A Service of Prayer for Persecuted Christians

martyrs

The following resources were prepared to enable Christians to pray for other Christians who are living under persecution. The resources may be used any time, but were specifically prepared for use when congregations observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. 

 

 

Rev. Rinaldy Damanik behind bars
The Rev. Rinaldy Damanik

 

 

 

Abbreviations key:
UMH = The United Methodist Hymnal
BOW = The United Methodist Book of Worship
TFWS = The Faith We Sing

A Service of Prayer for Persecuted Christians

This time of prayer can be adapted and supplemented with additional songs, hymns, and Scripture readings other than those suggested here.

Planners and leaders should adjust the number of readings to suit the occasion. The non-scriptural readings from contemporary and ancient sources may be paired differently with Scripture readings for suitable balance. Substitute readings from other contemporary and ancient sources are encouraged.

The baptismal font should be visible to the people.

In preparation for the service, crosses of various shapes, sizes, and texture may be placed on a table (other than the altar table), on the chancel rail, walls, or window ledges. A large rough-hewn cross such as is used on Good Friday may be set up before the people.

Digital graphics of Christians living with persecution and their stories and letters could also be interspersed with readings of scripture and the other readings.

The Scripture reader(s) and non-scripture reader(s) should be contrasting voices.

In choosing and singing hymns and songs, consideration may be given to songs and hymns as sung to those who are persecuted. Song leaders may encourage the faithful to sing not only for their own reinvigoration, but as a prayer and shout to those far away with whom we seek solidarity.

GREETING

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

from Isaiah 49

INVITATION TO PRAYER

Let us pray for the persecuted church,
for their oppressors,
for nations that foster persecution,
and for those who ignore it.

Let us read the Holy Scriptures,
finding there the stories and witness of hope
borne by those who lived through ordeals to the glory of God,
and hear the promises of the gospel
for all who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.

In our prayer for persecuted Christians,
let us not narrow our compassion for all who suffer,
whatever their profession or creed;
let no hatred or prejudice enter our hearts for anyone.

Called by the Holy Spirit to unity with the persecuted,
let us enter into their suffering,
repenting of our ignorance,
refusing to be silent,
ready to reach out to them in their isolation.

SCRIPTURE READINGS

The following series of readings, accounts, and hymns are a call and response form of lectio divina reading and listening, meditating, praying, and contemplating. Unhurried attentiveness should be the aim. Fewer readings rather than more will allow worshipers time to enter into the suffering of God and identification with the persecuted church. Brackets[ ] indicate verses or text that may be omitted to shorten the readings; { } indicate inserted or interpretive text.

1. Faced With the Fire, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Refuse to Forsake Their God.

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?"

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up."

Daniel 3:13-12

Reader: Misconceptions breed fear and violence.
Misconceptions about Christianity create a climate in which persecution can take place. These misconceptions come through ignorance and through disinformation. Once Christians have been made objects of fear or contempt through disinformation, then they are bound to be subject to discrimination and persecution, usually without protection or sympathy.

Hymn or Song

  • TFWS 2219 "Goodness Is Stronger Than Evil"
  • UMH 526 "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"
  • UMH 507 "Through It All"
  • UMH 297 "Beneath the Cross of Jesus"

2. The Beatitudes

[When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.]
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely a on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12

Reader: A report of persecution of Christians around the globe.
In North Korea, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, and Mexico, Christian men and women suffer in jail, while their families miss their presence at home. Miss Li from Jiangsu, China, writes, "We have suffered great persecution. Many of the church leaders have been arrested and fined. Some were beaten and thrown in jail. Brother Cui was sentenced to five years."

from http://www.idop.org

Song

TFWS 2155 "Blest Are They" (all or stanzas 4 and 5)

3. All Who Are Led by the Spirit

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:14-17

Reader: Hear the words of The Rev. Rinaldy Damanik unjustly imprisoned in Indonesia.
"To enjoy the warmth and cheerfulness of the dawn, there is no other way but to pass through the darkness of night," says Damanik from his prison cell. "In this world I have learned that truth very seldom wins, in fact mostly it is defeated. However, I strongly believe that one day it will be discovered. God is the true truth, and eternal God. He is full of forgiveness and blesses us with truth and grace, which gives us the powerful ability to face any challenge and suffering."

from http://www.idop.org

Hymn or Song

  • UMH 144 "This Is My Father's World" (all stanzas or 2 and 3)
  • "Once to Every Man and Nation" (see 6 below)
  • TFWS 2198 "Stay with Me" (Noho Pu)

4. The Sufferings of This Present Time

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in a hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Romans 8:18-25

Reader: Hear the words of The Rev. Rinaldy Damanik unjustly imprisoned in Indonesia.
"Although at the moment I am very bothered, sad, worried, as well as angry with what happened in Central Sulawesi and Indonesia in general, I still and will always praise God all the time in my life for everything I have been experiencing up to now. Being in this prison really makes me more realize the miracle of God, because I can understand more what God means by saying: 'I will never leave you be alone.' I can see that there are many many people who suffer more than me. Please think and pray for them, too. Every day I'm sure that I will have something to eat, to wear, and a place to sleep, but as you know many others don't have this privilege."

Hymn or Song

  • UMH 545 "The Church's One Foundation" (stanzas 1,3, 4)
  • TFWS 2172 "We Are Called"
  • UMH 606 "Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine"
  • TFWS 2198 "Stay with Me" (Noho Pu)

5. The Spirit Intercedes With Sighs Too Deep for Words

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:26-30

Cyprian

Reader: Bishop Cyprian (mid-3rd-century AD), in a letter commending the martyrs, addresses those who might yet face persecution.
I not only beseech but exhort the rest of you ... If the battle shall call you out, if the day of your contest shall come engage bravely, fight with constancy, as knowing that you are fighting under the eyes of a present Lord, that you are attaining by the confession of His name to His own glory; who is not such a one as that He only looks on His servants, but He Himself also wrestles in us, Himself is engaged, Himself also in the struggles of our conflict not only crowns, but is crowned. But if before the day of your contest, of the mercy of God, peace shall supervene {come first}, let there still remain to you the sound will and the glorious conscience {ready to endure suffering}.

Cyprian, Epistle 8.
Cyprian himself was beheaded on September 14, 258 AD.

Hymn

  • UMH 406 "Canticle of Prayer"
  • UMH 142 "If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee" (all stanzas or 1 and 3)
  • UMH 533 "We Shall Overcome"
  • UMH 349 "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus"
  • UMH 534 "Be Still My Soul"
  • TFWS 2157 "Come and Fill Our Hearts (Confitemini Domino)

6. Nothing Can Separate Us From God's Love

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-39

 

Perpetua

Reader: Listen to this account of persecution and martyrdom of a young woman named Perpetua.
A violent persecution being set on foot by the emperor Severus, in 202 {AD}, it reached Africa the following year; when, by order of Minutius Timinianus, (or Firminianus,) five catechumens {new Christians being instructed in preparation for baptism} were apprehended {and jailed} at Carthage for the faith: {among them} Felicitas and Vibia Perpetua. Felicitas was seven months {pregnant}; and Perpetua had an infant at her breast, was of a good family, twenty-two years of age, and married to a person of quality in the city. The father of Perpetua, who was a pagan, {wanted her to offer sacrifice to "the well-being of the emperor."} Perpetua, before her death, wrote: "We were in the hands of our persecutors, when my father, out of the affection he bore me, made new efforts to shake my resolution. I said to him: 'Can that vessel, which you see, change its name?' He said: 'No.' I replied: 'Nor can I call myself any other than I am, that is to say, a Christian.'"

Perpetua and Felicitas and the others refused to offer sacrifice and they willingly accepted death in the amphitheater at the hands of gladiators and wild animals.

Adapted from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Volume 1 by the Rev. Alban Butler (1864 edition published by D. & J. Sadlier, & Company).

Hymn or Song

  • "Once to Every Man and Nation"

    Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
    In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
    Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
    And the choice goes by forever, 'twixt that darkness and that light.

    Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
    Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and 'tis prosperous to be just;
    Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
    Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

    By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
    Toiling up new Calv'ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
    New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
    They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

    Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
    Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
    Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

    Words: James R. Lowell wrote these words as a poem protesting America's war with Mexico. From http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/n/oncetoev.htmor The Methodist Hymnal 1966; tune: Ebenezer, UMH 108.

  • TFWS 2212 "My Life Flows On"

7. The Martyrs Cry Out and Are Told to Wait a Little Longer

Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call out, as with a voice of thunder, "Come!"

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, "Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?" They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants h and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.

Revelation 6:1, 9-11

Reader: A 2002 BBC news report.
Unidentified gunmen have shot dead seven people at a Christian charity in Karachi's central business district, Pakistani police say. They entered the third-floor offices of the Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) and shot their victims in the head. One other person is in a critical condition. All those killed were Pakistani Christians. Both gunmen escaped after the attack in the southern port city which has seen mounting attacks this year on Western and Christian targets.

Hymn or song

  • UMH 494 "Kum Ba Yah" (the 3rd stanza; "Someone's crying Lord ...")
  • TFWS 2048 "God Weeps"(may be sung by a soloist or by all)
  • TFWS 2055 "You Are My Hiding Place"
  • TFWS 2058 "Shepherd Me, O God" (Psalm 23; consider singing refrain, stanza 3 [soloist] and refrain)

8. A Vision of the Martyrs Blessing God Who Has Saved Them

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

"Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

[And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,
"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen."]

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Revelation 7:9-12

Reader: Listen to early Christian writers who mused on the meaning and significance of the suffering and martyrdom of their brothers and sisters.
Tertullian, a second-century lawyer who converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die, exclaimed, "The blood of the martyrs is seed. Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the church."

The third-century bishop Cyprian said, "When persecution comes, God's soldiers are put to the test, and heaven is open to martyrs. We have not enlisted in an army to think of peace and to decline battle, for we see that the Lord has taken first place in the conflict."

Augustine wrote, "The martyrs were bound, jailed, scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered and they multiplied!"

from http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/luke2112.htm

Hymn

  • UMH 711 "For All the Saints" (stanzas 1-3)
  • TFWS 2195 "In the Lord I'll Be Ever Thankful"

9. The New Creation

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home a of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

Revelation 21:1-7

Reader: In John Wesley's Journal we read of a mob's attack and his deliverance.
Fri., October 30th {1747}. In our return from intercession, we were stoned for the length of a street or two. Charles Perrenet interposed his back to screen me. Here I received the first blow since I came to Dublin. At our lodgings the mob took their leave of us, without hurting either {of us}.

Hymn

UMH 711 "For All the Saints" (stanzas 4-6)

PRAYERS OF CHRISTIANS LIVING IN COMFORT

God of the suffering
and all who stagger under the weight of the cross of Christ,
hear us as we seek to stand with those persecuted for being Christians.

Your cross bearers in other lands are living reminders to us of the cost of discipleship.
While we are at ease in Zion,
they are in an exile of pain and isolation.
While we are feasting on the good things around us,
they keep an involuntary fast.
While we assume a future of well being,
they don't know if they will be alive tomorrow.
While we wear the cross as a piece of jewelry,
they bear it as an invitation to abuse, exclusion, imprisonment even death.

Turn our hearts to them in prayer and acts of compassion and justice.

Thank you for breathing in them and in us
the yearning for sharing one another's burdens.
Loose their shackles and our complacency.
Bind the forces of abuse and violence at work in their persecutors.
In the silence, pray your mercy in us.

Here a leader may invite the assembly to keep a period of silence for the Spirit to sigh in them. Romans 8:28-30, if not used earlier, or some other appropriate Bible passage might be read to introduce the silence.

During the silence the people may stand, go to the large cross, kneel at the chancel rail, sit, light a candle, handle one or more of the crosses around the room, or do whatever enables them to enter into the struggle of those who suffer for professing the name and way of Christ Jesus.

The silence could be ended by singing "In the Lord, I'll Be Ever Thankful" (TFWS 2195) or some other song of affirmation, trust, and hope. See hymns of "Prayer, Trust, and Hope" (451-508) and "Strength in Tribulation" (511-536) in The United Methodist Hymnal.

The leader may invite those who want to reflect together on this experience of worship and prayer to remain following the service.

[HOLY COMMUNION]

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper may be celebrated beginning with the Great Thanksgiving. See UMH. The Great Thanksgiving for All Saints Day and Memorial Occasions (BOW 74-75) may be used.

DISMISSAL WITH BLESSING

An assisting minister (lay) or deacon sends the people forth:
Marked with the sign of the cross in baptism
you accepted the freedom and power God gives
to resist evil, injustice and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves.
Go forth in the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit
to resist the evil and injustice inflicted on others,
especially sisters and brothers in Christ.
Pray for them.
In one another's company
find ways to act in love toward them.

We are sent in Christ's name.

Here the pastor blesses the people with these or other words of blessing:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you now and always.

Amen.

Other Resources for Worship and Prayers

Hear our confession Oh God,
We can't really imagine what it would be like to suffer for your Name.

Open our hearts to the men and women sitting behind bars
because they voiced their faith in you.
Raise our consciousness level to the cry of those in need
simply because they bear the name Christian.
Cause us to respond to the youth whose education is denied
because they dare to name your Name.
Faithful God, make us aware of those
for whom at great cost, and greater peril,
quietly call themselves your disciples
in a world where being a Christian means persecution.

We hold them in your Light.

Ancient of Days, help us to kneel with them in prayer
to stand with them in solidarity.

Let them know that
across the miles, beyond the silence,
we add our prayers to yours for them.
Help them to know they are not forgotten.
May they feel the prayers of your people calling out in their behalf.
Show us concrete ways our lives can make a difference.
Tune our hearts to hear their cries,
when we wake,
when we eat,
while we worship
while we work and when we go to rest.
O God, keep them in our minds and we will hold them in our prayers.
Amen.
Copyright 2004 The Upper Room. Used with permission.
Written by Mary O. Benedict.

Faithful One, you call us to pray for our brothers and sisters,
who are part of the Church body that is under persecution.
Humbly, we confess that we don? know how to pray for them.
Lead us, Gracious Spirit, and we will follow.
Holy and Just God, we call forth your light for those
shut away in darkness for being called your disciples.
We seek your strength
for those weary with suffering
because they name you as Lord.
We ask courage for all who stand in danger due to their faith.
And we pray comfort, Holy Spirit,
for those who grieve the death of loved ones
whose beliefs sent them to their graves.
O God, as we cry out on their behalf,
we stand with them in their suffering.
We remember their pain.
May they know they are not forgotten.
We hold them now in silence before you.

(silence)

In the name of Jesus we pray.
Amen.
Copyright 2004 The Upper Room. Used with permission.
Written by Mary O. Benedict.

Prayers and Acts of Worship in The United Methodist Book of Worship

  • 366 The Way of the Cross (may be adapted to link Christ's passion with those who bear his name and cross)
  • 513 For Justice
  • 504 For the Church
  • 507 Prayer of Saint Francis for All Created Things
  • 522 Prayer for Purity (child's prayer from Pakistan)
  • 530 A Prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas (can be easily adapted from a prayer for ourselves to a prayer for the persecuted)
  • 546 Blessing for Those Who Suffer
  • 547 Blessing for a Survivor of Crime or Oppression (can be easily adapted)

Hymns from The United Methodist Hymnal

  • 479 Jesus, Lover of My Soul
  • 488 Jesus Remember Me

Categories: Worship, Worship Planning, Lectionary Calendar, Civil Observances, Other, Times of Crisis