Pray for Our World – The Americas

As I continue around the globe in prayer, starting with the African continent, I now come to the Americas. These are two continents made up of three main areas of North America, Caribbean, and Latin America. They have a lot in common between the 53 countries that make up this region, but there is also great diversity – from the indigenous Intuit people of the Arctic to the Fuegians of South America. There are blessings and challenges to this region, which is sometimes referred to as the New World.

The United States has the majority of the population, and then Canada. North America is the wealthiest continent with 99% literacy rate, 77% Christian and 18% non-religious. The past has been plagued with ill-treatment of indigenous peoples and slavery. The present is plagued with drug-trafficking primarily coming from the south. The balance of world power is changing in the United States, as the world perceptions and roles are changing.

The Caribbean is largely Hispanic and African-Caribbean, with 82% literacy and 83% Christian. Their main economy is tourism. Latin America is largely Hispanic and Brazilian, with 90% literacy and 92% Christian, which is mostly Catholic. Their main economy is export of natural resources.

Overall these statistics look pretty good, and many answered prayers have been a part of it. In the Caribbean and Latin America, there has been a shift toward more democracy and away from military regimes, and a new vitality in the Catholic Church based on new reading of the scriptures and evangelical teaching. There have been many great evangelists, missionaries, writers, speakers, pastors, and trainers that have come out of North America, and North Americans are most generous with missions and good causes. In the area where I live (Southeast United States), I am fortunate to see this played out every day in my church, friends and co-workers.

But there are also a few large areas of prayer needed for this region of the world. Drugs, poverty and crime are certainly on the list, but the one that really stuck out to me when studying this region is the Church. The past brought many solid leaders and teachers from the church but today’s American church is changing.

  • There is a decline in influence. Pray for moral purity and spiritual development of our churches.
  • Consumeristic attitudes have led to shallow thinking and teaching.
  • There is a lack of Biblical understanding as many churches move away from teaching the Word of God to more self-help sermons.
  • False teachings are on the rise, with pluralism (more than one truth), secularism, new age trends, and spiritism (such as voodoo).

Pray for our youth and university students, those who face these obstacles constantly. Just the statistics alone on our youth are staggering. Pray for the immigrant communities, who come from every major world culture to this area of the world – seeking hope. And pray for our poor and oppressed – sex trafficking, drugs, and those who go without in an area of plenty and over-abundance. And don’t just pray – God wants us to help, to get involved! As an American, I pray, “May God have mercy on us and help us return to God, so that we don’t waste what God has blessed and purposed us with.”

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.

In Jesus’ Words: This is why I have come (Mark 1:21-39)

Mark continues writing his fast-paced account and concise words from Jesus.  He shows Jesus on the move with a mission.  Matthew wrote about Jesus’ compassionate sermons, parables and dinners with sinners.  Mark gives us a glimpse of the man who had a single, divine purpose for being here.  Even the demons recognized who Jesus was and why he was here.

~ Mark 1:21-28   Jesus in Capernaum ~

Jesus went into Capernaum and right away He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach.  They were astonished at His teaching because, unlike the scribes, He was teaching them as one having authority.

Just then a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue. He cried out, “What do You have to do with us, Jesus – Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!”

But Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit convulsed him, shouted with a loud voice, and came out of him. Then they were all amazed and began to argue with one another saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” His fame then spread throughout the entire vicinity of Galilee.

From there Jesus went to Peter’s house where he healed Peter’s mother-in-law.  By the evening, the whole town was at his door.  Jesus healed many, but he would not permit the demons to speak.  The demons wanted to destroy his ministry.  They knew the truth but rejected it.  And by early morning, Jesus had gone out to a deserted place to pray.  The disciples found him and said, “Everyone’s looking for you!”

~ Mark 1:38-39  Jesus in Galilee ~

And Jesus said to disciples, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too.  This is why I have come.”  So He went into all of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Everything Jesus did had a purpose and a reason.  His healing was immediate.  His confirmation of people’s faith was immediate.  He didn’t require the people do certain rituals first or show their extensive knowledge of the Torah.  Jesus came to serve mankind, to teach them about life, and ultimately lay down his life as a sacrifice.  And  Mark is telling us: Exciting things are happening fast!