Several folded hands of people praying together
Several folded hands of people praying together

United in Prayer

"You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you
cannot do more than pray until you have prayed. Pray often, for prayer
is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan
John Bunyan

Of all the ways we can assist persecuted Christians, prayer is the preeminent appeal. Yet the request for prayer doesn’t negate our obligation to help with practical relief and support efforts. These projects are gratefully received and indispensable for Gospel proclamation and Christian witness in hostile environments. However, without prayer, anything we provide, no matter how substantial, is inadequate.

In Colossians 4:2, Paul gives this appeal: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (ESV). The type of prayer Paul is seeking to build in us is not casual, mundane or dull. Being spiritually alert and cultivating an attitude of thankfulness guard against such careless postures in prayer. To pray like this means that we are engaged, active and interested. This is the prayer life Paul is calling us to foster, and it is the type of prayer our persecuted brothers and sisters expect from us.

Paul continues, “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the Word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:3-4).

A man looking through prison barsPaul makes it clear that prayer is not to be a one-sided, self-centred activity. His appeal is that the church in Colossae would specifically pray that he will be given the opportunity to present the Gospel and further the Kingdom. Notice how he doesn’t request prayer for his release from prison nor for his persecution to end. Paul has accepted the mission assigned to him – a mission that has bound him with chains. His specific request is that these chains will not bind God’s Word.

Glenn Penner, VOMC’s former CEO, wrote: “As we find in many of his writings, Paul links the proclamation of the Gospel message of reconciliation between God and man, with the necessity of suffering by those messengers of God who were involved in the ministry of sharing this message. This was the cost that Paul was perfectly prepared to pay so that others might come to know Christ.”1

As the Apostle Paul willingly bears prison chains for the sake of the Gospel, he desires that the believers at Colossae earnestly partner with his ministry through prayer. Likewise, today’s persecuted church readily accepts affliction and opposition for Christ, and our daily duty is to remember them in prayer. Such action directed by the Holy Spirit and bolstered by the intercession of the saints brings unity in the body of Christ and freedom to those bound by oppression and fear.

It is no wonder that prayer is the first request from persecuted Christians, for they understand that there is more at stake than the granting of religious freedom. This is evidenced by the prayer our Vietnamese brothers and sisters pray frequently: “We are not praying that our borders be opened. We are praying that heaven be opened.”2

“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it
as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon Him?”
Deuteronomy 4:7

Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing ways we can intercede for persecuted Christians. May we learn to be steadfast, alert and joyful in the action of prayer. We know our Heavenly Father is not distant nor passive but rather very near to those who seek His face. And this truth should encourage us to seek partnership in prayer.

Grace and peace,

Floyd A. Brobbel
Chief Executive Officer
The Voice of the Martyrs Canada Inc.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pause in this moment to remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, asking You to empower them to be bold witnesses for the Gospel and for Your glory. Give them opportunities to proclaim Your great name and allow their voices to be heard by those seeking truth. I pray that, though they are being opposed, the light of Christ would shine in and through them as they willingly suffer for Jesus. May Your persecuted church exude Your love and grace in a hostile world. I pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Endnotes: 1 In the Shadow of the Cross, page 213  2 Extreme Devotion, page 28

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