International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
November 16, 1997
Heb. 13:3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
One day an 8 yr. old boy went to the pet store with his dad to buy a puppy. The store manager showed them to a pen where five little furry balls huddled together. After a while, the boy noticed one of the litter all by himself in an adjacent pen. The boy asked, “Why is this puppy all alone?” The manager explained, “That puppy was born with a bad leg and would be crippled for life, so we’re going to have to put him to sleep.”
“You’re going to kill this puppy?” the boy said sadly while patting it. “You have to realize that this puppy would never be able to run and play with a boy like you.”
After a short conversation with his boy, the dad told the manager that they wanted to buy the puppy with the bad leg.
“For the same amount of money you could have one of the ‘healthy’ ones. Why do you want this one?”
To answer the manager’s question, the boy bent over and pulled up the pant on his right leg, exposed the brace underneath and said, “Mister, I want this one because I understand what he’s going through.”
It is hard for us to really understand what persecuted Christians are going through because we probably have never been (yet) where they are or experienced what they have experienced. Let us think through what an actual underground church meeting might be like in order to more closely identify with and pray for those who suffer for their faith.
1. Imagine if we all moved into our prayer room at the back of the sanctuary. It is not unusual for persecuted Christians to meet in very cramped quarters. Perhaps only of few of the weakest could actually sit down.
2. There would probably be only 1 or 2 people in the group who would actually have Bibles. They are very rare in persecuted nations. You would have to share them. The value of owning one would be priceless.
3. The shortage of Scriptures forces believers to share sections of the Bible from memory. As they share, other believers write down the words so they can gather a growing collection to give them strength in time of need.
4. Near silence would be very important since we wouldn’t want to alert neighbors or patrolling police of our presence by loud hymn singing or noisy worship. Songs would be sung in a whisper, and lights would be turned down low so no one could see that there is a large gathering.
5. The worshippers would be cautioned about the seriousness of their actions since fines up to one month’s wages or imprisonment or torture or death would result if caught.
6. An alibi would be created for the meeting in case it would be invaded. Perhaps a birthday cake would be baked and set in the midst of the group to pretend it is someone’s birthday as a reason for gathering.
7. Look around and pick out one person who is usually here who would now be missing because they have now been detained by the police for their Christian activities. Imagine that believer being coerced even now to give them your name as a collaborator. They want the names of everyone in the group and especially want the name of the leader. This person is in dire need of prayer even now because of the intense pressure to compromise Christ and his church.
8. When it is time for the group to leave, only 2 people at a time may do so, about 10 minutes apart, so as to avoid any attention to a meeting breaking up. How long would it take us to adjourn at the rate of 12 per hour to keep our meeting secret?
Let us begin a time of prayer for the persecuted church. Take notice of this map of places in the world “Where Christ Still Suffers.”
Close with reciting the Lord’s Prayer in unison.