With North Korea continuing to make headlines, the country remains in the public eye–and in the hearts of Christians praying for freedom of our oppressed and persecuted brothers and sisters in the isolated land. For them, owning a Bible, praying or worshiping in the country is a likely prison sentence, possibly death. In the face of such brutality, we as Christians know we’re supposed to pray, but sometimes it’s hard to find the words. Fortunately, Scripture helps us in moments like these. Here are five verses from the Gospels that can guide us as we remember the underground church of North Korea in our prayers.
1. ‘Lord, calm the storm’
“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39).
The regime led by Kim Jong Un has unleashed a storm of persecution and oppression on anyone he sees as a political enemy. Tens of thousands have been killed, incarcerated in prisons and camps or banished to closed villages, among them many women and children. Only Jesus is able to calm this storm. After He calmed the storm in the midst of the disciples’ fears, Jesus asked: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” With faith and confidence, pray that Jesus will calm the storm of Kim Jong Un’s brutality.
2. ‘Lord, let the children come to You’
“But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’” (Luke 18:16).
Being a Christian parent in North Korea can be heartbreaking. No prayers before or after dinner. No Bible stories before bedtime. Never taking your child to church. This is the dark reality of raising kids in North Korea. In many cases, indoctrinated children–taught loyalty to the Kim regime above all else–may report their parents as enemies of North Korea. Parents can only pray that once their children are old enough they will be receptive to the gospel. Jesus said that nobody should hinder the children to come to him. Pray for Christian parents and their children, for the seed of the gospel to be planted in their hearts and that God would nurture it throughout their lives.
3. ‘Lord, offer your living water to the broken women’
“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10).
Thousands of North Korean women, often mothers, have been tricked into human trafficking or voluntarily entered into it out of a need to feed their families. Tens of thousands now live in China where they are forcibly married to Chinese men. Others work in prostitution. In most cases, women left husbands and/or children behind. Their Chinese families exercise control over them, often resulting in abusive behavior. Like the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4, the lives of these women have fallen apart. They are living in pain. They need Jesus to heal them and restore them. His living water is what they need. Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well and the result was an entire village coming to faith. Pray that God would reveal Himself to these women.
4. ‘Lord, help North Koreans fix their eyes on Jesus’
“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water’” (Matthew 14:28).
Following Jesus Christ can be a frightening thing. When Jesus approached the boat, the disciples didn’t even recognize Him at first, but Jesus reassured them by quoting His Father: ‘I AM.’ Jesus is Lord and in the darkest night He is present. For Christians in North Korea, the stakes are high as they determine the will of God: How should they pray? When is it safe to talk about the gospel? When, where and how is it possible to meet other Christians? How can they help each other and their neighbors? They need Jesus to call out to them and give them the faith to walk on water. And even if they lack faith for just a second and start to sink, we can pray that they will know the heart and power of Jesus to show them glimpses of Him and His love. Pray for the Christians of North Korea to discern the Lord’s voice. Pray that like Peter, they would fix their eyes on Jesus.
5. ‘Lord, forgive their persecutors. They don’t know what they do.’
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’” (Luke 23:34a).
North Korea’s rulers and those who do their persecuting are blinded–unable to see. The Enemy has hardened their hearts. We can pray and ask God to cause the scales to fall off their eyes. Jesus asked forgiveness for those who had tortured Him and were now nailing Him to a cross? Jesus asked His Father not to hold this sin against them. In the same way, we can intercede on behalf of the Kim family and the brutal regime. We don’t know if any of the Roman soldiers came to faith, and we may never see the outcome of our prayers for North Korea’s leaders. But we must follow Jesus’ example. Pray the Lord’s prayer for the North Korean church, but also for its oppressors.