International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

 

Dear friends 

Today, 4thNovember, is the day in which we join with fellow Christians around the world to give special thanks and gratitude to God for the faithful witness of those who endure so much for their faith in Jesus. We express thanks to God for their faithfulness, perseverance under trial and love expressed even for those who hold them in captivity. We give thanks to God that in September jailed Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was set free after a court dropped the charge of apostasy – leaving Islam – but upheld a charge of evangelising Muslims. The court sentenced him to three years, but promptly released him because he had already served the time. We give thanks for the courage and conviction that characterises the lives of these fellow believers, which is so inspirational to us in the West. 

Iran is very much under the global spotlight at the moment with its nuclear development programme and the potential for regional conflict that could result. Less well known is the fact that Christianity is growing faster in Iran than in any other Muslim majority country. Therefore we need to pray in particular for church leaders who face intimidation and persecution on a daily basis. 

Pastor Behnam Irani was arrested whilst conducting a Bible Study for young Iranian men who had become Christians. He was charged with crimes against national security, but observers say he is being punished for holding house church services and leading people to Christ. According to reports he is beaten regularly by the prison authorities as well as inmates and now has difficulty walking and seeing. His health is failing and his family fear for his life. Let us stand in prayer for Pastor Behnam and others who suffer for Jesus in Iran. 

It is striking that a common request to the churches in the West from those who are persecuted for their faith is not for money, material things or even that the governments that intimidate them are changed. Their primary request is for courage to be faithful in their witness. 

Their example is an inspiration to us who despite personal struggles are largely free of physical persecution. The one thing we can do is pray for them and do unto them what we would wish them to do for us were the tables turned. 

‘Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are ill treated as if you yourselves were suffering’ Hebrews 13:3 

If you would like to respond practically to this challenge, why not get hold of a magazine from CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) or Release International and use the daily prayer guide to inform your prayers so that we can prayer earnestly and intelligently for those who endure so much for their faith. 

November – a season of remembrance

It is not just the persecuted church that we remember this month. Our annual memorial service provides an opportunity for us to call to mind the impact that others have had upon us who have now passed on. We register the pain of grief and loss as part of our human condition whilst declaring our living hope founded in Jesus. In this we have cause to rejoice greatly. 

We also remember the courage and commitment to duty and service demonstrated by our servicemen and women. For many this has been given at such great cost. 

Towards the end of the month we will journey towards Advent and the remembrance of the Old Testament scriptures that speak of the coming Messiah, the Saviour of the World. The sense of excitement and anticipation that brings energises us to renew our commitment to walk daily with Christ seeking to be faithful in our life and service. 

‘Lord make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon where there is doubt, faith where there is despair, hope, where there is darkness, light where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.’   (Prayer of St Francis)

Every Blessing Stephen