International Day of Prayer – 4th November

Sunday 4th November is marked around the world as an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. The reason for this date is that it is the Sunday closest to All Saints day. Organisations such as the Barnabas Fund, Open Doors, and Release International all provide resources for churches to use in their services and also in for Christians to use in their own devotions.

It is easy to forget in our busy, comfortable Western church lives that many of our brothers and sisters around the world suffer for their faith in ways that we cannot imagine.

There have been attacks upon churches and congregations in Kenya and Nigeria recently. The 30th September saw a grenade attack upon a Sunday School class meeting in an Anglican Church in Nairobi that killed a 9 year old boy and seriously injured several others.

Makset Djabbarbegenow is a church pastor held in a Kazakhstan jail facing extradition to his native Uzbekistan. The UN has declared that if Makset was returned to Uzbekistan he faces a jail sentence of upto 6 years in prison because of his leadership of an unregistered church in the city of Naklus (Karakakalpakstan the state of Naklus has no protestant churches registered as they are all considered illegal). Pastor Makset has confided that he was shaken by his arrest and asked the Lord to take this cross from him, now he says – ‘I pray that if this is from you, Lord, I will accept whatever you say. Just help me to carry it.’

Pastor Nadarkhani is an Iranian church leader many of us prayed for as he was imprisoned for his faith in Iran. Mercifully our prayers have been answered and he has been released but there are many other Christians who are in captivity in that country becasue of their faith. They need us to pray fro them and to lobby the Iranian government on their behalf. Some we know of are:

PASTOR BEHNAM IRANI

Serving a jail term in Ghezel Hesar Prison, Karaj, since May 2011 for ‘anti-government activity’. Pray for healing as he has suffered mistreatment and ill health in jail.

MARYAM JALILI

Maryam is a Muslim-background believer who was sentenced to two and a half years in December 2011 for being a member of an ‘illegal group’. She is understood to be in Evin prison, Tehran. Pray for God’s protection.

MASOUD DELIJANI

Given a three-year sentence in February in Kermanshah for holding illegal house church gatherings, evangelising Muslims and action against national security. He was allegedly denied the right to choose his own advocate or defend himself. Pray for strength to stand firm.

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Letter from a Syrian church leader

The Evangelical Alliance publicised a letter from a leading pastor in Syria directed towards his Christian brothers and sisters in the wider world. I have found it deeply moving and an inspiration for prayer. I've copied it in full below:

Dear friend,

My people are hurting…

It was much unexpected turmoil. Not even in our wildest dreams did we imagine the violence that is sweeping across the country now. For many years Syria enjoyed peace and stability in the heart of the unstable Middle East. We were a safe haven for our neighbours. We received displaced people and refugees from other countries like Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, and even from Somalia and other far away areas. Yet now the violence pushed the host people out of their homes, fleeing for their lives. Many are displaced internally and many others are external refugees living in the most humiliating circumstances, deprived of even shelter, clean water, power, food, and medical care. Millions are not sleeping in their own beds, forced out of their homes to find themselves with their children homeless and living in public parks or in the wilderness. Others are not sure if they or their children and loved ones will see the light of a new day, tens of thousands of families lost loved ones: a child, a father, a mother, or a husband. Hundreds of the injured died for lack of medical care. Thousands of children go to bed terrified of the sound of shelling. Hundreds of thousands are in camps in neighbouring countries. My people are hurting. I can cry like Nehemiah because the walls of our cities are burnt and the people are in great trouble and disgrace; the only good news is that the church is moving whole-heartedly to help relieve some of the suffering, and the Lord is surely opening hearts to receive the gospel.

We thank God because the Church is united across the country in prayer…

Thank God we are the CHURCH of the living God. We are here in this country at such a time in history not just to mourn, though mourning is certainly proper. We are here for a divine reason; we trust and rely on our sovereign, loving Lord. We believe that we are in the midst of a spiritual war. In this country there are many who are much more effective than us militarily, politically, economically and socially, but none have the privilege of being effective in this spiritual battle like we are. We thank God because the Church is united across the country in prayer 24 hours a day, seven days a week; praying for the glory of God to dwell in the Church, for an end to the bloodshed, for peace in the country, for keeping the Church's faithful witness, to reach out to the suffering, to share the divine cure of the gospel, to speak the word of the Lord in all boldness. Each lost soul is, to us, an eternal loss. We pray that the evil powers of darkness will be defeated in our land, the values of false religion will be exposed for what they are and despised and rejected, and for many souls to come to know the love and forgiveness of Christ and to enjoy his saving grace.

The Church is active in relief work…

While revenge, power and hatred are the worshipped gods and the highest values in a dirty sectarian political fight, by God's grace we are sowing the seeds of love and forgiveness. The Church is active in relief work, trying to reach the suffering with the love of Christ. It is our battle to be a Church that upholds biblical values and keeps its spiritual focus where our communities are deeply divided along sectarian lines and severely polarised politically. Yet, counting on the Lord's power by the Holy Spirit, we know that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

We decided to adopt the motto of a Lebanese pastor who lived through the heat of the civil war in his country: “Our loyalty is to Christ, our submission is to the laws of the land, and our love is to all.” While we can see and sense the evil powers spreading a dark cloud over the country, closing the door for the light of hope, we still trust our all-sovereign God “who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ”. We see darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon His church and His glory appears over it.

We deeply appreciate the prayers of God's people everywhere; it is a rare time where the Church in Syria is feeling the true oneness of the body of Christ all over the globe. For this, we thank the Lord, for it is a great encouragement to us.

Please pray:

For peace in Syria and an end to bloodshed. For God's rich mercies on the suffering people.

For safety and protection for the churches and wisdom and vision for church leaders.

To empower the Church to reach out to the suffering, to share the divine cure of the gospel, and to speak the word of the Lord in all boldness.

That the Lord would send wise, God-fearing counsellors to the decision-makers in all parties in the country.