The Persecuted Church

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Devotions for the First Sunday of Lent: “Awaken Me: A Psalm for the Persecuted Church”
Burned church in Nigeria

In 2020 more than 340 million Christians worldwide experienced high levels of persecution. Global persecution watchdog organization Open Doors’ annual World Watch List, released in January, ranks the top 50 countries notorious for persecution of Christians. High-level persecution includes kidnappings, beatings, forced conversions/marriages, false imprisonment, loss of property, murder, and genocide.

World Watch List 2021 revealed a disturbing rise in persecution. The 2020 worldwide virus pandemic has increased the suffering of persecuted Christians in nations in which Islamist regimes and other anti-Christian governments have used the virus as an excuse for further oppression. Not only have Christians suffered from deprivation of employment, protective equipment, and relief aid. In some cases, such as China, Pakistan, and India, Christians have often been scapegoated for the pandemic. 

Last year’s World Watch List reported 260 million Christians experiencing high levels of persecution. This year’s increase to 340 million means that 1 in 8 of all Christians worldwide is now being severely persecuted

I invite you to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters during the six weeks of Lent.

Faith J. H. McDonnell, Director of Advocacy

First Sunday of Lent

The Psalm appointed for today in the lectionary is Psalm 25. David wrote this psalm as an acrostic. Each verse begins with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. 

For our contemplation of the persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters around the globe, I have created a psalm modelled after David’s pattern. In this psalm I have started each verse with successive letters (in the English alphabet! And since David left out a few Hebrew letters, I felt the freedom to leave out X!). It also follows David’s well-known pattern in that some verses address God directly in the first person and other verses describe the situation or extol the greatness of God. 

I invite you to read this psalm prayerfully. Ask God to awaken you more to your persecuted brothers and sisters and strengthen your desire to be an intercessor for those who suffer for the sake of the Gospel in this time when persecution of Christians has increased.

Awaken Me: A Psalm for the Suffering Church

Awaken me, Lord, to the suffering of Your Body.

Brothers and sisters around the world wait for You all day long:

Carrying in their broken bodies the death of Jesus,

Demonstrating by their lives Your Son’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Envelop me with the awareness of our connectedness.

Fill me with a willingness to share their burden.

Glorious and mighty is the Lord!

His heavenly hosts will do battle for His people.

In His time He will deliver us from our enemies.

Joy will come in the morning; but first we weep.

Kings and rulers persecute God’s people.

Like their master Satan they hate Jesus and His followers.

Martyrs testify to the victory of the Gospel in life and in death, and

Nations will know that the Lord is God because of their faithfulness.

Only You, Lord, can bring good out of what is meant for evil, for You are

Present in the scars and even the freshly bleeding wounds of tortured saints,

Quiet – but transforming – in the miracle of mercy, of the tortured forgiving the torturers, 

Redeeming all, yet hating injustice and evil. 

Steel Your Body, therefore, to fight that injustice and evil in the power of Your Spirit so that when the Son of Man comes in Glory He will

Testify that when He was hungry, we gave Him food and when He was in prison we visited Him.

Until that Day, keep us from apathy, indifference, and willful blindness,

Vanquish our natural gravitation to self, and self-centered prayer, and give us grace to love Your Body as ourselves, and to cry out on their behalf like the prophet:

“Wake! O arm of the Lord! Awake! Clothe Yourself with strength.” We bless You and thank You for the promise:

Your people will be delivered. Your ransomed people will have no more sorrow. They will sing with joy and return to Zion

To Do during the First Week of Lent:
Choose a nation where Christians are being persecuted – either a nation that God puts particularly on your heart or one from the Open Doors World Watch List for 2021 – and read the entry for that nation. Use “Awaken Me” to pray specifically for our brothers and sisters in that nation. Continue to pray for the Christians there throughout the week using Psalms, other Bible passages, as well as hymns and praise and worship songs – with the persecuted believers of that nation in mind.  I have also provided "Awaken Me" as a PDF you can print out.


Faith with Bishop Dobbs and Archbishop Kwashi at a congressional briefing on Nigeria in Washington, DC

KGI Global’s Director of Advocacy Faith McDonnell informs and motivates US church members about global persecution of Christians. She speaks to church groups, conferences, and educational/advocacy forums.

As International Religious Liberty Program Director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, DC for 27 years Faith organized rallies and protests at The White House, State Department, various embassies, and the UN.

Faith helped create the globally-observed International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church in the ‘90’s. She was part of coalitions to draft and pass the International Religious Freedom Act 1998, Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000, Sudan Peace Act 2002, and North Korea Human Rights Act 2004. She defends persecuted Christians and other persecuted believers in North Korea, throughout the Middle East, Nigeria, China, Pakistan, Sudan, and South Sudan, etc.

Together with former LRA abductee Grace Akallo Faith wrote Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (2007, Chosen Books). She writes for The Stream, World, American Spectator, Front Page Magazine, Breitbart, PJ Media, Philos Project, Providence Journal, Juicy Ecumenism, and Patheos. She wrote a chapter in Sorrow & Blood: Christian Mission in Contexts of Suffering, Persecution, and Martyrdom (2012). She has been a guest on such radio shows as The Eric Metaxas Show, Janet Parshall’s In The Marketplace, and others. She has appeared on CBN, Fox News, and the Armstrong Williams television show, and spoken twice as a panelist on global Christian persecution at CPAC.

Now an Anglican and member of Church of the Apostles, Fairfax, Virginia since 1980, Faith grew up in The Salvation Army with Salvation Army officer parents. She graduated from Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, MA, and received her master’s degree in English at the University of Maryland, College Park. She was married to Francis John McDonnell until his death in 2014. She adores her beautiful, feisty daughter Fiona, who spent much of her childhood demonstrating at the Sudanese and Chinese Embassies, meeting bishops and archbishops from around the world, having dinner with heroes like Dr. John Garang and North Korean defectors, and having other experiences that most children never have.

Faith serves on the board of Jubilee Campaign USA and of the Good Shepherd Foundation in Juba, South Sudan. She was a founding member of the Sudan Coalition, the Nigeria Task Force, Act for Sudan, the North Korea Freedom Coalition and Save The Persecuted Christians Coalition. She participates in the Anglican Church in North America’s “Every Tribe and Nation” group, and she is the co-leader of the Anglican Persecuted Church Network (New Wineskins Missionary Network) and of the GAFCON Suffering Church Network.

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