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3 ways to pray for dictators who persecute

March 10, 2022 by Abigail Hart in Persecution updates

Dictators intimidate, punish and kill, shattering hearts and dreams, yet Jesus told us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” As believers, it’s not a suggestion, but a direct call from Christ to pray for those we might feel deserve it least.

Although hard to calculate an exact number, a conservative estimate of all deaths directly linked to dictators is over a quarter billion, all driven by power and fear. Although we may not know the hearts of those who lead persecution, their actions speak volumes—they are broken people in desperate need of prayer. Plus, Jesus tells us to, and as His people we follow both His words and actions. That’s why we should pray for these world leaders, plain and simple. But what do we pray?

First, pray for your own heart

Most of us don’t naturally have the capacity to pray for those who inflict such evil. We’re blinded by our own hate and pursuit of justice. To pray for those who greenlight persecution—like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki, Iran’s Ali Khamenei and so many others—we must first pray for ourselves.

We need to humbly and sincerely pray that God will miraculously transform the hate in our hearts to hope by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul went on to write nearly half of the New Testament; however, we’re first introduced to him in Acts chapter seven when he’s presiding over the stoning of Stephen—a Christian. Paul had Christian blood on his hands, but still God would overtake him and use him for His good.

In Acts chapter nine, on the road to Damascus, Paul has a single encounter with Jesus that radically impacts his life and the lives of billions of Christians to come. God was able to take a man’s heart—filled with evil and blackness—and use him to passionately expand His kingdom on earth. And what did it take? A single encounter with Christ.

For us, let’s remember God is still the God of miracles. He continues to heal the sick, restore relationships and alter lives. When it comes to praying for dictators and wicked rulers, let’s remember God can turn their hearts with a single encounter.

Instead of hate, pray to be filled with the hope that can only come from Him. There is no earthly cure for malevolence, but God can change lives in the blink of an eye. As He created the heavens and the earth with only words from His mouth, He can turn a heart from stone to flesh just as easily. When we pray, let’s first pray God will remind us of His awesome power, so we might be filled with hope instead of hate.

Second, pray for the circle of people around these leaders

Ideals and agendas, like a blazing fire, eventually burn out unless they are refueled; for leaders to change, those around them must be brave enough to speak truth.

In a country where a leader uses fear and intimidation to achieve their goals, it doesn’t take long for them to weed out their inner circle. They’re constantly looking for weak links to snap off and replace; for example, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un likely ordered the death of his own half-brother in 2017. Witnessing the madness around them, it can be hard for anyone in a dictator’s inner circle to find the courage necessary to speak up, fearing their own death if they do. Even in Paul’s case, after his conversion, many stayed away from him out of fear.

Dictators and leaders are only as powerful as those around them, but because of the violence and power they wield, many go along and keep their mouths shut when they should be speaking out.

Let’s pray God will encourage those around these leaders to be brave, speak out and act; like Moses standing before Pharaoh, pray God will give them the right words to speak and actions to take. Let’s pray also for their protection, and that their words will not fall on deaf ears and be heard as a threat, but as someone who loves and cares.

If those in these circles continue to go with the program, the likelihood of change is slim to none. Family members, close staff and friends need to see what’s wrong and speak out boldly against it. Pray these men and women will see these atrocities for what they are and condemn them, even if it may come with a cost.

Lastly, pray for the dictators and leaders who persecute

When we enter prayer for those who persecute, let’s first remember that God is still transforming lives. He converted Saul (a murderer) and used him for good, softened Pharaoh’s heart (a slave owner) to release the Hebrew exiles and He completely altered the life trajectory of Nicodemus (a Pharisee and member of the group out to kill Jesus).

But if we need more proof that God can still reverse hearts, let’s look at our own lives. What prodigals has He brought back home? What addictions has He healed? What relationships has He restored?

When we all came to Christ, what sinners we were, too. In 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV), Paul says, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Before Jesus entered our hearts, some of us were addicts, gossips, racists, thieves and murderers—but we were never too far gone to be rescued.

Let’s be faithful to pray for those dictators and leaders who persecute. And let’s believe that God can uproot their lives and plant them elsewhere, just like He did with our lives and countless others’.

Pray God will turn their hearts to flesh and they’ll experience Him; like Paul, it takes only one encounter with Jesus. Pray God will show them the error of their ways and illustrate redemption in Him. And pray God will rescue our persecuted brothers and sisters through them—that those leaders will use their power for good, and no longer for evil.

God, we come before You with heavy hearts. There are dictators and leaders who mercilessly persecute with no repercussions. We are angry and we want to hate, but help us turn our hate to hope; help our hearts to expand to the idea that these workers of evil can do good, and that you can radically transform their lives, just like you did with Paul.

God, we pray for the family, staff members and friends close to these leaders. We pray you strengthen their resolve, that they might witness what is happening, see it for what it is and call it out. We pray their words will be met sympathetically, not violently.

And, God, we pray for those who are overseeing these horrible atrocities—these dictators and leaders. Before You, we were all broken people; only You can make us whole. Like You’ve worked in our lives, we ask You to work in the lives of those who persecute. We believe in Your strength and that there is nothing You can’t do. Please work in their lives and swap out their dirty rags.

You are God and You are good. You are Elohim, Adonai and Jehovah. You hear our prayers, and we are thankful.