Pray for Our World: Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is situated between Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and located on the Caspian Sea. It is mostly desert, and only 1% of the country is arable land. They are famous for their carpets, horses, camels and desert, but oil and gas are the major sources of wealth, and they are dependent on water from others. They have a nomadic tribal past and were united as a country under Russian Tsarist rule in 1881. There is freedom of religion in the constitution, but is limited in practice to Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodoxy. All other forms of Islam or other religions are subject to severe repression and harassment. Unregistered religious gatherings of any size or kind are strictly forbidden.

The country is experiencing positive change. Citizens can now travel abroad and within the country much more easily, and a few protestant churches have recently been allowed to officially register and meet publicly. Pray for continued openness for the people, so they may experience freedom and not fear of persecution.

Pray for Our World: Syria

Syria is an ancient civilization, located on the Mediterranean coast between Turkey and Iraq.  Damascus is known as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.  Syria is written about throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.  Its people trace their origins back to Noah, as descendants of Shem, Noah’s son.  King David of Israel led a successful conquest against Syria and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites who occupied the land.  In New Testament times, Syria became a Roman province.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.  Matthew 4:23-25

The apostle Paul and members of the Early Church spent a lot of time in Syria.  Antioch was the center of one of the first Christian churches and they primarily preached to the Gentiles.  In 634-640 AD, Syria was conquered by the Muslim Arabs. The Orthodox and Catholic churches that had existed since before Islam still endure and have many members. The majority in the Church are Arab but there is also a large Armenian community. Christians do experience some discrimination in housing and employment, and must exercise caution and wisdom in relating to the state and Muslims.

Pray for this ancient country, once walked upon by Jesus and where Paul had his conversion. Pray that the historical sites will be preserved and not destroyed by the fighting, and that the people will once again be renewed in the faith of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, in one of the most ancient and historical countries on earth.

Pray for Our World: Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is almost all desert, but contains 25% of the world’s known oil reserves. This enormous oil wealth produces 75-90% of government revenue and is the foundation of the economy and infrastructure, while also being used to export Islam globally. Ironically, unemployment among Saudis is high, between 20-40%, largely due to Saudis’ disdain for certain types of jobs.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace and keeper of Islam. People of other faiths may live in Saudi Arabia, but they may not practice their religion openly or gather privately. Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights is one of the worst. Why would a religion supposedly of God be against human rights, freedom of thought and equality? There is no mention of the word “love” in the Quaran. This is in stark contrast to the Bible’s most famous verse of “God so loved the world…”.

Saudis who come to faith in Christ face the death penalty if discovered. At the very least, they are disowned and kicked out of their homes. Despite this, increasing numbers are secretly seeking and finding Jesus, and there are believers in every Saudi city. It’s as if Jesus was speaking directly to them when He said:

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

Pray for these new believers to persevere, to multiply, and to find other believers they can safely be with in fellowship.

Pray for Our World: Palestine

Wall between Israel and West Bank

The Palestine Authority comprises two separate parts in the middle of Israel – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  They claim Jerusalem as their capital and control most of the major towns, but Israel controls the access points.  They lost most of their land in 1948 and the conquest of the remainder by Israel in 1967.  This event dominates the lives of most of the Palestinians living there. There are over 10 million Palestinian Arabs globally.  Between 2 and 3 million live in Jordan, over 1 million in Israel, and the rest spread elsewhere in the Middle East and the West.  Between Israeli occupation and Islamist persecution, there is not much of a Christian minority here.  88% are Muslim, 9% Jewish, and less than 2% Christian.  The Greek Orthodox and Catholic Church are the largest Christian churches.  Palestinian Christians find themselves attacked by both sides – Jews and Muslims.  Arab evangelicals, numbering in the thousands, feel rejected and isolated by Jews, Arabs and traditional Christians.

The origin of Palestine comes from the Philistines in the Old Testament Bible, who occupied part of the land of Canaan before it became the Promised Land that God gave to the Israelites as part of His covenant with Abraham and His people.  The land was flowing with milk and honey.  Moses described it as “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt not eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass”.  Even today, this same land has a good variety of climate, plants and animal life.  So you can see it is a complex identity that dates back to the time of Moses.  But, if you dig further in the history of the Old Testament Bible, the Philistines were a brutal people who worshiped pagan gods and sacrificed their own children, and treated the Israelites horribly.  This is the reason they were driven out of Canaan by God and the reason God set apart a people who would be an example of how God wanted us to live and to carry His Word forward to future generations.  Yet even the foreigner in the Promised Land was treated as one of God’s own as long as they chose to worship the true God.  No matter who we are, we must humble ourselves, realize our need for God, repent, and then His ways will be our ways.  It was true then and still true today.

Pray for Our World: Oman

The Sultanate of Oman is on the southeast coast of Arabia and the strategic tip of the peninsula that dominates the entrance to the Arabian/Persian Gulf.  The majority are Arabs but approximately 25% are expatriates.  Oil production is the primary source of revenue.  There is a high degree of personal freedom and political stability for the region.  The majority of Christians in the country come from expatriate workers, and it is illegal to try to evangelize the Muslim community.  The internet and mobile phones are the best tools to help reach the people about Christ.  There are Christian radio broadcasts in the area, as well as many people who study abroad in other countries who may hear about Christ.  Pray that you can be a witness to Christ wherever you go and whoever you may meet.  You never know how that message may travel.