An estimated 360 million Christians worldwide face high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their faith in Christ. That’s more than the entire population of the United States. On the first Sunday of November (11/6), churches around the world will pray for these believers on the annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
How to Pray for the Persecuted Church
With such an overwhelming need, how should we pray?
First, we need to know the hard news. This year, for the first time in two decades, Afghanistan surpassed North Korea to rank as the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. Since the Taliban’s takeover in 2021, life for believers in the Islamist regime has grown only more dangerous and more precarious. The church—by necessity—is a secret church.
But we also need to hear good news: Secret doesn’t mean vanished. “No one and nothing can stop the kingdom of God in Afghanistan,” one believer in the region told Radical. “His church is growing.”
Here’s a short guide to joining in prayer on November 6 for the top five most dangerous places to be a Christian. (For the full list of countries, visit Open Doors.)
1. Pray for Afghanistan
With the Taliban in control, and the church facing even greater danger than before, a Christian worker in the region asks for prayer for God’s protection. An estimated 0.1% of the population are Christians. Pray that God will protect “their security, their lives, and their faith.”
The small church is seeking to be a light in the darkness. Pray they’ll have wisdom to know how to share their faith, when to share, what to share, and what not to share as they interact with those around them. Pray for leaders and teachers for the church.
Physical needs are substantial. Pray that God will provide food, medicine, and other basic supplies as the economy worsens and as winter approaches.
“If you look back to the past year, it was easy to see and say that the church is going to die,” a Christian in the region told us. “But God himself takes care of his church in Afghanistan.”
2. Pray for North Korea
In a country so self-isolated it’s been called “the hermit kingdom,” Christians face severe persecution for practicing their faith.
It hasn’t always been this way. In the early 20th century, missionaries established a school, a seminary, and churches during three decades of Christian growth. After World War II, a new dictator demanded cult-like allegiance and punished other forms of devotion, sometimes severely. That practice continues today, and human rights conditions for most of the population remain dismal.
That means believers often meet in secret, even in groups of two or three. Defectors from North Korea have described imprisonment or death for Christians who have been caught practicing their faith.
Pray that God will protect North Korean Christians meeting in secret, and that he will bless the efforts of outsiders trying to reach the population through radio programs and other covert means of communication. Pray for light to shine in the darkness.
3. Pray for Somalia
This east African nation of 16 million people has been in the news this year for terrorist bombings, protracted war, and now fears of famine during the country’s worst drought in 40 years. As many as two-thirds of children and pregnant women arriving in displacement camps are acutely malnourished and many have died. Pray for God’s mercy and help to a population facing severe physical needs and ongoing violence.
A spiritual famine afflicts Somalia as well. Out of the estimated 0.3% of the population who are Christians, many are people from other countries. Indigenous Christians face severe persecution and threats for converting to Christianity from Islam.
Pray for protection for Christians in danger, and for their perseverance in the faith. Pray also for more Somalis to hear and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.
4. Pray for Libya
Islam is the state religion in this north African country of 6.9 million. After the downfall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, the country descended into civil war. A 2020 ceasefire brought some hope for an easing of hostilities, but the country continues to face uncertainty.
Christians in Libya have faced persecution and martyrdom for their faith. According to Open Doors: “When a person in Libya leaves Islam to follow Christ, they face immense pressure from their families to renounce their faith. Their neighbors and the rest of the community ostracizes them, and they can be left homeless, jobless and alone.” The report adds: “Targeted kidnappings and executions are always a possibility for believers. To be a ‘safe’ Christian in Libya is to live a secret life of faith.”
Pray for protection, growth, and grace for Libyans living a secret life of faith. Pray also for God’s help for Christian migrant workers who arrive in Libya seeking jobs or passage to other countries.
5. Pray for Yemen
Though Yemen doesn’t pop up in news feeds as much as other countries, the small country on the Arabian peninsula is home to one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. After years of war, one relief agency estimates that 80% of Yemen’s population needs some form of emergency aid.
A Christian worker in the region told Radical that a few thousand Christians live in the country of 30 million. Much of the church’s growth has happened over the last decade, but many key leaders have left Yemen because of the ongoing civil war. With little access to good teaching, many Yemeni Christians lack biblical community, and those who do attend churches face arrest and imprisonment if discovered by authorities.
Pray for discipleship resources to reach new believers. Pray for leadership training, and for trained church leaders to remain safe. Pray for Yemeni people to have work to provide for their families and to preserve their dignity.
“While being a Christian is very dangerous in Yemen,” says the Christian worker from the region, “most believers are undiscipled and are taking great risks for a faith they still know very little about.
We join in hopeful prayer and praise, for whether it’s by a mustard seed or by millions, Christ’s kingdom is still growing in some of the hardest places.