A Call to Action: Host Your Own Prayer Vigil for Persecuted Christians

By Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Christians all over the world are suffering for their faith. While we go about our daily lives, our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are being persecuted because of their belief in God.

There are many things that Western Christians can do to help believers on the other side of the world. The Philos Project has already compiled a list of suggestions for those who are burdened to help the persecuted church, including a wealth of information on organizations and initiatives that assist with both the short- and long-term needs of suffering Christians. “Action is a pivotal part of our faith,” said The Philos Project Executive Director Robert Nicholson. “God blesses people who do things. Thinking things or feeling things is no substitute.”

One of the most important things that believers can do for the persecuted church is pray. Caring for the Middle East church cannot stop with interest and compassion; 1 John tells believers that “we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.” A very important component to a Western church’s involvement with the persecuted church is an organized time of prayer – a candlelight vigil. Since organizing and carrying out such an endeavor can be intimidating, The Philos Project has created a companion site, risevigil.org, that serves as a one-stop go-to for churches and individuals who want to host their own prayer vigils.

A prayer vigil is a specific time set aside to pray for a particular cause or request. “Vigil” – from the Latin word vigilia – means wakefulness, and describes a period of purposeful sleeplessness or observance in which participants dedicate themselves to prayer. During a candlelight vigil, attendees hold lit candles in remembrance of those who died in a massacre or other tragedy.

Candlelight vigils can take on a variety of forms, depending on the individual church and the time available. Complete vigil kits offered in Rise Vigil’s supply store not only include invitations, posters and candles, they also provide participant and leader guides, which detail the framework for the prayer and vigil, and include ways to help unify the vigil participants and establish a solidarity between the pray-ers and the persecuted.

Rise Vigil explains the need for local churches to host prayer vigils and walks Christians through the biblical call for faith matched with action. Every Western church has unique advantages that can benefit the Middle Eastern church, and every Christian can pray. Believers must educate themselves about the plight of their persecuted brothers and sisters – but their engagement cannot end there. The next step is to educate their church, for it will be through the church that real action is possible. To assist in this endeavor, the Rise Vigil website also includes a short documentary, “The Last Plight,” about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq after the Islamic State’s horrific attack on Mosul and the Nineveh Plains. This video is available to stream and share, free of charge.

God has a plan for the Middle East and he is using the trials of his people to accomplish that plan – even when we cannot see the bigger picture. While it is easy to feel helpless in the face of such uncertainty and trial, those of us in the West can pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters while also trusting in God’s plan. Persecuted Christians are counting on us to remain engaged. We urge local churches, prayer groups and individuals to make this cause a central part of their local ministries and join us in hosting prayer vigils to plead for suffering Christians.


Rise Vigil details the five groups of people we should remember in their prayers. These include:

  • Christian families in the Middle East. We can pray for them to be strengthened around the hope of Christ. We can ask that they be reunited with their loved ones and for them to remain steadfast in the hope that they will be reunited in heaven with those who have gone before. Lastly, we can pray that they and their children never go hungry.
  • The persecuted church. Pray that Christians will find places to gather and worship the Lord amidst their suffering. Remember persecuted brethren and ask God to keep them steadfast in their faith. Pray for the safety of Christians in the Middle East and for the salvation of those who oppress them. Above all, pray that God is glorified through this suffering, that this persecution not be in vain.
  • Other religious and ethnic minorities. Many ethnic and religious minority groups have felt the sword of the Islamic State, and the Yazidis have taken the brunt of it. Pray for comfort for families whose loved ones have been executed, and ask for the release of those who are currently being held captive.
  • Relief organization and aid workers. Pray that the United Nations be diligent and creative in helping minorities, who remain the most vulnerable communities in the region. Pray for sufficient funds to help refugees and ask that aid workers be able to continue to serve safely.
  • Government. Pray for local militaries, that they exercise prudence when engaging during this difficult crisis. Pray for the tribal leaders to act wisely and justly during times of war. Pray that leaders not turn their backs on Christian believers who are suffering for their faith. And pray that regional governments treat their Christian refugees with kindness and goodwill.

Rise to the need for intercession. Stand with the persecuted. And find out how to host your own prayer vigil by visiting RiseVigil.org.

“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.”

Jessie Owen Payne

Jessie Owen Payne is the Media Director of The Philos Project. Jessie graduated from Bob Jones University in 2008 with a BA in Radio and Television Broadcasting and a minor in Public Relations Journalism. She interned with Entercom Communications while in college, did freelance writing for The Greenville News in South Carolina, and worked as a staff reporter and editor for The Springville Journal and, later, The Sun News outside Buffalo, NY. Jessie’s passions include fashion, photography and travel. She currently lives with her husband Drew and two children, Logan and Ashtyn, in Greenville, S.C.