Pray for Our World – Region of Africa

As we begin to pray for our world and each country, it’s good to get an overview of our world first. The satellite view can give us a new appreciation for just how amazing and complex our world is. The major regions of the world are Africa, The Americas, Asia, Europe and Pacific. We’ll start with an overview of Africa.

The region of Africa is composed of about 20% of the world’s surface area, with 2/3 of Africa’s population living in countries south of the Sahara, and 1/3 in North Africa. There are 57 countries, 2,500 ethnic groups, and about 61% literacy. Africa has a vast wealth of natural resources, but in the 50 years since the large wave of colonial independence, it has struggled economically. It now has the largest growth rate in the world, and is about to produce their largest population of working age. They struggle with demands on the land due to the large population growth, low investments in agriculture, foreign debt, lack of infrastructure, lack of education, corruption, disease and military conflict.

Religion is very important to Africans. Religious freedom has increased but there are still some restrictions in North Africa and Muslim countries. Christianity and Islam make up 90% of the religion, just about evenly divided. But underlying both of these religions is a value system deep in old ways of ancestor worship and idolatry. In addition, 13 of the world’s 20 least-evangelized countries by percentage are in Africa.

Pray that the powers of darkness that still consume a lot of Africa will be lifted with the light and hope of Jesus Christ.

Pray for Our World – What does prayer do?

Prayer is often misunderstood. It is not simply a wish list, or to be used casually in conversation. It is also not for spreading gossip in the form of a prayer. When it’s sincere, I do believe God hears those gut-wrenching prayers we call out to him in our time of desperation. God is always ready to extend grace to those who reach out to Him. But many times it feels like we don’t see prayers being answered. It is not from lack of faith. God does not requires us to earn anything first. But it does require an understanding of who God is and His plan for our world. Throughout the story of the Bible, God relentlessly pursues a relationship with us, to bring us back to Him, and is constantly fighting for us against the evil. He promises us hope and a Savior. Many times God has reassured me of things but He has never told me the future. God always meets us where we are today, not in the future. Every day is precious in itself.

As I journey into praying for our world this year, it is good to see what prayer has done for our world in just the last few decades. We often hear of the bad news, but if we step back a little, we can see the overall good and God’s plan for our world.

  • There is an unprecedented number of new believers across Africa, Asia and Latin America – those who have not had as much opportunity as before.
  • Christianity is now a global religion – there are Christians in every country on earth.
  • Renewal movements are also growing at an unforeseen rate, especially after the 1950’s (around the time Israel became a nation again).
  • Prayer movements and networks have multiplied and grown, including Global Day of Prayer, Days of Prayer for the nations, and grass-root networks.
  • Charity aid has escalated across the globe since the 1980’s and 1990’s. There is a more holistic understanding of missions – care for orphans and widows, uplift the poor, liberty to the oppressed and set the captives free. All those things Jesus taught us to do.
  • Many places previously closed are now open to aid workers and educators.
  • There are many new methods to reaching and helping people than ever before.

We must also be aware of the global hotspots in our world, where there is likely to be more turmoil and conflict in the coming years. We should especially be praying for these areas:

  • Future of Jerusalem and the ongoing conflict.
  • The Korean Peninsula shared between a ruthless dictator and a thriving but nervous democracy.
  • Somalia – war-torn and aggressive groups.
  • Central Africa – lawless militias.
  • Afghanistan and Pakistan – unstable and dangerous due to religious extremism and terrorism.
  • China’s growth and assertiveness.
  • All – human trafficking. It has now replaced drugs as the main trafficking area. 30 million people live in this type of slavery. It happens in our towns and cities, and is an attack on our youth. We should all be outraged!

Praying for others is a way we can recognize other people’s value, and a start to a more caring world. It gives us a sense of higher calling, something more than just ourselves, and a likeness to Christ.

Pray for Our World – a Year’s Journey

A friend’s post recently got me thinking. She mentioned something that was very personal and dear to her heart, and some people actually took the time to respond back with complaints and negative comments about her post! I was shocked. But on the other hand, I also see people throw out empty, superficially nice comments with no real thought or meaning behind them. And we begin to thrive on those artificial likes. Overall, we have become a world of detached carelessness.  We have lots of information at our fingertips but not so much wisdom or care. Those are things that can’t be googled or measured in the number of likes. One of my all-time favorite book quotes comes from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby”. It was true 100 years ago and is still true today.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Recently I won a book in a raffle, called “Operation World, The Definitive Prayer Guide To Every Nation.” I figured God gave it to me for a reason, and the most obvious reason being to help pray for our world. The book has statistics and facts on every country in our world with a prayer guide for the year. So I’m going to try it. I plan to earnestly pray and care for the people in every country of our world – people just like you and me.  We are all someone’s mother or husband, son or daughter or friend.  We all matter individually and we all matter to God.  Every one of us.

I hope you will follow along with me this year to learn a little about each country and something we can all do, which is to pray. Prayer is our direct communication with our Heavenly Father, and He hears us and listens to us, and in the process, it can change our hearts and others.

Here’s a few facts about our world to get started:

  • The population of our world is a little over 7 billion and is anticipated to be 8 billion by 2030.  For comparison, the population was only 2.5 billion in 1950 (which seems to contradict the argument from some that the world could not have been populated so quickly after Noah and the Flood).
  • There are 16,350 distinct people groups and 6,909 languages spoken in the world. A third of these languages do not have any Bible translation.
  • The largest religion is Christianity at 32%, then Muslim at 23% and then Hindu and Non-religious both at 14%. Jews are only .21%. (This is the remnant that God has always promised us, and they will be significant in leading the world during the End Times.)
  • The world’s religions are leveling out. While Christianity used to be the biggest religion, by as early as 2030, the trend shows it will be decreasing while other major religions are increasing and evenly spreading among the population. Still, one-third of the population is not measured by any major religion.
  • Catholicism is the largest Christian religion at 15% followed by Protestant at 7%. However, there has been recent dramatic growth in the post-denominational church, which has a variety of Christian beliefs and practices though it is still mainly evangelical. Evangelicals have been the driving force of the revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries and the expansion of non-Western Christianity.

God seems to be moving once again in the evangelical church, just in a different way. Perhaps we are coming back to the roots of the early churches and the original Apostle missionaries and early pastors of Peter, Paul, James, John and Timothy.  We can only pray, and spread the hope to our world. I hope you will join me.

Names of Jesus – Star

Jesus describes himself as the “Bright Morning Star” when he reveals himself to John in Revelation 22:16.

I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.”

Jesus is not just one of many stars, but the bright morning star – the one that outshines all the others.  While Jesus is prophesied to come from the line of David, the term Star of David (or shield of David) is never mentioned in the Bible. It is a Jewish symbol with its earliest archaeological reference from the 3rd century.

In John 9:15, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”

Even in the beginning of the Bible in Numbers 24:17, there is prophesy of a star, A star will come from Jacob, and a scepter will arise from Israel.”

Jesus is the true light of the world.  He is the pre-existent light, before all other light.

And as a morning star, he announces the beginning of each new day. He gives us newness. As the brightest star, he gives us a reference point for our lives.

Names of Jesus – The Good Shepherd

This is one of my favorite images of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. One who will take care of you. One who is good! We all need good in this world, and that is what Jesus is. I’ve never understood how the manger scene or Jesus could be offensive to anyone. I understand not everyone believes in his deity, but his image has always been one of good and compassion. It is his goodness that draws people to him.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Jesus gave us another example when he told the parable of the 99 sheep and 1 lost sheep in Luke 15.  Jesus came as the good shepherd to seek and find the lost.

The 23rd Psalm, the most quoted of all Psalms, also beautifully describes this good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd – Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.