This Sunday, Nov. 12, Christians around the world will gather to pray for their brothers and sisters in Christ who face persecution and even death for their faith. The special prayer focus is part of this year’s International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church observance, which began Nov. 5.
“As we observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church for 2023, our hearts are heavy with the rising tide of Christian persecution worldwide,” said Godfrey Yogarajah, ambassador for religious freedom with the World Evangelical Alliance. “From Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and beyond, over 360 million Christians now live in places where they face high levels of persecution, equating to one in seven Christians globally.”
The theme of this year’s observance is “Struck Down but Not Destroyed” and is taken from 2 Corinthians 4:10: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair” (NIV).
“This powerful Biblical text reminds us that though persecution may strike believers down, it does not destroy their faith,” Yogarajah said. “The resilience and unwavering trust in God displayed by our persecuted brothers and sisters serve as a testament to the enduring power of Christ in their lives.”
The theme verse encourages Christians to pray with empathy and fervency, he added, “knowing that in Christ, the persecuted find the strength to stand firm and persevere despite the adversities they face. It strengthens our resolve to lift them up in prayer, seeking God’s protection, comfort, and strength, and affirming our unity as one body in Christ across the globe.”
Many Christian advocacy organizations, such as Open Doors U.S., The Voice of the Martyrs and WEA offer free resources, such as discussion questions and prayer guides, to help churches or small groups host a gathering for the IDOP.
Ryan Brown, CEO of Open Doors U.S., emphasized in an interview with The Christian Post the role that prayer plays in the organization’s mission to combat the global persecution of Christ-followers. He said regardless of the enormity of a problem, prayer reminds Christians of God’s power.
“It allows us to align ourselves to the hearts of the Father who, as much care and as much passion as we may have for serving the persecuted church, it pales in comparison to Christ’s heart for His bride,” Brown said.
An article in The Washington Stand’s website offers four ways to pray during this year’s observation.
1. Pray for Armenian Christians remaining in Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave populated by Armenian Christians, following a Sept. 18 Azerbaijan attack that killed at least 200 people.
2. Pray for Christian North Korean defectors. To escape the horrors of their country—which is the most closed and oppressed country in the world today—some brave North Koreans flee across the Chinese border. While there, many North Korean defectors come into contact with Chinese or South Korean missionaries and churches that lie along the border who help North Korean defectors. This is often a North Korean’s first encounter with Christianity. Sadly, learning about the gospel makes the possibility of forced repatriation back to North Korea all the more dangerous, because being a Christian in North Korea can mean a death sentence.
3. Pray for Christians in Pakistan, who are currently experiencing a higher risk of targeted violence amid a surge of mob attacks. Most recently, over a dozen churhes and upward of 50 Christian homes were looted and burned to the ground in Jaranwala, Pakistan. The mob of almost 600people was reportedly incited by accusations that a Pakistani Christian desecrated the Quran. Christians had to flee their homes and hide in fields and nearby villages to escape the angry horde.
4. Pray for the Western countries as intolerance toward Christians rises. Christians in the U.K. for example have been harassed through government-established buffer zones around abortion facilities that censor the speech and actions of individuals, including prohibiting prayer in these areas. In the United States, at least 420 acts of hostility against churches occurred between January 2018 and September 2022. Between January and March of 2023, there were another 69 incidents.