After researching North Korea for many years and talking to North Koreans and North Korea watchers, I've noticed that the North Korean government has two mouths. One speaks to the outside world; the other to their own people. There are remarkable differences in what they say. For example, while the North Korean government keeps issuing threats to the international community, the North Korean population is now being motivated for the farming campaign. Apparently the war drills are over.
Also, the regime repeatedly tells the people the economic problems will soon be over, but the leaders never deliver. The North Korean people are disappointed again and again. In fact, because North Korea has not lived up to its promises in the past 20 years, the love for "Big Brother" has extinguished. A large majority of the North Korean adults don't believe in the lies anymore.
That makes living in the Hermit Kingdom perhaps even harder. How can I begin to describe what it is like to live in this country? Imagine a country where the state decides where you live, what profession you choose, what sports you practice, what food you eat and if you eat. Imagine a country without any color in people's clothing and buildings, except for the propaganda images that decorate concrete flats, houses and monuments. Imagine a country where Great Leader Kim Il-Sung has been dead for over 18 years, but is still president and where his starving followers must worship him as a god. It's true that the entire population of North Korea is suffering, but Christians are definitely singled out. Secret agents are specifically trained to hunt them down and imprison entire families.
To outsiders, God often seems to be non-existent in North Korea. But nothing is further from the truth. I've spoken to so many North Korean refugees who heard about God in China, were arrested, sent to a North Korean prison or labor camp and truly discovered God there. When all ground under their feet was swept away, they clung on the Rock (the true God). And I just love hearing from North Korean believers inside the country. They testify of God's amazing grace. People being healed and saved and support goods arriving at just the right time. God is sovereign, also in North Korea.
Praying for North Korea can still be hard. It seems like nothing changes for the better in North Korea. The Bible teaches us valuable lessons about prayer and testing of our faith. However, if we really believe the Bible, we need to remain confident and persist in prayer. Think about Jesus's story in Luke 18 about the judge and the widow. We need to pray day and night if we need to. The North Korean Christians tell us that our persistent prayers help them. They are much more confident and hopeful than several years ago.
The apostle Paul also taught me valuable lessons about how to pray for North Korean Christians. His prayers are legendary. He prays so differently than us. We are used to pray for suffering to end, prisons to open and regimes to fall. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:11: "To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power….12….so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
What is the calling of this church? Paul says so in verse 5, that the Thessalonians suffer for His Kingdom. This teaches me that when we do intercession for other believers we need not only identify with the person you pray for, but especially with God. What is He after in this circumstance? How will He use it to His glory? This truth may radically change the way we pray for persecuted Christians and other believers. We don't know the names of the Christians in North Korea. But we can ask God to fulfill His plan and make people worthy of their calling.
Another lesson may be even more difficult. We should spend more time in prayer for Kim Jong-Un, the regime, the police, the spies, the prison guards and others responsible for persecution. Jesus clearly commands us to pray for our enemies and to bless those who persecute us. Bless the person who tortures your brother. Is there anything more difficult? I don't know, but Jesus asks us to bless them in prayer. Pray that God will call them to saving faith.