My heart was beating fast inside my chest as I sang into the microphone. Our ministry team was traveling from village to village in Romania telling people about Jesus, and I was helping lead worship. I didn’t know if the people who filled this open-air soccer stadium understood English, but I prayed God’s Spirit would speak to them anyway.
Rain threatened to fall all day, but God held it back until the gospel was preached and an invitation was given. In response to the message, loads of people filed to the front to commit their lives to Jesus. They were desperate for God’s love in a way I’d never seen.
As the crowd left the stadium, our interpreter pointed to a building beside the stadium and asked me, “Do you know what that is?” “No,” I said. “That’s the prison where Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years of his life being tortured because he wouldn’t trade his faith in Jesus for Joseph Stalin’s communism.
Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand are two of my heroes. They lived in Romania during a time of great persecution and helped to start the Underground Church. They were eventually released and started a ministry called Voice of the Martyrs based in America. VOM’s goal is to educate the western world on the persecuted church worldwide. They also provide aid (Bibles and finances) to our brothers and sisters who suffer daily.
I was a teenager when I first learned the persecuted church existed. My first reaction was one of shame for being an American and for my life of comfort. The evil the underground church was experiencing left me grief stricken, but I thought, “What can a teenage white-girl do to help?” The immediate solution seemed clear: give a gift, pray a prayer, and return to normal life. I wasn’t a callous American. I was an overwhelmed teenage girl who felt helpless to do anything.
But then I read these words in Richard’s biography:
“The message I bring from the Underground Church is:
‘Don’t abandon us!’
‘Don’t forget us!’
‘Don’t write us off!’
‘Give us the tools we need! We will pay the price for using them.’”
(Tortured For Christ, p. 144)
Romania doesn’t suffer under a Communist regime, but Richard’s plea to help is still relevant today. Not too long ago the television was filled with images of Isis killing Christians. How did it make you feel? It made me ANGRY, actually FURIOUS! I wanted to pull a Liam Neeson, and dish out some justice.
But, then I remembered how the Wurmbrands prayed for their Communist captors because they realized they were not the enemy; their enemy was Satan. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
The persecuted and the underground church still exists because Satan is still blinding people to the good news of Jesus. We cannot overcome this by being mad or looking away, but we can serve our suffering brothers and sisters by praying for them. (James 5:16)
I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t know what to pray.” I don’t know what to pray either, so I use two resources:
Praying through the 100 Gateway Cities of the 10/40 Window. This book focuses on an area of the world where most persecution occurs because it has the least amount of Christian influence. It’s a step-by-step guide for praying. It tells you about each city; it’s population, location and what to pray.
Here are some repeated themes:
- Pray for Christians to find jobs and to be able to stand up under persecution.
- Pray that the anti-Christian establishments would be overturned and religious liberty established.
- Pray that believers would be able to find and listen to Christian radio broadcasts.
- Pray that Christians would have wisdom in evangelizing and discipleship.
- Another resource I love is the VOM newsletter. They have pictures and current specific needs of Christian. I started praying with this ministry as a teenager, and now my kids pray with me. Here is a link for you: icommittopray.com
I want to leave you with this final thought. Jesus prayed for his disciples before he returned to heaven because he knew they would suffer persecution. Let’s follow His example.
“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.….I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” -John 17: 13-16