November 9, 2012

A History of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

 

Bible in chains

(Photo credit: The Evanglical Fellowship of Canada)

By Faith McDonnell

This weekend holds another special event, in addition to the 237th birthday of the United States Marine Corps on Saturday, November 10, and Veteran’s Day on Sunday, “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” November 11 is also the annual observance of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). This year marks the 16th anniversary of this special day to remember those persecuted for their faith around the world.

I was privileged to be part of the coalition that created IDOP. Convicted by the realization that more people had died for their Christian faith in the twentieth century than in all the previous centuries combined, our coalition first met on January 23, 1996 at a meeting convened by Nina Shea, the director of the Center for Religious Freedom (then at Freedom House, now at The Hudson Institute). The group consisted of many Christian organizations, including IRD, along with tireless advocates like Michael Horowitz and the late Chuck Colson. On that day, the National Association of Evangelicals issued a “Statement of Conscience and Call to Action” in which it pledged to end “our own silence in the face of the suffering of all those persecuted for their religious faith.”

After that inaugural event, a smaller team – mostly local to Washington, DC, along with Chicago-based Dwight Gibson, the U.S. representative of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF, now World Evangelical Alliance) – began to meet regularly to plan the first International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. The late president of IRD, Diane Knippers, and I were heavily involved in the effort. Diane worked as the Day of Prayer’s liaison with the mainline denominations, requesting endorsement of the Day of Prayer from denominational leaders, the National Council of Churches (NCC), etc. (We also reported to those church members whose denominational leaders, along with the NCC, refused to endorse the observance, protesting that we should “not just pray for Christians.”), I helped to create resource materials distributed by WEF, and drafted a resolution on the worldwide persecution of Christians that was passed in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate in September 1996.

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  • http://daryldensford.wordpress.com Daryl Densford

    Reblogged this on Here I Sit and commented:
    We need to remember to pray this Sunday … and every day … for the persecuted Church around the world! (some day we may need their prayers for our persecution!) Here’s a history of “International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church . . .

    • http://contextintn.wordpress.com/ dover1952

      Well Daryl. The Southern Baptist Convention church where I spent several truly miserable years between 1985 and 1988 always said that one must not pray generally. Instead, one should always pray specifically and be sure to precisely “name” what one is praying for. The word “name” was extremely important to them. They even had a standard cliche phrase for it:

      “Name It and Claim It!!!”

      How did it work? Well, if one was hungry and wanted or needed a ham sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and Miracle Whip, when praying, the person must be sure to clearly voice their desire for Miracle Whip or God might send you a ham sandwich with lettuce and tomato—but no Miracle Whip. In other words, God was viewed as some sort of McDonalds-cash-register dolt who was incapable of taking a prayer request correctly without extreme specificity and properly clear oral enunciation of words. This is just one more in a long list of reasons why I was glad to get out of that looney bin.

      In this prayer thing for the persecuted church, which SPECIFIC churches and there representatives are we supposed to pray for? For example, the Roman Catholics have missionaries around the world. Are we supposed to pray for them? How about the Episcopalians and United Methodists—or maybe the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship? How about Jehovah”s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists? What about Dan Trabue’s church in Louisville, Kentucky?

      Or instead, are we supposed to pray only for those churches and foreign mission representatives that are “really for real Christians” and “truly please God” in all that they do: Church of the Nazarene, Assembly of God, Free Will Baptist Church, Church of God in Jesus Name, Family Bible Church, Independent Baptist Church, Church of the Carefully Handled Snake, Church of God of Prophecy, Church of the Exclusive Kingdom Heirs, Faith Promise Church, Church of the Harvest, etc.

      I think this is a fair question.

      • http://daryldensford.wordpress.com Daryl Densford

        dover1952, You make many very good points. I, too, have also heard that we need to pray specifically (though I’ve never been exposed to the specificity you illustrate with the sandwich!). However, I believe that our prayers can also be effective even when they are more general, such as for the “persecuted Christians around the world.”

        But again, I do think the more specific we can get, the better for us, the prayer. We can get more engaged and involved in our praying when there are names and faces with our prayers. To get those, we can seek them out through sites like http://www.persecution.com/ or http://joshuaproject.net/. In addition, we can find information on our own denomination’s work around the world that can inform our prayers. My denomination, for example, has a “Prayer Mobilization Prayer Line” which lists specific needs by name and country (more general with those in more dangerous areas), and is updated regularly.

        As for the limits on who to pray for, personally, I would have a hard time praying “generally” for those groups who I would consider “cultish” while if I know some person personally who represents the true Word of God I could pray more specifically.

        Bottom line, (and I hope this isn’t too “out there” for you), I believe the Holy Spirit can guide our praying, and in some instances pray “for” us when we don’t know how to pray. I truly believe that God honors our prayers where we are sincerely seeking to glorify Him by empowering His work around the world in our praying.

  • http://benswoodruff.blogger.com Benjamin Woodruff

    I believe the part you are rightly referring to, albeit indirectly, is this scripture:

    Romans 8:26–28 KJV
    26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
    27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
    28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

    One can pray specifically, as one who really is only in need of one thing (even a certain kind of sandwich) or vaguely, as one who speaks in tongues privately, without another listening for the interpretation of the Spirit. God knows us better than we know ourselves, but praying shows our active will for things to happen in accordance with His will. It is very important.

    Also, if you pray for those you agree with, pray so that they will be strengthened and tried, to the glorious end they so desire in Christ. If you pray for those with whom you disagree, ask for their softened heart, their weakening of the stiff neck, and their constant remembrance of those things they deny while secretly admitting the weight of the possibility of truth. Any small room for truth in the heart of an unbeliever can be filled, which is why we need to constantly pray for them, so that either we or some other believer who is willing to do God’s work will show up at their doors and pronounce the Word in their gates.

    May the grace of Jesus be with you all.

    • http://contextintn.wordpress.com/ dover1952

      Well put. Finally—someone with half an ounce of sense in this nuthouse.