Open Bible on a rock; water with the reflection of the sun in the background
Boy praying in rice fields of Thailand

Strengthened Through the Prayers of the Saints

"But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen."
Jude 20-25 ESV

Regular persistent prayer is essential whenever engaging in spiritual warfare. Christians dare not fight the forces of evil in their own strength, but rather should depend upon the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and leading in the activity of effective prayer. On behalf of the saints, the Spirit enhances these prayers to the Father in a language far beyond the expression of human words. Intercession on behalf of persecuted Christians ascends to God’s throne of grace, carried by the Holy Spirit, for the strengthening of all who suffer for righteousness.

The body of Christ strengthens when believers gather in His presence to worship Him as the ‘Lord of Life’ and build themselves up in the faith – not merely through individual efforts but collectively in communion with fellow believers. Such growth not only occurs in the local church but also in the larger context of membership within the universal church. Vitality, purpose and hope are experienced through the mutual support of brothers and sisters in Christ and the comfort that His abiding presence brings in life’s day-to-day joys and struggles.

Pastor Haik
Pastor Haik
Photo: Hovsepian Ministries

Gilbert Hovsepian experienced such prayer firsthand. His father, Haik, was a pastor in Iran who chose to advocate for a friend sentenced to death because of his conversion to Christianity. Pastor Haik’s efforts gained worldwide attention and became successful when his friend, Mehdi Dibaj, was miraculously set free. The world celebrated, but Pastor Haik was abducted, tortured and killed three days after his friend's release. Gilbert, Haik’s second son, was left without a father, and his family had to deal with the trauma of Pastor Haik’s martyrdom.1

The story of Pastor Haik’s death made global headlines, and Christian organizations mobilized to comfort and support the grieving family. God, in His mercy, faithfully provided for the surviving Hovsepians. Encouraged by the support of Christians worldwide, they eventually left Iran and moved to the United States. It was there they followed in their father’s footsteps to establish a ministry dedicated to empowering and equipping the underground church in Iran, which was comprised of new converts to the faith. In addition, Gilbert launched a music ministry that enabled him to travel globally and share the stories of Christians suffering in Iran.

On one trip, he randomly crossed paths with a woman from the Netherlands. They had never met before, but the lady stopped, looked at Gilbert and asked, "Are you Gilbert Hovsepian?" Taken aback, he replied that he was Gilbert, the son of martyred Pastor Haik. She went on to say: "It was at my church that we heard about your father's death. The speaker that Sunday handed out photographs of your family as a reminder to pray for you. I received your photograph, which I put on my refrigerator, and I have prayed for you every day."

Photo: Hovsepian Ministries

Gilbert was speechless. How many others were out there, unknown and unseen by him, yet daily praying that the Lord would comfort, bless and strengthen his family? Gilbert was an answer to prayer for this dear woman, and she was an answer to prayer for him. He eventually wrote a powerful song titled, I Forgive You, in which he releases the pain of the past by forgiving and loving his enemies.2 I can only imagine that this song was birthed through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in response to the prayers of the saints.

I can't emphasize enough the significance of prayer within and for the body of Christ. Today, millions of Christians face situations that threaten to overwhelm them. I think of the widows who are left to provide for their families. I think of children who’ve been orphaned because their parents remained faithful unto death. I think of pastors languishing in prisons, and other Christians regulated to dehumanizing labour and treatment. I read reports daily from across the world highlighting heartbreaking situations of Christians suffering because they love Jesus.

In the midst of all this, I have learned that one of the most meaningful responses is to join with our suffering brothers and sisters in a prayer of lament to the God of our salvation. Then, as our hearts cry out, this lament becomes a psalm – a song of praise served by the Spirit to turn our eyes upward towards our Sovereign Lord.

Pastor John Cao was arrested in March of 2017 by Chinese authorities for his missionary activities in the neighbouring country of Myanmar.3 Pastor John wrote several poems in prison that are now compiled into a book. One of his poems is titled Intercession. Here are the words of that moving poem:

"Using fingers to count the day,
Warriors of intercession present
My name before the throne.
Answers to their earnest prayers
Comfort and give me peace.
I can lie down on the green land
And enjoy drinking spring water,
Looking forward to the coming day,
Celebrating the harvest together."4

Suffering for Christ in this world is never pointless. The psalmist declares that all who are in Christ move from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7). This is terrific news for those living in a world where values are heading in the opposite direction. For, without Christ, we would be moving from strength to weakness – life to death. Although His followers may appear weak and oppressed due to persecutions and troubles, it is encouraging to know that we are being continually transformed into the image or likeness of God's Son (Romans 8:29).

What’s even more astounding is that you and I have the opportunity to participate in the transformation of our brothers and sisters within the body of Christ. Some we may know, others we don't; it matters not because God knows each one intimately, and His Spirit intercedes for us all through the power of prayer. Therefore, let us not give up in the labour of prayer, but rather encourage each other to persevere in this most worthy ministry.

To God be the glory forever as we, His children, grow from strength to strength. Amen!

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

1 For Gilbert Hovsepian’s full story, I encourage you to watch the documentary, A Cry from Iran.
2 Watch Gilbert's music video, I Forgive You.
3 Read more about Pastor John Cao at
4 Cao, John, Living Lyrics: Poems from Prison, published in the USA by ChinaAid, pg. 36

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