Image: An MBB woman whose life was transformed by becoming more passionate in Christ and His Word.
These persecuted Christians are likely the future of Christianity. How can you encourage and support them as they persevere and grow in their faith?
For Abbas*, a Christian in Somalia, decisions about his faith have become life-altering. Abbas’ family members and society are out to punish him for abandoning his Islamic faith. Abbas is part of a group we often call “Muslim-background believers” or MBBs (people like Abbas who were raised Muslims and have converted from Islam to Christianity). MBB’s are growing rapidly, in some places explosively, throughout the world.
Becoming a Christian in the Muslim world is a costly choice. MBBs face isolation and shame, often leading to financial hardships, and in areas where extremists are, physical injuries and even death. When officials or secret police discover MBBs’ places of gathering and worship, they often destroy any means of coming together to be the church and, in turn, prevent the encouragement that comes from worshiping with a body of believers of one mind and heart.
Understandably, the emotions they often share with us are difficult: weary, burdened, mad, sorrowful, lonely.
Below, we offer 10 prayers for MBBs you can bring to the Father as you pray for our persecuted family across the globe.
Praying specifically for MBBs:
- Pray for MBBs facing excommunication, abandonment and shame from their family. What would it be like to be abandoned, even abused and assaulted, by your family members? Often, direct relatives of MBBs are their greatest source of persecution because leaving Islam brings shame to their entire family. In moderate families, this kind of persecution may lead to being ignored or excluded from the family; in strict families, it may lead to divorce or even death.
“Who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30).
2. Pray for MBBs who have lost their friends. Repeatedly, we hear from converts who say they have no friends anymore because of their decision to follow Christ. A whole community may turn on a believer, putting pressure on an MBB to renounce their newfound faith. In Iran in most rural areas, for example, Christians from a Muslim background are considered “unclean.” This treatment and brand of oppression cause most converts to keep their faith in Christ a secret.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35).
- Pray for MBBs who have nowhere to gather for church and experience fellowship. In the Middle East and North Africa, MBBs there have hardly any places to publicly gather and worship as a church body. Even in Algeria, one of the more “relaxed” areas, believers still face great persecution and discrimination. The growing house church movement is gaining the attention of governments in these regions, fueling raids on churches in an attempt to keep believers in isolation.
“For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20).
- Pray for refugee MBBs. When situations become life-threatening, especially for MBBs, they often flee the country. At times, escape and migration are the only options.
“And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).
- Pray for MBBs who may be killed for their faith–that they can remain a faithful witness throughout their lives. Islamic extremists believe and uphold that anyone and everyone who leaves Islam should be killed. Any “apostate” (anyone who abandons their faith) from Islam is, according to Sharia Law, punishable by death if the accused does not recant. Muslim extremists justify this treatment based on the words of their prophet Mohammed: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.”
“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11).
- Pray that MBBs would seek out and find discipleship. Often, believers are forced into isolation because the discovery of their faith will lead to disowning, displacement, fines, arrest and prison and even death. Pray that Christians would be able to find others they can trust to disciple them and that they would look for others to disciple. In regions of extreme persecution, discipleship is critical.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).
- Pray that MBBs would store up God’s Word in their heart and read/remember it whenever possible. Owning any Christian materials, including a Bible, is strictly prohibited in many countries on the World Watch List. Often, believers get their hands on only very small portions of God’s Word at a time and hold it dearly in their hearts and minds as they memorize it. Pray for God’s Word to safely get into their hands as often as possible.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
- Pray for the hearts of MBBs, that they would increase in their passion to love others and share the gospel. One of the main persecution strategies of Islamic extremist groups, like Islamic State and , is instilling fear in believers. Pray that God would give them strength and confidence and, in turn, boldness to share their testimony
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
- Pray for MBBs in regions where Islamic extremism threatens. Whether in Afghanistan (al-Qaeda), in Nigeria and other parts of Africa (where the militant group Boko Haram invokes terror), or in Syria where ISIS killed thousands, Islamic extremism is the greatest threat to Christianity around the world today. Believers living in these regions face extreme trials and brutality.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
- Pray for MBBs to remain steadfast and unwavering in their faith. Above all else, we pray for believers to persevere. We celebrate conversions like Abbas’ in Somalia. Luke 5:10 tells us that when even just one sinner repents, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God.” The difficult reality, though, is that just like new believers in the world, the roots don’t go deep in some MBBs. When trials become too much to bear, sometimes they waver and even deny their faith. Through prayer, we show compassion and also pray fervently for believers to be preserved in the gospel, increasing in unshakeable faith for His glory.
Being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col. 1:11).
* names changed for security
Pray for MBB in this Ramadan (May 6-Jun 4)
In this month-long Ramadan fast, MBB experience more tensions. Please download “Prayer Guide” to pray for MBB around the world.