Saturday, March 26, 2011

Guest Blogger: Heather Harden - March Madness Prayer Challenge

Heather, thank you for joining us here on the F.A.I.T.H. Blog. As a fellow Carolina native, it's hard to go anywhere this time of year and not hear about "'favorite picks" and "brackets". So when I heard about the March Madness Prayer Challenge, that finally piqued my interest a bit. This is important, folks! Read what Heather has to say about becoming an advocate for the persecuted church.

Heather, tell us all about it!

As a Carolina girl (think the state not the college team) I understand how March Madness can consume your month. So I'm issuing a prayer challenge to everyone watching the NCAA basketball tournament-and no I don't think God accepts pleas on behalf or our favorite sports team. :)

Here's the challenge:
For each of the final games in the tournament pick a country where Christians are persecuted and pray for that country before every game.  Voice of the Martyrs Web Site provides resources on how to pray for the persecuted Christians in Restricted Nations. March Madness culminates on April 4th with the championship game.  The tournament gives us multiple chances to lift up the persecuted prayer in church. NCAA Men's Tournament Brackets so you can fill in the teams you're pulling for (Duke will be on top of mine) and the countries you're praying for.

What is a Restricted Nation?
According to VOM "This includes countries where government policy or practice prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles or other Christian literature. Also, included are countries where government-sanctioned circumstances or anti-Christian laws lead to Christians being harassed, imprisoned,  killed or deprived of possessions or liberties because of their witness.

This includes large areas in nations where governments consistently attempt to provide protection for the Christian population, but Christians are victims of violence because of their witness. As I type this post from the safety of my home, there are more than 50 restricted nations on 5 continents. It's almost unfathomable to imagine that for millions of men and women around the world, professing Christ publicly (as the Bible calls us to in Luke 12:8 (ESV) means risking your job, your home, the respect of family and friends... Or worse...Prisoner Alert, beatings, and even death.

Pray for those imprisoned for their faith as the Bible calls us to in Hebrews 13:3 (ESV).

Next time I walk into a church (without the fear of being arrested), or wear a Christian t-shirt in public (without the fear of being beaten), or post a Bible verse on Facebook, or buy a Christian novel, or share the Gospel with my neighbor-I pray I will give thanks for these precious freedoms.

In February News article on Said Musa  was released from an Afghan prison where he'd been held since May 2010 when he was arrested after a TV segment aired featuring Christians worshiping and being baptized.

A Compass Direct News report says a source in Afghanistan believes Said’s release was secured with the help of international attention from John Piper, Rick Warren and several U.S. congressmen. “When local churches and international bodies advocate for the persecuted in faith, they have the power to change things.” In Isaiah 6:8 (ESV) when the Lord calls on someone to take his word to the people Isaiah the prophet responds with "Here I am. Send me."

Most Christians will never feel the soil of a foreign country underneath our feet. We don't have to risk our lives in a war-torn country to reach out to the persecuted church. We just have to pray. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test,  that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to  those who love him. (James 1:12 NIV)

Why Be An Advocate  Here are some suggestions from Voice of the Martyrs on how you can be an advocate for the persecuted church.

By becoming an ‘advocate’ you are entering into the vital and important ministry of intercession and solidarity with those who suffer for their faith in Christ. As an advocate for our brothers and sisters in chains you will be encouraging them when you write to them in prison and supporting them when you write to officials on their behalf.

Your involvement testifies of the love and unity found among followers of Jesus Christ throughout the world. It is a witness to both your imprisoned family and to the authorities you write to or who may censor letters intended for the prisoner.

Your involvement is evidence to our persecuted family that they are not forgotten. Often the oppressors try to brainwash these Christians into believing that they are forgotten, that they are not loved and that no one knows about them. Through this isolation and loneliness the devil can prey upon their faith. When a prisoner learns others are protesting on their behalf or when they receive your letter, they know that someone cares.

Your involvement can result in better treatment for a prisoner. The authorities in many nations are very sensitive about their image abroad. When they realize that outsiders are monitoring a prisoner’s situation, conditions may be improved.

For this we have a scriptural mandate. Read and pray through the following verses, which will help you understand the role you are undertaking. This is no doubt front line spiritual warfare and you will also need to pray through all your thinking and letter writing.

Hebrews 13:3, Matthew 25: 34-40, Matthew 5:10, 1 Peter 3: 13-17, 1 Peter 4:12-14.


  1. Heather, thank you for your wonderful, eyeopening post! I'll be sure to check out the website and join in.

    With the Duke loss, I guess your whole bracket is messed up, too. We were so disappointed. (Our son goes there and we're huge fans.)

    Thanks for being on the blog today!

  2. Heather,
    Welcome to the F.A.I.T.H. blog! Thanks for the heads up. I know I sometimes take our freedom to worship without fear for granted.
    I will be praying.

  3. Thanks, Missy and Lindi, for stopping by. I thought this info was quite eyeopening as well. And thank you, Heather, for bringing it to our attention.

  4. Hi Heather,
    Thank you for brining new ideas into our prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters. We are closer to this same situation than we think in our country. We need to be aware because we need to consider both those suffering and the future of our own religious rights. Excellent article, thank you.

  5. Howdy Missy, Lindi and Angela. Thanks for reading and adding to the discussion!
    Missy, yes I was shocked that Duke blew it. But I'm still praying for the persecuted church even though my heart's out of the tournament. :)
    Lindi, I know I'm guilty of taking the freedom to be a Christian for granted.
    Angie, I hear you. I read that about 80% of Americans claim to be Christians. I can only imagine how fast that number would shrink if being a Christian=persecution.
    Thanks Jennifer for the opportunity to share what God has laid on my heart!
    Feel free to stop by my blog and say hi.
    And keep reading this blog. I love that these ladies are using their talents to glorify Christ, share the Gospel and edify believers.

  6. Forgot to sign my name to my comment. Didn't realize my ID is the same as my blog. Anyway Ouradvocate is me Heather ;)