Praying for Persecution?

For several years now I have heard various individuals in the church say something to the intent of, “It would be good for the church in America to suffer persecution.” I have even heard Christians say that there are churches in oppressed countries praying that God would send persecution on the church in America. In the context of America’s bleak future I have recently had more Christians tell me that they thought it would be a good thing for the church if things get worse. This seems like a strange attitude to take in regard to Divine Sovereignty. While it is abundantly clear in Scripture that afflictions, persecutions and sufferings are, in the words of a good friend of mine, “beautifully wrapped presents from the hand of God,” it is equally clear that we never find Christians praying for afflictions on other Christians in Scripture.

In fact, just the opposite is true. John writes in 3 John 1:2, ” Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” Here John is praying for good things–things that he would want for everyone in the church. Whether God chooses to answer that prayer favorably or not is beside the point. We would never imagine praying that one of our brothers and sisters in the church would be striken with terminal cancer, would we? But, someone might argue, that would be good for them because they would be conformed to the image of Christ through that trial. I think we need to remember, when we go through afflictions, that “all things work together for good to those who love God who are called according to His purpose.” At the same time we are called to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Remember that Paul commanded that we “pray for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Tim. 2:2).” We must always keep these two things in mind: Persecution works for the good of God’s people and the advancement of the church, but we are to pray for peace, and health, and enjoyable blessings. The rest we leave to our God?

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