Hiking with my children has become one of my favorite shared activities: it’s beautiful, free, and enjoyable for all ages. God’s wondrous, vast creation moves my heart to sing. But when we clamber over high places or stand a bit too near the edge of some mountain precipice, I make sure my little one is near; I don’t want an errant step or a thoughtless leap to cause him harm. I grab his hand, and I hold tight.
I can’t help but think of the parental love of God the Father. Jesus said he keeps his children safe: “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” Like a child tightly grasping their parent’s hand, believers are safe because a strong and wise God holds us close. So this year, as we pray for Chinese Christians to “hold fast,” we are praying for the very thing that God is already eager to do.
Holding Fast For Those Who Stay
This February, we have prayed for Chinese Christians to hold fast to Christ. I reached out to a friend in China, and asked her to share ways we can pray for Chinese Christians to hold fast to Christ. She thought about it for a week, and then shared several specific prayer requests.
First, this friend asked for prayer for “courage and long-suffering patience” for pastors and believers in house churches. Leaders in house churches still face the intimidation and threat of long-term imprisonment or huge fines. Usually, Christians are not charged with anything related to their religious activities. Instead, they might face charges of fraud (due to church collection of tithes); charges of illegal business operations (an example of this might be distributing spiritual books and then collecting the cost of the books); charges of illegal printing (for printing their own spiritual materials or books); or illegal gathering (for churches who do not register with the government). This is frightening and discouraging, and believers need bravery facing this reality.
Covid lockdowns have at last ceased in China. After three years of intermittent lockdowns, Christians want to come together. But because of tight controls, many churches are finding this goal all but impossible. My friend said her church is meeting in small groups, with a few families in each group. If her church tried to gather at one place with more than just a few families, police would soon come to investigate. So the church continues, but without the joy of corporate worship. Pray for God to give pastors and believers in church bodies like this patience as they persevere despite the continuing difficult circumstances.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Second, my friend asked for prayer for church schools and for Christian parents. In the past years, again and again I have heard Chinese Christians say a main concern is how to pass the faith to the next generation. Over the past decades, many Christians became involved in underground church schools. But schools like this are very sensitive politically, and face intense persecution from the government. Over the past few years, many of those schools have closed. While some Christian schools are still open, they face a lot of pressure and bring many risks for those involved. My friend said parents and teachers in these schools have to daily “open up our hearts to God on this.”
Pray that parents will be humble, will take responsibility to parent their children, and will sacrifice their time to raise their children. Pray that school leaders will have wisdom, discernment, and ability to make the hard decisions that are necessary in any educational environment. My friend asked for prayer that teachers will be tough, kind, faithful, and have long-suffering patience. Pray for parents to have wisdom, patience, and perseverance. And, of course, pray for the children in these schools.
Finally, my friend asked for prayer for marriages and divorces. I will admit I was a little surprised by this prayer request! I hadn’t really thought of marital strife as a main issue the church is facing. But my friend said marriage relationships are a very serious issue in China right now, both inside the church as well as outside of it. She said personal sin, government policy, Eastern cultural attitudes toward marriage, and years of Covid lockdowns have all combined to make this a big issue China is currently facing. So, please pray that God will strengthen marriages, and will build up strong families who show one another the tender love and mercy of Jesus. Pray that Christian marriages will be a witness to both the church and to secular society of God’s power and love.
Holding Fast For Those Who Run
I also messaged some Chinese friends who have recently left China and asked if there are specific ways we can pray for them. One friend said that, since she left her hometown, family, and country, she has become critically aware of how much she needs to hold fast to Jesus. Some of those close to her were angry with her for her family’s decision to emigrate. But when friends or family reject her, she remembers that Jesus was also rejected in his hometown of Nazareth. Although the sting of rejection was sharp, Jesus knew his real identity and mission on earth. As this friend follows the Lord’s call on her life, she finds hope in knowing she carries the same faith and mission that Jesus had years ago in Nazareth.
She said, “Pray that those who chose to leave their country and beloved ones for the sake of their Christian belief can be comforted by the Holy Spirit every day. Pray that they will have a strong hope and identity in the Lord. Also pray that those who leave can be greatly used by God to accomplish his purpose on earth.”
So, when I pray for those who go, I pray that the Lord will be their solace and their joy. I pray for them to remember that their hope is not in earthly security or in favorable governments, but in being a precious and beloved child of God.
Finally, I find joy in reflecting that God is doing an amazing thing by dispersing Chinese Christians across the world. Perhaps, in his mysterious way, this somewhat involuntary dispersal is his means of making the church in China a truly missionary church. So I pray with hope and with joy: may God use those who leave China to bring his kingdom to more and more corners of his globe. And as they follow God’s leading out of China, may we accompany them in prayer.
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Christians in China to hold fast to Christ in their worship, in educating their kids, and in their marriages. Pray for Christians leaving China to experience Christ’s comfort and to find their identity in him as they go.