Pray for Our World: Russia

Russia is the world’s largest country, extending across 9 time zones. It has vast natural resources in gas, oil, timber and minerals, as well as huge amounts of arable land. However, most of the economy is in the hands of a few men while millions of Russians remain poor an unemployed. The country has known little but autocracy or tyranny since it began in the 8th century. Freedom of press and media is limited, and all television stations are government controlled and censored. The Church in Russia has suffered some of the most severe persecution of any nation in recent history. Deaths in the Gulag prison camps between 1920 and 1990 are estimated at 20 million, many who were Christian. Of the 100,000 church-owned buildings in 1920, almost none remained by 1940.

Today, the people still face many challenges. For the younger generation, modern life offers little real hope. Health care is inefficient and costly, making it inaccessible to many. Alcoholism is one of the world’s highest.  Drug addiction is prevalent among young people, with 8% of teens using drugs daily.

The religious climate is unique and challenging. The Russian Orthodox Church, over 1,000 years old, is the main church and a major symbol of Russian identity. Russian Orthodox claims to be the one true apostolic Church handed down from Rome and Byzantium. The original undivided church of the apostles split between the East (Orthodox) and the West (Catholic) during the Great Schism of 1054. Other denominations later derived from the Catholic church, but the Orthodox Church remains as the original church from that initial split. They have remained true in their ancient confessions of God, and the mystery of Christ and His resurrection, and we could learn some from their Orthodox theology. Yet at the same time, it has caused them to be closed off and intolerant of other Christian denominations. Pray for this ancient church, for their unity with other Christians, and for them to be able to reach a new generation of young people in the same way as Peter and Paul did with the original church.

*If you would like to know more about the forming of the original church during the first thousand years after Peter and Paul, and the theological differences that caused the church to split, I recommend this great book to read: The First Thousand Years, by Robert Louis Wilken.

Pray for Our World: Romania

Dracula’s castle

Romania has given us Dracula (or at least the background for the story), the origin of the Unitarian religion which started in 16th century Transylvania, and my personal favorite, the first perfect 10 gymnast, Nadia Comaneci.

Romania first originated as part of the Roman province of Dacia from about A.D. 100 to 271. The real Count Dracula was Vlad the Impaler who lived in Transylvania, and who did have a liking to blood.  Unitarianism, also started in Transylvania not long after Dracula, branched off from Christianity in their belief that there is no Trinity, Jesus is not the Son of God, and they like to encourage rational thought and individual freedom.  Except when that thought is that Jesus is who He said He was, and then they will be quick to disagree.  The gymnast Nadia showed us on tv what living in oppressive Communism was like during the 1970’s, and she later defected to the US in 1989.

Romania certainly has a colorful history.  Today, Romania is officially a secular state, but is dominated by the Orthodox Church. It struggles to regain employment after Communism and many emigrate to work elsewhere in Europe and the rural farms are being abandoned. Evangelicals are growing, the fourth largest in Europe, and Romania is considered one of the more spiritually receptive European nations. Pray that they will continue to be receptive to the true freedom that can only be found in the grace that Jesus Christ provides to all.

Pray for Our World: Portugal

Portugal is on the western side of Spain. It has been impoverished by years of dictatorship and colonial wars. There has been some improvement since their 1974 revolution against dictatorship. Since then, religious and political freedoms have transformed the nation, but it has not always translated into a genuine faith. There is increasing substance abuse, and the religious freedoms have been taken advantage of by Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons and New Age philosophies. Pray that the truth of Jesus Christ will be made known.

Pray for Our World: Poland

Poland is in central Europe, surrounded by seven other countries and the Baltic Sea. Throughout its history, it has been divided and occupied by many nations. One quarter of the population died in World War II. Communist rule was imposed in 1945, but this led to much poverty and turmoil. The Solidarity Movement protests in 1989 led to a democracy, and the country continues to see progress.

The Roman Catholic Church played an important role in the Polish culture during the Russian imperialism and Soviet communism. Poland is considered one of the most religious states in Europe. However, Catholic mass attendance is down, just like in most areas of the world. Polish Catholicism is also particularly noted for their devotion to Mary as the spiritual queen and co-redemptor and intercessor between humanity and Jesus. While Mary can be revered as an honored and blessed woman, Jesus is the One who died on the cross so that He could be our Savior! Pray that the people of Poland will see Jesus as their rightful Savior.

Pray for Our World: Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a large area of land between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, connecting North and South America.  It is one of the poorest countries in the Americas due to nearly two centuries of dictatorships and civil wars.  Young people have grown up in a country ravaged by war, where stable families are rare, and churches are not equipped to handle all their needs.  Despite the challenges, evangelical growth is on the increase from only 2% in 1960 to 30% in 2010.  Pray that Nicaraguans will continue to see the source of their help comes from God and a belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior.