BOISE, Idaho (Christian Examiner) -- The 2012 wrongful imprisonment of an American pastor of Iranian descent was intended to stop the spread of Christianity, but instead has resulted in "dispersing seeds" of the Gospel to world political leaders, and, encouraging Christian believers across the globe.
Pastor Saeed Abedini's wish from the dark cell of an Iranian prison this seventh day of May -- his 35th birthday-- was that his fellow compatriots pray in unity "for our beloved America" on this annual National Day of Prayer.
It's been hard. It's been a hard battle of seeing ups and downs and hearing promises and then wondering if our government's really doing anything.
As Christians across the United States cried to God for the nation they were joined by Abedini's wife Naghmeh, who stood alongside hundreds at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise where she interceded for the country -- and honored her husband who remains a captive in Rajai Shahr Prison just outside Tehran.
"Saeed had such a big heart for prayer and worship," Naghmeh told Christian Examiner in a telephone interview. "He would always pray for this nation."
Overcoming doubts that the country he loves has abandoned him to the confines of an over-crowded, dungeon-like cell in a foreign land, he joined the national prayer event from behind prison walls, according to a letter he sent to his wife.
"Know that I am chained with you in prayer...in seeking God for America," he wrote.
Although Naghmeh took part in the national event to "honor his letter," she said the day was painful.
It is the third would-be birthday celebration he has spent in prison. His only crime a lawful, constitutionally-sanctioned involvement with house churches established 13 years prior to his incarceration. Article 26 of the Iranian Constitution gives the right to religious minorities, including Christians, to form societies and to meet together.
"It's really hard for me because he was 32 and now he's 35 and I look at my kids' last pictures with him and they just seem so small. It's hard for me thinking how far we've come," she explained with composed frustration.
It is yet another commemorative moment marked by the pronounced absence of the father and husband who is charged with undermining the national security of the Muslim nation.
Still, she meets the difficulty in the same manner she has met the challenge of each day for nearly last three years -- with prayer. After spending the afternoon at the Capitol, she will attend another prayer meeting in the evening at her church.
"I couldn't imagine doing anything else on his birthday than to pray for him," she said.
Noting the sustaining power of prayers lifted on Saeed's behalf, Naghmeh pointed to the Scripture to emphasize the importance of going to God in prayer for the persecuted.
When the Bible tells us to remember those in chains it represents a two-fold return that encourages the persecuted and also stirs the praying believer's faith, she said.
"I think the persecuted church really thrives from knowing they have brothers and sisters that are getting on their knees and praying for them," Naghmeh said. She gave the example of Saeed being encouraged just knowing "he is not alone."
When Christians pray for the persecuted, "they're not isolated and alone in these dark cells and in the abuse. In the persecution they're not alone," she said.
"At the same time I feel like the Lord wants us to pray for the persecuted because He wants to do a move in our life," the pastor's wife asserted. "I think when we've read stories of those who are persecuted for Christ, a lot of us get this burning in our hearts to do something."
That urgency then magnifies our faith, she said. "We say here's people paying a price (and ask) what are you doing? How are you living out your faith?" Ultimately it is a way to "encourage the persecuted and wake up believers to live out their faith in a radical way."
For Naghmeh the awakening of her faith made her an advocate of the Gospel to the nations, and for human rights.
The testimony of the persecuted opens doors to share Christ in unlikely places and "disperse the seeds" of the Good News, Naghmeh noted.
Since Saeed's imprisonment, she has traveled the globe at the invitation of human rights organizations. In the near future she will speak before an audience in Germany.
"I've been invited by human rights groups in Germany that are not even Christian. This is a great opportunity for me to speak to German human rights groups and German political leaders and parliament leaders," she said."The good thing about Saeed's story is that it's a Christian story," she said. "I can easily weave Christianity and Christ into my speeches because this is what he's in there for and so its part of it and so they don't get offended."
A communist group in the Netherlands was visibly moved by "how God and Jesus are carrying (Saeed) in the prison."
Likewise, an Iranian human rights worker, who was born Muslim but turned agnostic, approached Naghmeh after a speech and asked how to learn more about Jesus.
"Really, I let the Holy spirit lead as to what I'm supposed to say to each of those meetings. I feel like seeds have been planted," she said.
Yet sowing those seeds has not been an easy task.
"It's been hard. It's been a hard battle of seeing ups and downs and hearing promises and then wondering if our government's really doing anything."
Still, Naghmeh says the Lord carries her through the doubt and leads her to continue committing it to prayer.
"The Lord has really been ministering to my heart despite where I stand or my ideas of how things should be happening with Iran or Saeed," she told Christian Examiner. "The Lord has really spoken to me from 1 Timothy 2: 1-2 about praying for leadership. It has been a struggle," but not a void effort.