Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide - Praying through Holy Week with the persecuted church - Open Doors UK & Ireland
28 March 2023

Praying through Holy Week with the persecuted church

Holy Week can put many Christians around the world at hightened risk of persecution. Here are four prayers to guide you in your prayers for our persecuted family...

Easter Prayer
Photo: worshippers celebrating in an Easter service in the Masosi IDP camp, near Oicha in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While these Christians were celebrating, a group of young men kept watch outside in case there was an attack by Islamic militants. And in nearby towns, their Easter service started at 7.15 am and lasted just 35 minutes - such was the fear and tension at the time.

Christians are, and always have been, resurrection people. In the words of Augustine: ‘We are Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.’

This page brings together some resources which will help you and your church to pray over Easter, with prayers for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Day.

For the persecuted church this is a time of celebration and reflection. But Holy Week is also high risk. The nature of the celebrations means that Christians have increased visibility. And that makes them easy targets.

A church leader in Mosul, Iraq sums it up: “We could close our churches to protect ourselves... Or we can hold all the celebrations and maybe we will receive some bombs or attacks. We try to stay here and love like Jesus Christ. We try to give this meaning of Christianity: that love and life are better than death and killing.”

Through the services of Holy Week, we relive the events of Christ's passion – the joy and anticipation of Palm Sunday, the dreadful darkness of Good Friday, and the miraculous resurrection victory of Easter Sunday. Persecuted Christians know only too well the Friday fear of arrest and death and execution. They know the desolation of that Saturday, when everything seems hopeless and there is nothing to do but wait.

But they also know the resurrection joy of Sunday morning, the great truth that God is life and light and no darkness can ever overcome that – even the darkness of the tomb.

So, please remember to pray for protection for Christians everywhere at this time.

On this page you will find the following prayers:

  • Palm Sunday Prayer - for the witness of the persecuted church
  • Maundy Thursday - for those who have been betrayed
  • Good Friday Prayer - for the unjustly accused and the grieving
  • Easter Sunday Prayer - for the life of the persecuted church

Praying through Holy Week with the persecuted church

Palm Sunday Prayer

Photo: a Palm Sunday procession in Qaraqosh, Iraq, where Christians were celebrating their return to their community after previously being driven out by so-called Islamic State extremists

Many Christians around the world join in processions on Palm Sunday.  But there are risks. In 2021, suicide bombers attacked worshippers on their way home from a Palm Sunday service in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. In Egypt, in 2017, there were two bomb attacks on Palm Sunday which killed 49 people and injured many more.

Please pray that these celebrations would be protected, and that they would witness to the truth. 

A Palm Sunday prayer - for the witness of the persecuted church

Lord Jesus,
Today, all around the world, Christians will be gathering for services and processions, making public statements of their faith.
  We remember the joy of that day when You rode into Jerusalem.
  Please give courage and joy to all those in countries where Christians are marginalised or attacked, yet who still dare to proclaim today that You are Messiah, Christ, the Son of the living God.
  And for those who cannot openly speak the truth about You – may the stones cry out,
  may their lives shout as loud as any crowd, that You are the one who saves.
  Protect Your family, Lord, we pray.

Maundy Thursday prayer

Photo: Vietnamese Christian Thao Apao (not his real name) was tied up and beaten because of his faith. "My brother was the one who led the mob," he said. His brother continued to attack the family in horrific ways, but Thao is determined not to give into hatred

For many persecuted Christians betrayal is all too common. Secret church congregations have to be careful who they admit – the new 'convert' might be a spy. Sometimes Christians are handed over to the authorities by people they trust: their family or friends.

A Maundy Thursday prayer - for those who have been betrayed

Lord Jesus,
Today we think of all those who, like You, have been handed over to their enemies.
We think of Christian girls forced into marriage against their will;
  Of wives or husbands betrayed to the authorities by their spouses;
  Of children handed over by their parents.
We think of churches who meet in secret,
  And who often cannot be sure who they can trust,
Or whether they have spies in their midst.
  Lord, may they remain strong in their faith;
  May they have wisdom in knowing what to share,
  And courage not to give into fear.
And may those who betray them see in their lives
  Your forgiveness and hope.

Good Friday prayer


Photo: in Aleppo, Syria, a crucifix riddled with bullet holes hangs on the wall

Persecuted Christians know only too well the reality of arrest and unfair condemnation. Many of them face death and execution, leaving behind grieving families. 

In countries like North Korea and Afghanistan, if you are revealed to be a Christian it means execution, or being worked to death in a labour camp. And yet Christianity still survives in these places. The followers of Jesus are still willing to carry their cross, no matter where the journey takes them.

A Good Friday prayer - for the unjustly condemned and the grieving

Lord Jesus,
As we think about Your death at the hands of Your enemies,
  we ask that You will be with all those who face violence and injustice because they follow You.
We bring before you those condemned for the crime of Christianity.
Protect them from the crowds who insult and mock, from the mobs who beat and burn,
and from the soldiers who wish them dead.
May they feel Your peace in prison,
  And sing to You in solitary confinement,
  May those who are martyred know Your presence with them to the end.
And for those who suffer for Your name’s sake, may they know the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that they too may pray, ‘Father forgive’.
We also think of those left behind, those who grieve: the mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, children, family and friends.
Be close to them, O Lord.
Bind up their broken hearts, and strengthen them with the knowledge of Your endless, eternal love.

Easter Day prayer

For all the dangers and the risk facing the persecuted church, the reality is this: the church is alive! And it is growing. This is why Christians are persecuted. If the church were not active and powerful, it would not be viewed as a threat.

So as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, give thanks for the many new believers who are joining the church every day. The forces of death are powerful, but they are no match for the Lord of light and life!

Easter Sunday Prayer - for the life of the persecuted church

Lord Jesus,
We pray for all those around the world who are celebrating Your resurrection today.
We pray for those who are still living in the shadow of death:
 Those shattered by loss, and shaken by violence,
 All who walk a road of fear and confusion today.
May Your risen presence walk with them and comfort them, we pray,
  as it was when You walked on the road with Your first followers.
We pray for all those who are anxious about meeting together,
  Those who live in places where Your followers are hated and despised.
May Your risen presence be with them today,
  as it was when You appeared in the rooms where Your disciples gathered.
Keep them safe, Lord, we pray.
And for all of us who celebrate Your resurrection today,
  Fill us with joy and hope,
  May Your resurrection power fill Your church this Easter,
Because we know that no tomb could hold You,
  and that no stone is ever too heavy for Your power to roll away.

An Easter prayer from Sunil (not his real name), a persecuted church leader

Thank You Lord for giving us a day to celebrate Your victory.
Thank You Lord for helping us to understand that our life doesn’t end here, but that we have a great hope with You.
Father, I pray for those who cannot celebrate this Easter because they lost their beloved family members.
Lord, I am praying that they will be encouraged by knowing that one day they will see them because of our hope in Easter.
Lord, bless all those people who cannot celebrate this Easter as we celebrate. Comfort them, and remind them of the hope we have in You, Father.
I also thank You, Lord, for Your salvation,
Thank You, Lord, for Your victory,
Thank You, Lord, for the hope You have given us,
Thank You, Lord, for helping us to testify to the world that the empty tomb has given us the hope that one day we will see You face to face.
We pray in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Please pray

  • For protection for Christians everywhere as they celebrate Easter. Whether they gather in big churches in cities, small churches in remote villages, or secret churches in places where Christianity is forbidden – ask the God would be their strength and their shield.
  • For those who are grieving. Pray for comfort and peace for those who lost loved ones in Easter attacks. May the Holy Spirit bind up their broken-hearts; may they know that others are standing with them.
  • For Church Leaders. That they would have the wisdom and strength to help those they lead. And that they would have people to whom they can turn when they themselves need help.
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