Ten Ways to Pray for the Persecuted: Christians face surge of violent attacks in Middle East
By Dave Olsson, Director of Communications
It is not receiving nearly enough attention in the mainstream media, but a disturbing development is underway in the Middle East: followers of Jesus Christ in the epicenter have endured a dramatic surge of violence and persecution at the hands of religious and political extremists in recent weeks and months.
In Iraq, Christians have been attacked and killed in their homes and in public, forcing nearly a thousand families to flee from Baghdad and Mosul to the safer Kurdistan region in the north. A separate siege on a Baghdad church on October 31 killed 58 followers of the Lord Jesus and wounded 67 others.
In Israel, extremists firebombed an Arab Christian church in Jerusalem in November. In December, Kristine Luken, an American evangelical Christian was stabbed to death not far from Jerusalem in what many believe to have been an act of terror. Her friend, Kay Wilson—an Israeli believer in Jesus—was also severely wounded in the attack.
In Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the so-called “Supreme Leader,” publicly warned last fall against the "network of house churches" that "threaten Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims." Then, during Christmas, at least 70 Iranian Christians were arrested in their homes and separated from their families.
Coptic Christians in Egypt have also suffered severe persecution since 2011 began. As a result of two violent attacks this month, nearly 30 people have died and dozens more have been wounded.
Jesus Christ warned His followers that in the last days “they will deliver you to tribulation and will kill you” (Matthew 24:8). The Lord also warned His followers that “an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God” (John 16:2). The good news is that the Lord Jesus also promised the world that, “I will build My Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) Overall, the Church is growing. More people in the epicenter are coming to faith in Jesus Christ than any other time in history, and this is a cause for great rejoicing.
The Joshua Fund stands with and strongly supports Christian ministry leaders in Israel and throughout the epicenter who are facing this surge of persecution. We love these dear believers and will not forget them. In recent years, we have provided prayer and practical support to families of murdered and persecuted Christians in Israel, Turkey, Gaza, and Mosul (Ninevah), Iraq. We have also mobilized prayer support around the world for persecuted believers in the Middle East. And now we are asking you to join with us by making a specific point of praying regularly for our brothers and sisters in the epicenter during these tumultuous times.
10 Ways to Pray With Us
- Gather with other followers of Jesus and those at your own church to fast and pray, lifting up the pressing needs of persecuted believers to their Father in Heaven who will hear and respond. Ask the Lord to bless them with courage and great wisdom during their trials. After all, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
- Pray for physical, spiritual and emotional healing of those wounded in these terrible attacks. Pray for the doctors who are treating the victims to have wisdom and special skill. Please also pray for the Lord to comfort the family and friends of those killed and wounded in these attacks with peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
- Pray that Christians in the Middle East will faithfully love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, just as the Lord Jesus commanded, even though this is so difficult to do (Matthew 5:44).
- Pray that true followers of Jesus in the Middle East would have the courage to continue being public witnesses of the gospel of Lord Jesus where they live. “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your Word with all confidence while you extend Your hand to heal and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30).
- Pray that these murders would not result in Christians living in fear or fleeing their countries, but that the believers would follow the Holy Spirit’s specific leading concerning where and how they should live and serve their Father in heaven (Psalm 32:8).
- Pray that this wave of martyrdom would lead to unprecedented opportunities to grow the Church, and that much fruit would spring up from these fallen grains of wheat (John 12:24); that what the enemy intended for evil the Lord would turn for good (Genesis 50:20).
- Pray that the thoughts, plans and intentions of those filled with hatred towards Christians would be confused and come to nothing; that even on their way to commit violence, they would meet Jesus and be transformed by His love forever, as happened to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:5,6).
- Pray for government leaders in the Middle East to publicly denounce these violent acts against Christians, and to aggressively and fairly prosecute and punish those who commit such crimes.
- Prayerfully consider financially supporting Christian ministries that are caring for your persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East, and those ministries working to stand with them and comfort them during times of pain and suffering.
- Above all, pray that these Christians in the epicenter would experience to the fullest all that Jesus promises to those who stand faithfully for Him, even while enduring suffering (Luke 6:20-23; 1 Peter 4:14).
The good news is that instead of being intimidated by the violence, many believers are standing firm in their faith. In a letter from a believer in Egypt, one anonymous Christian recently wrote, “I will go to church on Christmas Eve. All Christians insist on going to Church no matter what happens. Many demonstrations shout and say, ‘To Church I will go, no matter what you do.’ Many people will turn to Jesus because of that, those who are called Christians by name, are now declaring their faith with zeal. Today we said good bye to each other at work not sure if we will see each other on Monday or not.”
Please ask our great God to strengthen and encourage these dear believers even more.