Faith is the furnace of our lives. Its fuel is the grace of God. And the divinely appointed shovel for feeding the burner is prayer. If you lose heart and lay down the shovel, the fire will go out, you will grow cold and hard, and when the lightning flashes from sky to sky and the Son of man appears in glory, he will spew you out of his mouth (Revelation 3:16)
Sometimes we ourselves are in need of God’s speedy justice. We are suffering because of our commitment to Christ, perhaps, or we are being treated unfairly in some other way—in which case we need to keep appealing to God for the justice that only he can bring. But we have other brothers and sisters who are suffering much more severely than we are, and we need to keep them in our prayers. According to some estimates, more than two hundred million Christians face intimidation, discrimination, and imprisonment every year. House churches in China are under government observation. Christians in Sudan face genocidal violence from militant Muslims. Citizens in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to convert to faith in Jesus Christ. Pastors in Vietnam meet in secret to receive their theological training. Militant Buddhists in Sri Lanka close down churches and threaten believers with physical violence. Christians in Eritrea are jailed in record numbers. Hindus in India deny low-caste Christians (the Dalits and other “untouchables”) basic human rights. These are only some of the ways and some of the places that Christians suffer injustice.
In countries that are hostile to the gospel, thousands of Christians are even put to death. In fact, on the day I am writing this, news has come from Iran that the pastor of a house church and father of four has been killed in cold blood. The man was kidnapped by local police and then stabbed to death, with his bleeding body thrown on the street in front of his family’s home. There was also a chilling warning for other Christian leaders: “The government knows what you are doing, and we will come for you soon.” When we hear such horrific news, our cry goes up to God with the prayer of the martyrs: “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).
Do we ever feel a secret inclination to hurry our prayers, or shorten our prayers, or become careless about our prayers, or omit our prayers altogether? Let us be sure, when we do, that it is a direct temptation from the devil. He is trying to sap and undermine the very citadel of our souls, and to cast us down to hell. Let us resist the temptation, and cast it behind our backs. Let us resolve to pray on steadily, patiently, perseveringly, and let us never doubt that it does us good. However long the answer may be in coming, still let us pray on. Whatever sacrifice and self-denial it may cost us, still let us pray on, “pray always,”—“pray without ceasing,”—and “continue in prayer.” (1 Thess. 5:17. Coloss. 4:2.)