Daily, we’re bombarded with stories popping up in our social media feeds or inboxes, and we’re often left shocked or sorrowful. You may even share the story with a friend, but what happens after that? That story slowly slips from your mind…
Now, put yourself in those events and circumstances, placing yourself as a victim facing the same trials you just read:
…You feel the cold prison floor during an icy North Korean winter. The guards are being especially harsh this week, and you can’t remember when a piece of bread was thrown your way.
…You look into your child’s eyes and tell them there is still nothing to eat, as you embrace them and feel their bloated belly and rib bones popping out.
If you personally experience something, it doesn’t quickly fade.
In His infinite wisdom, God knows this about the human experience, that is why in Hebrews 13:3, we’re commanded: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated since you also are in the body.” [emphasis added]
When we support the persecuted church with an attitude of “us” helping “them,” our help will not be done in unity. This is not what God intends.
We are called to remember them as if we were in their shoes. We are called to be in prayer for them as if they were standing right in front of us. God knows that when we consider ourselves as ONE with the persecuted in the Body of Christ, believers facing trials will be upheld and strengthened in all they need.
How do we do this? Oftentimes, our schedules and own problems sometimes take up every minute of our day. How can we pray for the persecuted, as Hebrews 13:3 says, “as though we were in prison with them”?
Not many of our [American] readers are in prison for their faith right now, but here are 5 creative ways we can be One with our persecuted brothers and sisters in chains and fulfill our command from Hebrews:
Visit a prison near you and pray with inmates
This may stretch you out of your comfort zone, but this will give you a tangible experience of what our brothers and sisters are facing around the world behind bars [although prison conditions in America are often vastly better than what persecuted believers are facing in Eritrea, North Korea, etc.]. See if your church extends themselves in a prison ministry and get involved. This will open your eyes to the challenges Christians face as they seek to share the gospel with others behind bars, too.
Read about prison conditions in countries where Christians are often incarcerated
It so much easier to stand with persecuted believers in their shoes if you know some of the specific things they are facing. Eritrea, for example, has a long history of human rights violations and often keeps their prisoners in shipping containers. Prisoners are confined within metal walls, which amplify the hot desert days and freezing desert nights. Whenever you see a shipping container go by on a boat or train, this can be a reminder to pray for believers facing these conditions in Eritrea. Other countries to research are North Korea or Iran.
Make it a habit to pray for them
As mentioned, sometimes it can feel like we are simply too busy to pray. As D.A. Carson says, “If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. Cut something out.” Look at your schedule and find a 5 minutes window (or more) to pray for a few imprisoned Christians by name. Set a daily alarm on your phone or make a habit of praying while you eat breakfast or brush your teeth each day.
Create an experience for your family or small group
This does not need to be drastic, but can be used as a helpful tool in teaching your family or small group about the realities persecuted Christians face behind bars. Choose a time to eat a simple meal on the ground [as you’re able], and as you gather, use the time you eat to pray for those eating even less than you in even harsher circumstances. Reference Christian names linked above or discuss the countries where believers are in prison today, found on the World Watch List.
Do a word study for the words “persecution,” “affliction” or “trial” in your Bible
God has a heart for those facing persecution for His Name, and we can find much encouragement when we dig into His Word and study what He says about it. When we are washed with the truths that, “suffering produces endurance,” and that, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” we will begin to pray more biblical prayers and continue to remember our brothers and sisters in chains as we study and pray.
To dive in deeper where believers are often imprisoned for their faith, learn more on the World Watch List, which highlights the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution for the faith around the world.