Is it ever a struggle to remember to pray for God’s persecuted church? Sometimes prayer can seem passive, and we can be tempted to believe that we are not doing much. But prayer can change lives- especially the lives of persecuted Christians… believers like Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh.
Many Christians around the world joined with Open Doors in prayer and advocacy for these two women who were being persecuted for their faith. Though it seemed at times like there was no hope, God was faithful to deliver them, and used them in a mighty way even when they were in chains.
In the book Captive in Iran, a remarkable true story of hope and triumph amid the horror of Tehran’s brutal Evin prison, we are invited into the daily realities of these persecuted believers’ lives. This book shows the power of prayer, what the that the persecuted church is facing, and the staggering things God is doing.
Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh were two friends living in Iran. While they each were seemingly living the normal life of an Iranian woman, they had a secret they just couldn’t seem to keep- their faith in Jesus. They spent their time in Iranian cities handing out New Testaments. They hosted a secret church in their apartment where the attenders risked imprisonment or death to worship Jesus.
One day, a knock at the door challenged everything they were doing, and things changed drastically. A few government officials questioned them about their faith and why they were not Muslim. These Christians refused to recant their faith and never denied Jesus.
In the book, Maryam shares: “Technically, it’s not illegal to be a Christian in Iran. However, in practical terms, …[all] authority in the country interpret the law for themselves and aren’t accountable to anyone.” After their interrogation, the officials immediately threw these women into one of Iran’s harshest prisons- Tehran’s Evin prison.
Once in prison, the thought that this was all some sort of bad dream slowly began to wear off. While conditions were incredibly harsh, these women decided to make the most of their time and meet the other prisoners. They chose to listen to many prisoners’ stories, and prayed with them for whatever they were going through. They even befriended a guard, who then murmured to them to, “be strong and hold on to your faith.” They seemed to see evidence of God’s grace everywhere.
While the women were afraid in the beginning, they share how their eyes were opened to the opportunities, instead of misfortune, that God had provided them with. “We are proud of these handcuffs because we’re wearing them on account of our faith in Jesus Christ!”.
Even battling sickness and intense living conditions while there, they shared the gospel relentlessly, and also divulge of their successes and letdowns. This firsthand perspective of sharing the gospel, in one of the most hostile environments, is inspirational to any believer’s faith, and will challenge the reader’s boldness.
This novel documents the prevalent openness to the message of Jesus that these women came across while inside such a dark prison. They share about a twenty-three-year-old woman who thought her sin had left her unable to know God. She approached the women, saying, “I’m not a spiritual person, but I’m very interested in Jesus and Christianity, and want to know more about it.”
The women even share an interesting thought about why they were thankful for their time in prison. When a fellow prisoner requested a Bible from them: “Though I had no way to give her a Bible, her request was another reminder of how easy it was to witness behind bars compared to the work we had done outside…We could talk to them openly, rather than hiding behind closed doors or in basements.”
Marziyeh and Maryam valued advancing the gospel over their own comfort, and were blessed abundantly for it. They found their rhythm within the grace of doing God’s work. “When we were arrested, all we could think about was getting out. Now, we are comfortable in the place where God had sent us.”
This book serves as a strong reminder of the power of prayer. God used these women while they were in prison, and showed that He has no limits or boundaries. Their hope in God and their fight throughout the book will leave you in awe of the God they serve. Be sure to read this powerful book to encounter some amazing examples of God’s faithfulness and preservation.