How I Prayed: Hold Fast to Christ

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.

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“After three years of intermittent lockdowns, Christians want to come together… My friend said her church is meeting in small groups, with a few families in each group….Pray for God to give pastors and believers in church bodies like this bravery to face their reality, and also patience as they persevere in difficult circumstances.

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.


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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.”

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“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 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.

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“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.

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.

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Further Reading

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The Internal Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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