***** PLEASE PARTICIPATE IN IDOP: 13 / 20 NOVEMBER 2005 ***** * The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church * * For resources, visit http://www.IDOP.org * *************************************************************
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 352 - Tue 08 Nov 2005
IDOP 2005 ---------
Over recent years, Christians in the West have become much more aware of the severe, often violent nature of persecution and religious liberty abuse in the non-West. Also, believers around the world are discovering they are not alone in their suffering: churches in Egypt are more aware of persecution in China; churches in Vietnam are more aware of persecution in Pakistan; and churches in Sri Lanka are more aware of persecution in Uzbekistan. The numbers of churches and individuals involved in praying for the persecuted Church and for religious liberty has been growing exponentially. The bond of unity in brotherly love resulting from these prayers is humbling, powerful and God- glorifying.
Those of us who have been praying over the years have seen wars stilled, elections blessed, the schemes of the wicked exposed and frustrated, suffering believers and persecuted churches preserved, uplifted and empowered. And God has done much more in answer to prayer than we will ever know this side of heaven. He has supplied needs, healed wounds, strengthened the weak, redirected hearts, punished evildoers, prevented disaster, and sent angels to surround the vulnerable and lift up the down-trodden. He has poured out mercy and grace in times of need in answer to the prayers of many. Let us praise his holy name and bow in reverence and gratitude before him!
But we are not in heaven yet! Billions of people continue in spiritual slavery and millions of Christians still suffer systematic discrimination, persecution and oppression. Persecuted Christians are not superhuman - they are vulnerable men, women and children like you and me. Jesus is being persecuted (Acts 9:5)! In all our affliction, God is afflicted (Isaiah 63:9)! As Christians we must 'stand with God in his hour of grieving' (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). We must cling to him (Genesis 32:26) and pray for peace until the world is at peace; pray for justice until justice reigns; pray '...hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven' (Matthew 6:9,10 ESV), until the promises of God are all fulfilled and the earth is 'filled with the knowledge and glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea' (Habakkuk 2:14 ESV).
So let us come with confidence to our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ the Son of God. He is holy and almighty, supreme over all creation, visible and invisible, and yet he sympathises with our weakness and is ready, willing and able to pour out mercy and grace to those in need. Please see the Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) for Strategic Nations on the www.idop.org website. Here are some further updates, along with an issue for 'special focus'.
UPDATES FOR THE CRITICAL PRAYER REQUESTS
* CUBA - For the nation: that God will redirect the heart of President Fidel Castro (Proverbs 21:1) so that there may be a return to the more liberal policies of the 1990s that enabled house- churches to proliferate at an extraordinary rate. 'Cuba para Cristo!' ('Cuba for Christ!'). For the Church: for comfort, courage, solidarity and grace in the face of harsh new restrictions.
* GUINEA - For the nation: that the authorities will have wisdom and strength to continue to uphold religious liberty and the security of Christians in the face of rising Muslim intolerance and growing ethnic-religious tensions, in particular in the southeast Forest Region.
* UZBEKISTAN - For the nation: that God will redirect the heart of President Islam Karimov to pursue the political and economic reforms needed to ease social tensions, as well as restore and protect liberty. For the Church: that God will protect, preserve and bless the Church, which is persecuted by the government and by Muslims. May the Church be a source of light and comfort to the poor and repressed, and leaven to a troubled nation.
* SPECIAL FOCUS: PRISONERS
Today, more than 50 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared religious liberty to be a fundamental human right, there are multitudes of Christians in forced-labour camps and prisons. In Eritrea there are now 1778 Christian prisoners incarcerated on account of their faith, including 26 full-time pastors. It is estimated that some 100,000 Christians are struggling to survive the daily horrors of the North Korean gulags. Throughout Communist Asia pastors and evangelists are most likely to be imprisoned on trumped-up security, economic and criminal - not religious - charges, whilst in the Muslim world they are more likely to be charged with religious offences such as blasphemy, apostasy or proselytism, or be murdered.
The world's imprisoned Christians must endure the most unhygienic, unsanitary conditions, with appalling cruelty and suffering that usually includes beatings and torture. It may also include starvation and threats of violence to family members. Those imprisoned for their Christian faith are pastors and lay pastors, evangelists, new believers, men, women, youths, the elderly, sole bread-winners, mothers, or the only pastor or trained Bible teacher for hundreds of miles. Not only do the prisoners suffer, but so too do their families, congregations and communities.
* WE PRAY especially for Christians imprisoned for their faith: may their faith be preserved, their spirits uplifted, their souls restored, their strength renewed, their wounds healed, their hope encouraged, their fear dissolved, and their witness blessed. May the eternal, ever-present Holy Spirit, the counsellor who lives within them, lead them into all truth and remind them of God's word - that *he* walks with them (Psalm 23:4) and they can *never* be separated from his love (Romans 8:31-39). May the sovereign Lord of heaven intervene on their behalf (Isaiah 59: 15b-19). May 'justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.' (Amos 5:24 ESV). For the praise and glory of God. Amen.
'For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints' (Psalm 37:28a ESV).
Please send this RLP to others, with attribution to World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Prayer List <[email protected]> ----------------------------------------------------
The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray specifically and regularly for religious liberty issues, and in particular to uphold the Church where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC. Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.
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