How to mobilize your church to pray for the nations — here and there

by Terry Sharp, International Mission Board
Monday, July 23, 2018 | 84 days old

Prayer isn’t just an essential key in the life of the life of the church — it’s also a huge part of the mission of God. It changes our hearts and helps us to accomplish His mission. It’s also a tool that can initiate spiritual awakening in our lives, individually and collectively.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing about prayer, is knowing it can do the same in the lives of unbelievers when we pray for them.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-6, Scripture teaches us that we are to pray for all peoples.

Never has that passage been more relevant to the church than it is today. Even though it’s been more than 2000 years since Jesus came, lived, died and rose again, the sad reality remains that 2.8 billion people still have little or no access to the gospel. There has never been a more urgent time to pray for peoples around the world.

In the article, “When We Pray, God Works” that International Mission Board President David Platt wrote for the 2017 week of prayer for international missions, he advises that prayer isn’t just a rushed or mechanical exercise.

“God has ordained our prayer as a means to accomplish His purpose in the world," Platt wrote. "We've got to be aware that our praying for boldness for missionaries is actually going to affect whether or not they have boldness. God ordained it that way. When we pray, God works.”

When we pray, God does indeed work. Praying is a way that every single Christian can be involved in missions. Here are a few ways your church can pray for the nations right here in North America and around the world.

1. Discover people groups 
There are many resources available to help you not just learn about people groups, but offer brief overviews and the progress of the gospel among their people. People Groups, People Groups Info, Operation World and the Peoples Next Door N.C. Prayer Map are among the helpful websites that provide information on people groups and prayer points to help you pray specifically for each group.

2. Discern how to pray with focus
Your whole church can become involved in praying for the nations. Promote a prayer emphasis through small groups, Sunday School classes and members in corporate worship. You can even ask families to become involved by praying at home for people groups.

Here is a list of prayer requests that can be used with any people group.

  • Pray that unreached peoples will hear and accept the gospel.
  • Pray for protection for those who accept Christ.
  • Pray for freedom from persecution.
  • Pray for Scriptures to be translated into their heart language.
  • Pray for their physical and spiritual needs.
  • Pray for new ways to see and hear the gospel .
  • Pray for government leaders involved with your people group.

While it’s great to have as many church members involved in praying for the nations as possible, you can help them pray by providing specific requests. The International Mission Board (IMB) and the Joshua Project are two resources that offer specific prayer prompts. The  IMB also has a prayer app available through iTunes or Google Play.

3. Determine to begin now
Don’t put praying for the nations. Begin teaching your church how to pray specifically for your chosen people group this Sunday. Here are some suggestions to get started.

  • Prepare a PowerPoint slide with your people group information and a specific prayer request. Explain to the congregation that you will be praying for specific requests on a weekly basis. Slides can be utilized before your worship service begins, during the offertory music or as the last thing you do to encourage the congregation to leave with the nations on their hearts.
  • Ask church members to add your chosen people groups and requests to their current prayer lists.
  • Distribute small dot stickers in bright colors and ask students and adults to put them on the faces of their watches or phones. Ask them to say a prayer for their people group each time they check their devices.

Southern Baptist have long been known as “Great Commission people.” Shouldn’t prayer for the nations be part of our daily lives and our corporate worship? While you may not see quick results of prayers you offer, remember this: Your prayers do not lack influence or impact. When we pray, God works! Your faithful prayers will help change the world.

EDITORS NOTE: Terry Sharp presently serves at the International Mission Board and works in the area of state, association and diaspora networks.