A Moment for Mission
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. … This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.”
Psalm 34:4, 6, NRSV
On the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, we acknowledge the 200 million people around the world discriminated against, mistreated and even killed because they believe in God.
· In North Korea, China, Vietnam and other places, Christians suffer in jail. Parents are forced to abandon children. Church leaders face arrests and fines. Yet as St. Augustine wrote, “The martyrs were bound, jailed. Scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered and they multiplied!”
Faced with the fire, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to forsake their God. We pray for the persecuted church, for their oppressors, for nations that foster persecution and for those who ignore it.
At risk of losing liberty, John Wesley, Joan of Arc and Martin Luther King Jr. refused to forsake their God. As the Holy Spirit calls us to unity with the persecuted, we enter into their suffering, repenting of our ignorance, refusing to be silent, ready to reach out to them in their isolation.
Threatened with mockery, stigma and scandal, Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa and Billy Graham refused to forsake their God. We strive not to narrow our compassion for all who suffer, whatever their profession or creed and pray that no hatred or prejudice enter our hearts.
Whether on bended knees, with open Bibles or in moments of silence, we hear God’s call to pray for our Christian sisters and brothers who live under persecution.
– Adapted from Discipleship Ministries and other sources
Loving God, bless those persecuted for righteousness sake, protect our brothers and sisters reviled by those who falsely utter evil and comfort those who suffer and mourn. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost / in Kingdomtide
Dear God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we praise you! You graciously give us faith. You assure us that the risen Christ prays for us as we approach you in his name. May all who follow Christ as disciples be renewed by your word and Spirit. Let these offerings and our lives contribute to your will being done through the ministry and mission of this church. By the power of the Spirit, we pray through Christ, our great high priest. Amen. (Hebrews 7:23-28)
An evangelical author said, “Americans are so spoiled, we’ve had so much religious freedom, we don’t know what it is to miss it. We take holy gifts for granted.”
That statement is not true for an average of 100,000 Christians around the world killed each year because of their faith. Many Christians protected from religious persecution may not realize that the aforementioned “average” number works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year.
The global persecution of churchgoers is what one religious journalist labeled “the unreported catastrophe of our times.”
On the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, we pray for Christians who endure mistreatment. The United Methodist Church condemns religious intolerance and persecution of all faith groups. We believe, as Paul preaches in 1 Corinthians 12:26a (NRSV), “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.”
We pray that we do not take for granted holy gifts or people who dare to say, “I believe.”