country, the churches don't have many mature believers or teachers with much theological education.
Yet, despite the persecution, the church in Iran is the fastest growing in the world! That might come as a great surprise but the number of evangelical Christians is estimated to be growing by 20% per year. The church has no buildings or resources, it is focussing on discipleship and growing the faith of believers through an underground network of churches. And the gospel is advancing most among women.
Prayer: Father, we thank you that your gospel has always grown in the midst of persecution. We praise you that you are the one who brings faith and salvation and so there is nothing that anyone or any state can do to stop it. And just as the gospel went out through persecution in the 1st and 2nd centuries, just as the gospel has spread throughout China in the 20th Century, we thank you that now, it is spreading greatly in Iran. We ask that this growth might continue and even accelerate as more people hear the good news of Jesus.
We pray for new believers and ask that you would teach them and raise up leaders and teachers who can disciple others well. We pray for those leading convert groups, that they will be equipped by you to nurture even newer converts toward a firm grounding in their faith. Lord, we pray for courage for imprisoned Christians and for those who have to flee their homeland and families. Father, we pray for Iranians who are now living in our own nation and, particularly, for those living in Glasgow. We thank you for the many Iranian Christians who now live in Glasgow and for the churches who now run services and Christianity Explored courses in Farsi and we ask you would continue to make these fruitful. And Lord, we do also pray for Christians who are currently locked up in prison for their faith in Iran and for those facing deportation, we ask for your protection to be upon them.
Open Doors: https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/world-watch-list/iran/
Barnabas Fund: https://barnabasfund.org/countries/Iran/
If you would like to pray as a family, then Open Doors have a free World Watch List pack for children and you can set off together on a journey of prayer through the year. Each week, children can colour in a flag in the prayer passport, pray for that country and put a sticker on that country on the map. These can be ordered from https://www.opendoorsuk.org/products/product/wwl-21-childrens-pack
This post is based on a very helpful blog post by Joe Carter, editor for The Gospel Coalition, entitled "The Countries Where It’s Most Dangerous to Be a Christian in 2021"