This month, our meditation is based on the Holy Bible. In the following short quotation from our Lord, Jesus Christ, there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
A moment of introspection: We have read these words of our Master, in verse 10, and in them find the first time in which Jesus shared about the persecuted church with His disciples and others listening to his discourse on the side of the mountain. As advocates for the persecuted church in our time, we can identify with His evident concern expressed in so few words. The persecuted church knows the blessing of our heavenly Father.
But Christ did not limit His talk of that day to acknowledging the persecution of Christians in His own time. Rather, He speaks to each member of the suffering church today, as He conveys the message of verses 11 & 12. To each Muslim convert to Christianity, He speaks blessing. To each North Korean Christian experiencing oppression for his or her allegiance to Christ, Jesus speaks of their reward in heaven. To each widow of a Christian pastor in India or Colombia, or Sri Lanka, or Vietnam, or ... He evokes the great cloud of witnesses and forebears who show them to be part of and supported through a good company.
So this month, in our Houses Of Prayer, let us consider the prayer requests for which we regularly intercede, and consider them cause for rejoicing and being glad. That sounds harsh and uncaring. It rings of callousness and coldness to ask that we rejoice at others' suffering. But again, I ask, "consider" the prayer requests. We know that God is already at work within the instances of persecution--even before we intercede. We know that healing and sanctuary and recovery and growth of faith occur in the church or home or community addressed by our prayers--and that these "God signs" precede our own concern. When we hear of Christians fleeing persecution, and seeking sanctuary in caves--thank God that He provided the caves and that He led the believers to them. When we hear of Christians on trial for trumped-up charges, thank God that a trial was convened, and that there is additional opportunity for the spreading of the Gospel. When we hear that a Christian church worker was imprisoned, praise God for new opportunities for the growth of that person's faith, and for new opportunities to serve God in a hitherto closed setting. When we hear of injuries for being a Christian, give thanks for caring hands and healing treatments, for supportive families, for church communities that come to his or her aid.
We are asked to acknowledge the Lord (Proverbs 3:6), to recognize His handiwork and His actions in our world. We are asked to give Him the glory and honor due His holy name. We are asked to give Him thanks. And we are asked to pray. May Psalm 143:5 be our motto, and 1 Chronicles 16:8 our call for this month of Thanksgiving and the time leading up to celebration of Christ's entry into this world:
5 I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.
8 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!