It can seem hopeless reading these news reports of violence and persecution of Christians in the Middle East from afar. Is there anything we can do?
Yes, and fortunately it’s one of the most powerful: prayer.
There are obviously many ways to pray, and any prayer made in the name of Jesus is powerful. This is just a list of prayers that may be particularly effective or relevant to this situation.
Some of the things listed here may make more sense for Christians who are part of older, more liturgical traditions (Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, etc.). But even if these particular recommendations don’t make sense for you, we can all be reminded and encouraged to keep praying for peace and security for all those affected by the violence in the Middle East, particularly our brothers and sisters in Christ.
1) The prayer of Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Iraq, His Beatitude Louis Rafael Sako
Have the Christians being persecuted made any specific prayer requests?
Yes. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), recently passed along this prayer from Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Iraq, His Beatitude Louis Rafael Sako:
“The plight of our country is deep and the suffering of Christians is severe and frightening.
“Therefore, we ask you Lord to spare our lives, and to grant us patience, and courage to continue our witness of Christian values with trust and hope.
“Lord, peace is the foundation of life; Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us to live with each other without fear and anxiety, and with dignity and joy.
“Glory be to you forever.
We can join with him in this prayer.
2) The Divine Mercy Chaplet
An appeal to God’s mercy seems to be a common, and appropriate, response to the reports of violence. The Divine Mercy Chaplet is a particularly beautiful devotion to the mercy of God that’s available to us in the name of Jesus.
If you’re unfamiliar with the devotion, you can learn the details of how to do it here. Here are some of its prayers:
“Eternal Father, we offer You the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
“For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
“Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
3) The Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
It’s hard to read the accounts of violence against Christians and others in the Middle East without thinking there’s demonic influences at play. The Bible tells us that St. Michael the Archangel is an important leader of God’s angelic armies and thus a particularly important foe of demonic forces. Christians have traditionally sought his help in spiritual warfare.
Here’s the popular short version of the Prayer to St. Michael:
“St. Michael the Archangel,
Defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly prayer,
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Here’s the longer version:
“O Glorious Archangel St. Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, be our defense in the terrible warfare which we carry on against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, and spirits of evil. Come to the aid of man, whom God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist Thee, nor was there place for them any longer in heaven. That cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan, who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels.
“Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men; his depraved mind, corrupt heart, his spirit of lying, impiety, blasphemy, his pestilential breath of impurity and of every vice and iniquity. These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the Spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered.
“Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate Thee as their protector and patron; in Thee Holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious power of hell; to Thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the Lord; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan, do Thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
V. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered, hostile powers.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered, the root of David.
V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
R. As we have hoped in Thee.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray:
God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy name, and we humbly implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious Archangel St. Michael, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all other unclean spirits, who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls.
Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Mark that there are some demons that can be exorcised “by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9.29)
Spiritual disciplines aren’t talked about nowadays as much as they should, but they are truly indispensable to the Christian life. Fasting is an important way to remind us of the absolute importance of God in our lives, to make extra time for prayer, and to unite ourselves to the sacrifice of Christ for the good of others.
If fasting hasn’t been a part of your Christian life, perhaps this would be a good time to add it.
5) Going to Mass
Nothing’s more powerful than the one-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ that’s made mysteriously present in the Mass (or the Divine Liturgy).
There are at least two ways you can offer a Mass for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. You can ask your priest to offer a Mass, on Sunday or some other day of the week, for them. Or you can simply silently offer the next Mass you attend for them. Either way, offering a Mass is one of the most powerful things a Christian can do.
6) Eucharistic Adoration
Most Christians believe that Jesus is mysteriously yet truly present in the Eucharist. If you’re one of them, why not visit a local perpetual adoration chapel and dedicate a holy hour before Jesus in the Eucharist to Christians suffering in the Middle East?
7) Asking for the Intercession of Martyr-Saints
Reports indicate that many Christians in the Middle East have courageously accepted martyrdom rather than renounce their faith. While Christians in the West have been protected from such threats, Middle Eastern Christians are only the latest in a long line of Christian martyrs in history.
United by the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ, we can ask the many martyr-saints who have gone before us to pray for Christians today who are facing the ultimate decision.