Someone told me recently that he had heard that some Chinese Christians pray that persecution would come to the Church in the U.S. I also saw a presentation that includes a statement from a prominent American Christian leader that communicates that he has prayed fervently that suffering would come. Should Christians pray along these lines?
No Biblical Teaching Supports Praying That Suffering Would Come
Those who pray that suffering would come to believers may typically do so out of a desire for the Church to be purified and for believers to grow spiritually. Some may think that David’s prayer in Psalm 139 supports such praying:
Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
These verses, however, do not support praying that believers would suffer; at best, they would only support a believer’s praying that he himself would be tried.
Although desiring the purification of the Church and spiritual growth of believers is commendable, I am unaware of any teaching in Scripture that supports believers praying that believers would be persecuted or that suffering would come.
Explicit Biblical Teaching That Teaches Us to Pray for the Opposite Experience for Believers
Not only does Scripture not support praying that suffering would come, but also it clearly teaches that what we should pray for is exactly the opposite experience for believers:
1Ti 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
Paul informs all believers that they should pray for all authorities with the aim that believers would lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty—it is impossible for believers to do so when they are suffering persecution!
Furthermore, Paul also teaches us that we should pray for deliverance for believers who are already being persecuted:
2Th 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: 2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
Clear apostolic teaching in both of these passages, therefore, teaches us that we should not pray that suffering would come on believers
Other Considerations That Argue Against Praying That Suffering Would Come
Moreover, persecution does not bring about spiritual growth for any of the believers who lose their lives through it. Nor does persecution necessarily lead to the purification of the Church—it sometimes leads instead to the eradication of believers in a specific area because of the unrelenting actions of wicked authorities.
Explicit biblical teaching and other relevant considerations, therefore, teach us that we should not pray that suffering would come. Praying for suffering and persecution to come is not biblical.
We should pray instead for the Church everywhere to be able to lead quiet and peaceable lives that are fully sanctified and dedicated to God. We should also pray for deliverance for brethren who are being persecuted.