Stories of the persecuted church around the world have grown in number of late. This one regarding Christian arrests in Iran ran just last week. An article that appeared on CNN earlier this year claimed that 2015 held the distinct honor of producing the highest rate of Christian persecution in history. Of course, the case of Iranian American Pastor Saeed Abedini has topped news cycles for the last three years.
These stories aren’t going to go away; Jesus informed his followers that persecution would come (John 15:18–25). It’s not a new thing—just ask the early church—but many within the rather insulated West have been unaware of its existence for a while. As we continue to awaken to this reality, we need to think about how to understand persecution. More importantly, we need to learn how to persevere through it and pray for those who face it around the world.
In this article, Ruth Ripkin offers three ways to engage entire families in praying for the global persecuted church by teaching our children to join us.
David’s Zeal for North Korean Christians
A six-year-old boy looked up at my husband, Nik, with eyes as big as saucers. Those eyes are a sight forever etched on my mind. After a Sunday morning service, his mom, Debbie, asked us if her little boy, David, could talk to us before the evening service. We arrived a few minutes early in order to talk with him, and he was already sitting on the front row waiting for us.
“What is it like for Christians in North Korea?” he blurted, even before we got to the front of the church. What six-year-old boy even knows there are Christians in the most persecuted place on the planet? What six-year-old child cares that believers are severely persecuted and can lose their lives if they follow Jesus and share Him with their families? Who even knows about the difficulties of believers who are locked away in camps and interrogated and abused?
Becoming a Part of the Body
As Nik bent down to share a few stories of life in North Korea with David, I glanced over at Debbie and saw a mother who was helping her child become a part of the amazing body of Christ that is scattered and thriving and growing all across the world. She had big tears in her eyes (as did I) as she watched her son pray for these believers with my husband.
I began to ask myself in that moment the same questions I’d like to ask you now. Are we raising children who know how to pray for people they will never meet? Are we helping the next generation to become kingdom citizens?
David didn’t have a heart for North Korea by accident. He had a mother and father who modeled for him how to pray for the nations.
David didn’t have a heart for North Korea by accident. He had a mother and father who modeled for him how to pray for the nations, for people who are without Christ and those who are living out their faith in other parts of the world where it costs a lot to follow Jesus.
Teaching Your Children to Pray Specifically
The following are three ways you can lead your children to pray for Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith.
- Pray for believers around the world in front of your children. Open Doors USA has a list of the top fifty countries in the world that persecute Christians. Pray for each one by name.
- Pray that believers in persecution will be obedient each day to share Jesus with their friends. Pray that they will be obedient through their suffering. Help your child to pray that for themselves as well as for those who are persecuted.
- Help the stories of the Bible come to life. There are many stories where persecution was a reality for God’s children—David, Daniel, the three men in the fiery furnace, Esther, etc. Use these stories to talk about obedience and the importance of being faithful.
God hears and responds to the prayers of children who know him. Rather than shielding your children from the realities of suffering for Jesus’s name, lead them to pray boldly on behalf of the persecuted.
Ruth Ripkin and her husband, Nik, are mission veterans of thirty years with the International Mission Board, SBC, having served in Malawi, South Africa, Kenya, Somalia, Germany, Ethiopia, and the Middle East and currently serve as Global Missiologists. They’ve extensively researched believers living in the midst of persecution in over seventy countries. and shared it in numerous articles and two books, The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected and The Insanity of Obedience: Walking With Jesus in Tough Places. You can find Ruth on Facebook here.