Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who has spent over two and-a-half years in an Iranian prison for his Christian faith, is marking on Thursday his 35th birthday by urging believers to pray for America's revival. The pastor noted in a letter that his birthday this year falls on the National Day of Prayer in the United States.
"As an American and as a prisoner for Christ, I have spent many hours praying and crying out to God for revival for this great nation. We all hope for the success of our nation and for America to be blessed, but without revival there can be no true success or blessing. As Ezra's cried out to God in repentance and the Israelites joined him in weeping bitterly and turning from their sin, I would like to ask you to join me in repenting and praying for revival," Abedini' letter begins.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, and the couple's two children in Boise, Idaho, said that the letter was obtained from a family member in Iran who visited the pastor in prison last week.
The ACLJ has been campaigning for the release of Abedini and three other American citizens imprisoned in Iran, but has criticized President Barack Obama's administration for abandoning the Americans in the nuclear deal agreement with Iran.
After White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest revealed last week that Obama would veto any bill that would require Iran to release the prisoners before the nuclear deal is finalized, the ACLJ spoke out and called the admittance "despicable" and "outrageous."
"That is simply unbelievable. Refusing to discuss the Americans being held hostage by Iran at the bargaining table and rejecting any congressional attempt to make any deal with Iran contingent on the release of the Americans is unacceptable. It's quite frankly appalling," the law group wrote on Thursday.
Obama has previously promised to do all that he can to see Abedini released.
In the letters Abedini has been able to get out during his time in prison, he has thanked the many around the world who have prayed for him and signed campaigns for his release.
In his 35th birthday letter, he said that although in times of need it is tempting for people to blame the government and authorities for their fate, it is the people themselves that need to show the change they want to see in society.
"Change starts with us. Revival starts with us. The first step to revival is praying together in unity as a nation. the National Day of Prayer is a great opportunity for us to come out and use the freedom that we have been given. So many Christians around the world are imprisoned and martyred for their faith in Jesus," Abedini wrote.
"You have the freedom to gather across the United States at your state capitol to pray. Please use this opportunity. Please use your freedom for the kingdom of God."
The ACLJ pointed out that Abedini's message speaks to the many Christians imprisoned for their faith in Iran, charged with "endangering national security" just for assembling with other Christians in their homes.
"For this 'crime' pastor Saeed has endured more than two and-a-half years in one of the worst prisons in the world. That's more than 950 days," the law group stated.
"He continues to suffer for his faith in Christ, daily battling chronic pain from prison beatings. It's time for America to come together not only in prayer but action for Saeed and the persecuted Church globally," it added.