The global church is growing in its awareness of active persecution of Christ’s followers. We’ve addressed a couple of useful tools for the persecuted church during the past two weeks here and here. This article adds one more practical tool to the box for believers facing persecution around the world. Let’s look together at what it means to literally pray for and serve people who hate us for our faith.
My Neighbor Kind Of Hates Me
I can tell when my neighbor is home because I can hear him yelling. He’s pretty much always yelling at someone. Sometimes he’s yelling at me. More often the focus of his rage is someone in his family, a worker, or his dog. Over the years, he’s had a lot of dogs—there’s a new one each year.
My neighbor is mean. He’s passive aggressive. And he really doesn’t like having Americans for neighbors. Last year, my neighbor stole the license plate from my guest’s car because he was parked too close to his house. This summer he slashed a tire on a bus that our friend had parked across from our house. He regularly yells at me when I water my lawn and get water on his side of the fence because he says it ruins the foundation of his home.
I don’t like him. I don’t know how to love someone who is so negative all the time. I’m sure he’s the most miserable man I’ve ever known. So last week, I added him to my prayer list.
5x5x5: A Simple, Focused Prayer Strategy
I’ve served in Central Asia for almost twenty years. In our region, we encourage one another to pray daily for five non-Christians we are reaching out to, for five believers who are maturing in the faith, and for five unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPGs). We call this prayer list our 5x5x5. It’s a simple strategy that keeps our prayers just as outward focused as inward.
I added my neighbor to my 5x5x5 prayer list because God convicted me of my bad attitude toward him. I had been meditating on Jesus’s words: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:43–45 HCSB).
My Enemy Next Door
I like to think that I don’t have any enemies, but I know it’s not true. I have one right next door. My neighbor is my enemy.
My dictionary defines an enemy as one who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something. My neighbor is hostile to me. Jesus’s words to me are very clear—I must love him and pray for him.
The other people on my prayer list of five non-Christians are my friends. I enjoy drinking tea and visiting with them. When I talk about my faith, they listen and nod.
My neighbor, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about me, and he doesn’t seem to care about Jesus. But God showed me last week that by praying consistently for my enemy, my faith will grow.
Praying in Faith
Another verse I’ve been meditating on is 1 Timothy 1:4, which says that God’s work is by faith. We are saved by faith, and we work by faith. Our attention must be firmly fixed on God as we go about the business he has called us to.
On a larger scale, when I think about areas like the North Caucasus in Central Asia, I could despair. I could focus on all of the barriers that keep the gospel from penetrating that region. I would lose hope if I weren’t praying and working by faith.
In faith, I know that God is working in the North Caucasus and will bring the peoples of the region to himself. Two of the UUPGs I’m praying for—the Akhvakh and the Ghunzib—are found in the North Caucasus. They seem unreachable, but by faith, I trust God is at work among them.
In the same way, regularly praying for my next-door neighbor is a faith exercise for me. I certainly know that I can’t change his heart. But God can. I was once God’s enemy (Col. 1:21), just as my neighbor is today, until God saved me. And I believe God can save my neighbor.
Think about who your enemies are, and then commit to praying for them daily. While you are praying, please remember my neighbor Bolat.* Pray for me to find ways to break through the wall of anger he hides behind.
Pray for Your 5x5x5 Every Single Day
- 5 people you know who need to know Jesus as Lord
- 5 believers you know who are maturing in the faith
- 5 UUPGs who need the gospel
Add the Most Inaccessible UUPGs to Your Prayer List
If you don’t know any UUPGs or if you’d like to pray for some of the most inaccessible peoples in Central Asia, then join us in praying for the North Caucasus. Download this PDF: Let the Mountains Sing, a prayer guide for the peoples of the North Caucasus.