Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:3)
Life for Christ-followers in some countries makes our problems in the U.S. look like a stroll in the park. Harassment, arrests, beatings, rapes, forced marriages, kidnappings, imprisonment, murder, and executions on false charges. Even in countries whose governments do not officially persecute Christians, believers frequently fall victim to violence, having homes and churches destroyed, and other atrocities while the authorities looks the other way. During the pandemic some countries, whose official religion is something other than Christianity, have denied Christians the government benefits everyone else is getting, and they are left to fend for themselves.
One day as I was in my comfortable living room, contemplating the plight of my brothers and sisters around the globe, I tried to imagine what it was like for them. They seemed to be in such impossible situations…
“But God …”
With Him all things are possible, so that morning I became more ambitious with my prayers. Knowing my imagination was no match for His power, I prayed for the hungry and those who were trying to feed them, that He would multiply their resources. (Remember the loaves and fishes?) I prayed encouragement for those who were in prison and feeling hopeless and abandoned – that their spiritual eyes would be opened to glimpse the angels in their cells with them, or their ears opened to hear the music of heaven. I prayed if they were sweltering in the heat, the Lord would send them cool breezes from heaven, and if they were shivering with the cold, He would “wrap them in invisible blankets.” I had a good feeling about that prayer, and I’ve been praying in this way ever since.
As I read today’s devotional from Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted Church, I learned that part of that prayer had been answered specifically for a believer named Paul in Afghanistan:
“Under the communist regime, Paul was arrested on false charges and put in a notorious prison where tens of thousands were executed. There was no heat in the jail during the cold winters. He had to sleep on the freezing mud floor with only his overcoat. A prisoner next to him was trembling with cold since he did not even have a jacket. Paul remembered John the Baptist had said, “The man who has two coats should share with him who has none.” (Luke 3:11) He took off his only coat and gave it to the neighbor. From then on, the Lord miraculously kept him warm every night.” – from Open Doors’ Devotional, Standing Strong Through the Storm, November 23
Here in America admittedly we don’t see a lot of miracles – answers to prayer that can’t be explained by natural laws. (My children’s book, From Grumpy to Grateful, begins with a young boy’s complaints regarding this subject.) We read about such miracles – usually in another part of the world – and sometimes wish we could experience those things, too. But if we have been praying for the “impossible,” we have participated in that miracle! I don’t know exactly how it works, but through prayer God invites us to partner with Him in what He wants to do. What an honor.
The hardest thing for many of the persecuted is the feeling of abandonment. Surrounded by enemies of the gospel who seemingly have the power over their circumstances, a believer can feel very alone. The answer to our prayers for a suffering individual often takes the form of a peaceful reassurance that he or she is not forgotten. Many saints have testified that they suddenly felt the power of others’ prayers just when they needed it most, and that assurance gave them the strength to go on.
If we find prayer boring, is it because we’re praying with low expectations? Often if we ask The Almighty for anything remotely difficult, we might tack on a timid “…if it be Your will …” and don’t really expect much to happen. I wonder if God is bored with our prayers, too. I wonder sometimes if at our prayer meetings, He is silently urging us to truly believe He can do the “impossible” – Come on, ask Me to do something BIG!
One more thought: Whether we see the results of our prayers immediately, a little later, much later, or not at all in this life, God does hear and answer our prayers. Faith can cause us to pray expectantly, joyfully. Although I pray many of the same things daily, I love asking Jesus to take my life that day and do with it what He wants, because I believe He will – and I’m excited to see what He has for me – or someone I’m praying for – that day.
Prayer: Lord, we are so blessed, often we forget that fellow believers struggle just to survive. Help us remember them in our prayers. Let them know they have not been forgotten. Comfort the grieving with the assurance of their eternal heavenly home. Remind the brokenhearted, betrayed, and abandoned by family, that they are part of a greater, forever family and that they are dearly loved. Bless those believers who are aiding the destitute. Move people’s hearts to give; multiply their resources supernaturally, if necessary, until there is even enough overflow to share with their neighbors and glorify You among the unbelievers. Remind Your servants of the truth of Your Word, and bring the right passages to their memories at the moment they need them most.
Lord, we know it is likely that some of Your servants will pay the ultimate price for their faith today. Give them the supernatural grace to leave this world with smiles on their faces and Your praise on their lips, enough to baffle their persecutors, perhaps even pointing them to You.
Finally, Jesus, help us to be inspired by their willingness to give up everything for You. You gave everything for us, and we can never thank You enough. In Your name we pray, amen.