We have been hearing reports from the Church in the Middle East and Africa of persecution, abuse, and martyrdom for some time now, but the persecution is escalating. Recently, I read about the Syrian woman who got a phone call from her fiancé’s killers who told her that they gave him the option of converting to Islam, but when he would not, they slit his throat. They mocked her by saying “Jesus did not come to save him.” This type of story is being repeated all over the world. We should not be surprised.
Revelation 6:9-11 tells us more:
“9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.”
In Revelation 8, we see the prayers of the saints going up like incense before the Lord. God responds with bowls of judgment upon the earth. No matter your eschatology, this much is certain: Persecution of Christians will continue, it is instigated by Satan, our prayers mixed with the cry of martyrs goes up before God, and God will respond with judgment and justice. Until then, we join with them in crying out, “How long, O Lord?”
We need to be praying. Ephesians 5:16 tells us to make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. We cannot be neutral. Another story of persecution of Christians in Syria was of the terrorists holding a gun to the head of a Christian and forcing him to convert to Islam. He did. They laughed and said, “He’s ours now.” We need to be praying for our brothers and sisters. We are in peril as well even though things seem safe here. How do we bow the knee to the world? How do we take the mark? How do we give in? God calls us to be strong in Him. We need each other. We need God’s Spirit and Word. We need grace and power. We need to pray.