IDOP stands for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, when members of this one, worldwide Church pray for those who count the cost of a life lived for Jesus in lands where he is not welcome.
The Persecuted Church is the one you’re in – we’re one Church. Some of our brothers and sisters don’t get tea and coffee after – or before, or during – the service. Some of them don’t get a service. Some of them don’t know a single Christian to share their faith with, and some of them don’t get to live. But they’re in our Church.
Technically, the day to mark IDOP is 16 November this year, but really you don’t have to wait until then, or stop as the clock strikes midnight. You can pray right now, or in the morning, or with you home group, or your accountability partner, or with the kids at tea time. You can pray wherever you like, so long as you do.
But what to pray for? If you’re anything like me, you’re going to need to change your instinct on this one. I’ve been thinking about persecuted Christians for a little while now, and still my instinct is to pity them, to feel guilty for my freedom, to feel burdened and grieved for their pain. But let’s look again at how Jesus paints the persecution picture: “Blessed are those who are persecuted, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.” Matthew 5:10.
When I pray for the persecuted, let me rejoice in their blessing. Let me look with holy envy at those who Jesus has blessed through persecution. Let me try to learn from them what it is to trust our saviour, to hope when the only light is that of the Holy Spirit in my spirit. Let me commend to God these persecuted Christians, my family, who have nothing and yet remain faithful.
That’s not to say I should ignore their trial. The reality of daily grief at school because your classmates call you: “Jesus” and mock you for your faith. The pain of separation from your wife who is in jail on blasphemy charges. The anguish that comes with knowing that your teenage sister has been sold to a stranger by Boko Haram. The total grief of losing everything you know and love because Islamic State swept through town, maiming, torturing, killing.
The incredible thing about our faith is that Jesus is God incarnate, God made flesh, God down here in the misery, God who viscerally knows the pain of persecution. And who still says: “Blessed are those who are persecuted.”
So let’s pray that in the their anguish and sorrow, our persecuted family would know the true peace of God the Father. Let’s pray that they would know overwhelming joy at being identified with Christ. Let’s pray that they would say: “What is death when I’ve got the promise of life? I am blessed to be among the persecuted.”
And don’t forget the very explicit instruction to pray for the persecutors: Romans 12:14. These are the ones who don’t know Jesus, the ones who should burden our hearts, the ones who inflict pain on men and women and children because they see in them the undeniable power of Jesus. Pray for your Church, and pray for its enemies.
This Sunday marks the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. At threads, we think it’s really important to stand with those around the world who are at risk for their faith. To find out more, and to find resources to use on 16 November, visit http://www.eauk.org/church/networks/religious-liberty-commission/. Follow threads for the rest of the week to hear more about those participating in IDOP.