Christmas Prayer

Source:  http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com

Date:  December 20, 2016

by Elizabeth Kendal

Nobody should worry that remembering the persecuted over this busy and joyful 
Christmas - New Year season might cause joy to be subsumed in sorrow or 
anxiety. It is with a spirit of brotherly and sisterly love that we remember 
and lift up the persecuted at this time, confident that such prayers will 
bring comfort and encouragement to our brethren and will please the Lord who 
is 'Father' to us all.  

CHRISTMAS PRAYER  

Almighty God and gracious Father - in you alone do we trust. For you alone 
are worthy, being supreme in power, authority, wisdom and understanding, 
glorious in majesty and perfect in love.   

The whole Body of Christ rejoices in your incarnation, that selfless act of 
unsurpassed humility through which you came and dwelt among us - to live the 
life we could not live and die the death we should have died - to redeem us 
for yourself. For this, the greatest gift born of the greatest love, we thank 
you.  

Grant us, Lord, in your mercy and grace, a fresh outpouring of your Holy 
Spirit to embolden us in our witness, work in us righteousness, encourage us 
on our path to the cross, sustain us in our trials, empower our testimony and 
bind us together.  

May those who are persecuted be palpably aware of the Spirit's eternal 
presence, Christ's sustaining love, and the Father's unsurpassed power and 
resolute faithfulness. Lord, we beseech you: fight for them, shield them, 
carry them and deliver them. To this end, we offer ourselves as your 
servants.  

And may all who see this recognise that Jesus Christ is Lord.  

AMEN

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NEWS & UPDATES 

NEWS: This will be the last Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) for 
2016. While an urgent prayer alert or request will be issued should the need 
arise, the next formal RLPB will be the January Update on 25 January 2017.  

UPDATES: Please do not be daunted by this non-exhaustive list. Feel free to 
just pick one nation, one situation or one person either from this list or 
beyond it and pray through this Christmas season as you feel led. Seek the 
Lord in this, and trust him to have everything and everyone covered.  

NOTE: the high risk season includes Advent, Roman Catholic and Protestant 
Christmas (24-25 December), New Year, Greek Catholic and Eastern Orthodox 
Christmas (6-7 January).  

Last week we prayed concerning the 11 December Advent massacre in Cairo's St 
Peter and St Paul church, noting the elevated terror threat over the 
Christmas - New Year season. The terror threat is extreme in Egypt, Syria 
(particularly in western Aleppo and Damascus), Pakistan and Nigeria and high 
in Kenya, Indonesia and Europe. [See: RLPB 388 (14 Dec).] The updates below 
confirm this assessment.  

EGYPT: The SITE Intelligence Group has provided a more accurate translation 
of the claim of Islamic State (IS) of responsibility for the Cairo church 
bombing. 'Let all the disbelievers and apostates in Egypt and everywhere know 
that our war on polytheism is ongoing, and that the State of the Caliphate - 
with permission from Allah the Almighty - will continue to spill their blood 
and grill their bodies, so that there is no sedition and the religion is all 
for Allah.' Because Islam views Trinitarian Christianity as polytheism, we 
can be sure that IS will be at war against Christianity until 'the religion 
is all for Allah'.  

SYRIA: On Friday 16 December Islamic militants strapped an explosive belt to 
an 8-year-old girl and sent her into a police station in the Al-Midan 
neighbourhood of Damascus, before detonating the explosives remotely. The 
girl was the only fatality. The terror threat in Syria is extreme.  

GERMANY: On 16 December police arrested a 12-year-old boy accused of twice 
attempting to detonate a home-made, nail-filled, Improvised Explosive Device 
in his home town of Ludwigshafen, western Germany. On 30 November the boy, 
who was born in Germany to Muslim Iraqi immigrant parents, tried to bomb a 
Christmas market. Then on 2 December he left a bomb outside a high-rise 
complex comprising City Hall and a shopping mall. Fortunately, both bombs 
failed to detonate. However, on the evening of 19 December, 12 died and some 
50 were wounded when a  presumed Islamic terrorist drove a 7-tonne truck at 
high speed into one of Berlin's largest Christmas night-markets, the 
Breitscheidplatz Christmas market, beside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. 
Kaiser Wilhelm ruled Germany from 1888 to 1918. An ardent lover of Islam, he 
maintained close ties to the Ottoman Sultan / Caliph and believed Germany's 
future lay in a strategic alliance with Islam. This year Germany, France, 
Belgium, England and much of Europe will celebrate Christmas under 
unprecedented security.  

INDONESIA: The blasphemy trial of Jakarta's ethnic Chinese Christian Governor 
Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama [RLPB 383 (9 Nov)] commenced on 13 December. 
Ethnic and religious tensions are soaring. On 14 December the Indonesian 
Ulema Council (MUI) issued a fatwa (religious ruling) forbidding Muslims from 
participating in Christmas festivities, particularly the wearing of 
Christmas-themed accessories. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has been out 
in force, visiting shopping malls and spreading the word as police watch on, 
refusing to intervene. The police also failed to intervene on 6 December to 
stop the Ahlus Sunnah Defenders (PAS) from forcing the closure of a Carol 
Service in Bandung, West Java, even though all permit requirements to hold 
the service had been fulfilled. Without police support, pastor Stephen Tong 
had little choice but to comply, so the congregation closed with one hymn and 
a prayer and went home.  

RUSSIA: It was indeed an oversight to have left Russia off the list of places 
where churches face an elevated terror threat over Christmas - New Year. [It 
was included last year, RLPB 228 (1 Dec 2015).] On 19 December Andrei Karlov 
(62), a career diplomat and Russia's Ambassador to Turkey, was assassinated 
while speaking at an art exhibition in Ankara. The assassin (now dead) was a 
policeman. After shooting the Ambassador he shouted 'Allahu akbar' and (in 
Arabic), 'We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, 
for jihad,' and (in Turkish), 'Don't forget Aleppo, don't forget Syria!' This 
appalling assassination is a reminder of how much Sunni fundamentalist anger 
is directed at Russia.  

PRISONERS: A significant number of Christians will spend the Christmas season 
as prisoners, many in truly appalling conditions, none more so than the many 
thousands of believers detained in North Korea and Eritrea. Some Christians 
have been in prison for years, such as Asia Bibi in Pakistan, and others in 
Iran and Laos. Some are more recent prisoners, like those we have been 
praying for this year in Algeria, China, Iran, Sudan and Vietnam. They are 
Christian lawyers who defend human rights and religious freedom. They are 
Christian aid workers who serve the poor and needy. They are pastors devoted 
to feeding and leading Christ's flock. They are missionaries who risk their 
lives to 'make disciples of all nations ...' (Matthew 28:19,20a).  They are 
converts who have chosen to follow Jesus - no turning back. They are 
faithful, courageous believers and we are not to be ashamed of their chains 
(1Timothy 1:15-18).  

The newest prisoner is Rev. Andrew Brunson, the American Protestant pastor of 
the Dirilis (Resurrection) Church in Izmir, TURKEY. Brunson (48) and his wife 
Norine were arrested on 7 October, deemed a threat to national security. 
Norine was subsequently released, but Brunson was transferred to the 
Harmandanli Detention Centre where he is being held incommunicado. He faced 
court on 9 December accused of 'terrorism' and links with the Gulen Movement. 
The Erdogan government blames the Gulen Movement for July's failed coup 
attempt and maintains that the US was complicit. Fethullah Gulen has lived in 
self-imposed exile in the USA since 1999. Turkey is demanding his extradition 
(so maybe they wanted a bargaining chip). The Brunsons, who have three 
children studying in the US, have lived in Turkey for the past 23 years. 
Andrew Brunson's situation is dire.  

'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those 
who are mistreated, since you also are in the body' (Hebrews 13:3 ESV).  

MISTREATED: Not to be forgotten are captives such as Dr Ken Elliot and 
Beatrice Stockly [RLPB 341 (27 Jan)] and Father Tom Uzhunnalil [RLPB 368 (27 
July)] hostages of Islamic militants in Mali and Yemen respectively. Nor must 
we forget those forced into hiding in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and 
other places where an expression of faith will cost believers their lives. 
Also not to be overlooked are the millions of believers who are now 
displaced, homeless, destitute and grieving - across Mesopotamia 
(Syria-Iraq), Burma, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan 
and elsewhere.  

BE ENCOURAGED: For the God of creation, incarnation, resurrection and 
redemption - 'nothing will be impossible'. (Luke 1:26-38) 

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