Pray for Our World – Region of Asia

I remember stepping off the plane in Bangkok a few years ago.  I had never been to this far-reaching and culturally different region of the world called Asia and did not know what to expect.  What I did know was that it was less than one percent Christian and held the majority of the world’s most ancient civilizations, a stark difference to my American Southeast culture.  But I’ll never forget the young Thai girl I met in one of the shops.  She had a framed picture of Jesus on one of her store shelves, and the store was noticeably lacking of any of the numerous Buddhist statues you would see in any other shop.  She had the most beautiful smile, and beamed with radiance when she proudly told me in broken English, “I am Christian.”  Later that night in my Sheraton hotel, where the locals treated us like celebrities because they thought we were rich, I found a Gideon’s Bible tucked away in the desk drawer of my hotel room.

God is everywhere, and God loves the people of Asia.  It is God’s plan for all the world to know Him, and to know about His Son Jesus that he sent to this region of the world 2000 years ago.  Asia spans a wide geographic area from the Middle East in Western Asia to China, India and Japan in central Asia, to Southeastern Asia of Philippines and Indonesia.  Asia is where the birth of the church started with Peter and Paul, and it is where the End Times is prophesied to take place.  The last 100 years have shown a remarkable resurgence of Christians in the area, increasing by over 150 million. Lands that were previously cut off from Christianity have been opening up, and there is an increase in Muslims responding to the Gospel.  There are many stories of Jesus appearing to Muslims in dreams and visions, which is the only way Muslims believe God can talk to you.  God is meeting them where they are.

It is in the individual acts of the missionaries that have gone before us, the Gideons, your prayer and donations to missions, Satellite tv, and internet Gospel, that has continued what Peter and Paul started in this area of the world.  It has given this one young Thai girl and many others the hope of a Savior and has shown them the Light of the World. 

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 – 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.

In Jesus’ Words: I am willing. (Mark 1:40-45)

I am willing.  What comforting words to hear.  Whether it’s from a friend we call when our car breaks down late at night, or a big favor we ask of someone and they agree to our request, or hearing those words from a future employer willing to give us a chance, it causes us to breathe a sigh of relief.  I am willing to help you.  I remember clamoring for last-minute transportation to and from my son’s school when I was stuck at work or had to go in for an early meeting all the way across town.  For me to hear someone on the other end of the phone say, without hesitancy, I am willing, just because they care and even though it is an inconvenience to them, is priceless.  This type of willingness can’t be bought, it can only be given.

This is how Jesus is.  He is willing to come to us in our time of need, regardless of how we got ourselves into our current situation.  He opens his arms with a smile.  Even better than friends or family or co-workers, Jesus has the power to fix anything.  Sometimes he chooses immediate healing and sometimes he takes the time to work with us for a while.  But either way, Jesus is always willing.  And we have two responses: we can walk away, or we can stay.  I think I will stay and see what Jesus is willing to do.

~ Mark 1:40-45  Cleansing a leper ~

Then a man with a serious skin disease came to Jesus and, on his knees, begged Him: “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. “I am willing,” He told him. “Be made clean.” Immediately the disease left him, and he was healed. Then He sternly warned him and sent him away at once, telling him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses prescribed for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Yet he went out and began to proclaim it widely and to spread the news, with the result that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly.  But He was out in deserted places, and they would come to Him from everywhere.

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!