Summer is swiftly coming to its final sunsets and restful days. School is starting and the regular routines are once again falling into place. As we fold up the picnic tables let us also take time to fold our hands in prayer for the nations of the earth.
16. New Zealand:
The increasing presence of other religious and spiritual options presents a challenge for Christians. The influx of immigrants from other faith backgrounds is an opportunity for Kiwis to share the gospel cross-culturally. More pressing, though, is the permeation of society with New Age spirituality. Its individualistic, non-structural, nature attuned character appeals to many who are disillusioned with Christianity. Jesus is still attractive to many who are turned off by organized religion.
Pray for ways for the gospel to be shared in an engaging and relevant manner.
Christian division is a threat. There are tensions in many denominations over a variety of issues, and cooperation among denominations has declined. Some tension exists among Pentecostal churches. The activity of some churches in politics is criticized by others. New Zealand Christian Network (formerly Vision Network) is a national body linking denominations and agencies that represent the majority of New Zealand’s Christians.
Pray God’s wisdom for this group in what is a vital ministry for the health of the Church and its testimony to non-believers.
Rapid evangelical growth in an impoverished and dysfunctional society creates both challenges and opportunities.
Pray about the following:
a) The deep trauma suffered by many who are now turning to the churches – bereavement, family break-ups, material loss and other traumas.
b) Division among and even within churches on liberation theology, the work of the Holy Spirit and interpersonal conflicts. The Evangelical Alliance of Nicaragua (FAENIC) represents 62 denominations and is crucial in forging a healthy national Christian presence.
c) The emergence of US-style mega churches with their dynamism and confidence. Nicaragua needs culturally appropriate churches that serve the people and do not just mimic foreign models.
d) Economic programmes by the churches. With widespread poverty, churches are ministering to the most destitute (such as street children) and developing ways to assist their most needy members.
Christianity is growing, but more slowly than the population overall; the same applies for evangelicals, who remain a tiny minority. People are coming into the Kingdom in a trickle.
Pray for the trickle to turn into a torrent.
Positively, many previously unreached people groups now have their first believers, and pastors, who converted from Islam themselves, lead the majority of congregations. But social and cultural pressure to remain in or revert to Islam prevents many, who would otherwise do so, from following Christ.
Pray for a critical mass of open, practicing Christians that begins larger people movements to Christ.
Pray for these issues facing the church:
a) Many believers are isolated, often illiterate and rarely have systematic Bible teaching available.
Pray for literacy programmes as well as oral methods of learning scriptural truths and becoming disciples.
Pray for groups to form, even if only very small, for the sake of those who need fellowship with other Christians.
b) Unity is needed. Despite the small size of the Church, a number of denominations have split.
Pray for greater unity, especially through the work of AMEEN.
c) Leadership training. The EERN and UPEEN denominations run two middle-level Bible schools. Also, SIM and its five church partners operate a higher-level Bible school (ESPRiT) in Niamey. Many small Bible training schools and modular/TEE schools are run by different denominations, such as Institute Biblique Baptist de Soir.
Pray for effective ways to train more leaders and to further train those currently in pastoral work.
d) Educational needs provide an opportunity for Christians to make a huge difference in Niger. The government cannot afford to educate all children, so many – especially girls – receive no schooling at all. Agencies such as SIM, Tearfund and World Horizons, as well as denominations such as EERN, open and run schools that offer valuable education for primary-aged children and open doors for demonstrating the gospel.
Pray for material and human resources to properly seize this opportunity.
This pioneer land still needs missionaries for all parts of the country. Loving ministry by Christian missionaries – working through aid, development, health and education – has won credibility for the gospel and increased interest and response from both Muslims and animists.
Pray for more labourers. There is a growing contribution to missions by Nigeria and Brazil.
Pray for sensitivity in helping small, young churches and their leaders to maturity.
Nigeria’s unity has survived, almost miraculously, despite countless threats. The cumulative effects of ancient tribal rivalries, Muslim conquests, British colonial policy in which the north and south were handled differently, the bitter Biafra war of 1967-70 and heightened religious tensions have left deep scars.
Pray for healing and reconciliation.
Pray also for leadership that will serve to reconcile and unite rather than to embitter and divide.
The challenges facing the government are myriad and urgent – extremist Muslim agitation in the north, armed militias in the disgruntled and oil-rich southeast, pervasive corruption, a self-serving network of bureaucratic elite, emigration/brain drain, widespread poverty and an apparently disintegrating sense of national identity. These are challenges enough for any established government, never mind a fledgling democracy.
Pray for the right balance between caution and decisiveness in addressing such threats, and between prudence and ambition in economic development and in combating poverty.
Church growth has been massive and remains so. Nigeria has a large majority of West Africa’s evangelicals. But such growth is not without its own dangers.
a) A failure of discipleship: the emphasis on evangelism and soul winning without adequate follow-up and balanced biblical teaching. Africa’s – and Nigeria’s – greatest spiritual challenge is not Islam, not corruption, not even the need for missions, but discipleship. If the Nigerian Church were truly discipled and brought to maturity in Christ, it would be an unstoppable force.
b) Unbalanced prosperity theology and chasing after dubious miracles cheapen the good news. Numerous doctrinal distortions, greed masquerading as biblical prosperity, spiritual charlatanism and unethical fundraising not only exchange the truth for lies, but they also inoculate millions against the real message of the gospel.
c) Second-generation nominalism in both traditional and younger churches is a big problem. Double standards are widespread, and immorality, membership in secret societies and compromise with the world bring strife and disrepute to the gospel.
d) Syncretistic Christianity. Many newer indigenous groups have a desire for God but also much admixture of unbiblical worldviews and practices. Many are open to greater gospel light but are often isolated from, or shunned by, the more orthodox churches. They are increasingly benefitting from access to solid evangelical seminaries and sound theological literature.
e) Enthusiastic and aggressive but uninformed approaches to African spirituality. This is often and most sadly expressed in witch hunters, who identify and accuse children of being witches or being possessed by demons and then administer harsh, even fatal, “cures”.
Pray that biblical truth and practice might prevail over superstition.
f) Division and disunity. There are several major networks of churches in Nigeria. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is the umbrella body for five major Christian blocks – the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN); Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN); ECWA/TEKAN (Protestant mainline); PFN/CPFN (Pentecostals); and the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC). Praise God for their vital contribution to national Christian life and unity. Some mega churches and newer denominations do not bother to integrate into the wider Christian scene.
Pray that leaders and in turn believers might look past the denominational and tribal rivalries that may exist to focus on their underlying and more profound unity in Christ.
The Lutheran Church, while a pillar of society and the most evangelical of all state churches in Europe, faces challenges nonetheless. It has, in the past, seen revivals, prayer and mission houses and many mission and volunteer agencies formed. But today it faces the same pluralistic challenge as other European societies as well as an internal battle over homosexuality.
Pray for new revival and for a deep commitment to biblical faith and practice.
The formation of independent mission organizations within and without the Lutheran Church is bringing high levels of member-commitment to congregational life and to missions. These groups blend Lutheran heritage with informal Pietist-rooted evangelicalism. The hubs of these movements are found in mission houses – informal nodes of worship, prayer and community where the lay organizations were founded. Almost the entire foreign missionary effort of the Church of Norway, and a considerable amount of domestic evangelistic work, are carried out by these organizations; the Norwegian Missionary Society, Norwegian Lutheran Mission, Normisjon and others are part of this movement.
Pray for their continued role and impact in a changing society.
Almost the entire Christian population is expatriate. There are four centers where Christians of over 30 denominations or languages meet and where services in many languages are held. There are no restrictions on evangelism among expatriates, and there is a steady stream of conversions among Asians in both the newer and more traditional churches. Churches are very active, conducting home groups, TEE and Alpha Courses.
Pray for the Christians to live godly lives that clearly display Christ to their unbelieving neighbors, both expatriate and Omani.
Christian professionals and workers. The door remains open for Kingdom workers to share the gospel effectively through words, actions and lifestyles that honor Jesus. The Reformed Church in America has had a good witness here since 1890, when Samuel Zwemer, the famous missionary to Muslims, began his work in Oman. Its hospital, clinics and missionary workers have been incorporated into the government health service. Christians also have a strong presence in the education and business sectors.
Pray that more workers would be willing to serve here.
Pray also that, despite obvious limitations, mission-minded Christians might be fruitful and effective in planting, watering and reaping a spiritual harvest.
Fundamentalist Islam, driven by the Taliban, is upheld by a minority, but impacts the whole nation. It has escalated violence against religious minorities (including Shi’a Muslims), shattered social cohesion and divided the country. It also disables economic development and keeps millions in poverty through the disruption it causes and the values it endorses.
Of particular note for prayer:
a) The violence and war conducted by insurgents, especially in the scenic northwestern Swat Valley, emptied hundreds of villages, towns and schools, cost thousands of lives and disrupted the lives of millions. The militants’ success gave them temporary control over the region and forced concessions by the government, which has largely wrested control back.
b) The imposition of shari’a in the northwest – a result of government compromise with the militants – spells woe for many, epecially non-Muslims. It also invites further aggression from the militants, since such tactics previously yielded significant gains and concessions.
c) The proliferation of madrasas (estimated at 20,000 in number) – religious schools that in shari’a-controlled areas usually offer little education beyond memorizing the Quran and pushing the brand of Islam favoured by the militants. These schools, located throughout Pakistan, exist in part due to the lack of quality state-run schools and the expense of private ones, and they produce a new generation of recruits for the militant cause.
d) The status of women under such militant values is miserable. They endure almost no freedoms or rights, minimal education and widespread domestic abuse; social structures and cultural morés make it extremely hard to evangelize them.
Pray that the true nature of such an expression of Islam might be exposed for all to see, and thereby rendered powerless.
Pray for safety for those most at risk under the rule of shari’a.
Pray for the government to have insight in how to deal with this force that appears impossible to root out.
The Church continues to grow despite many obstacles. In effect, most Christians exist as second-class citizens, coming from poor backgrounds and classes.
a) Revival. Poverty, illiteracy and lack of teaching have hastened corruption, carnality and lowering spiritual standards. Substance abuse occurs frequently enough among Christians to be a terrible testimony to Muslims. There are pockets of real devotion (perhaps 10% are reckoned to be committed, vivid believers), but the large majority of the Church is nominal or immature.
b) Spiritual leadership in churches. Leadership struggles, court cases, factions and divisions are far too common. Many minister for the financial gain to be had.
Pray for the raising up of humble, committed leaders with a passion to serve the Church.
c) Unity. Recent intensified persecution and violence serve to bring somewhat more unity among Christians, but much further progress is needed. The National Council of Churches and the Pakistan Evangelical Alliance aim to draw Christians together and foster united prayer and collaborative ministry.
d) Finances. Most Christians are from poor backgrounds, and material support from the outside world appears to be decreasing. Secure compounds for churches, Bible schools and other Christian facilities are now necessary for higher security measures, which are financially costly or downright unaffordable. Much of Christian-used infrastructure is in disrepair with few resources just to maintain, let alone increase, buildings.
Pray for creative solutions to this long-term issue.
e) Relationship to the state. Despite discrimination and often outright hostility from the government, most Pakistani Christians love their nation and wish it to prosper. Believers are considering demonstrable ways they can be both Christian and Pakistani.
Pray for a healthy dynamic between state and Church, and that Christians might be a blessing to their land.
f) Education is an area in which Christians could potentially have great strategic impact on Pakistan. In the past, schools run by Christians helped shape many of the country’s top leaders. But many Christians who receive quality higher education leave Pakistan for better opportunities abroad.
Pray that more might stay as redemptive influences in Pakistan.
Leadership training is a hugely critical need for the Church.
Pray for educational and training institutions, for an increase in students, for wise and godly leadership, for sufficient qualified faculty and for adequate financial resources.
Give thanks for the new generation of emerging Pakistani leaders.
Pray that a higher proportion of them may be able to serve in national churches without needing the support of foreign agencies.
Pray for God’s purposes to be fulfilled in the following areas:
a) A just settlement of the land issue and the future of both Jewish settlements in the Palestinian areas and Palestinians in Israel itself. Both sides feel strong legitimate claims to the land, but their respective national aspirations are mutually exclusive.
b) The improvement of living conditions. Estimates are that 70% of Gaza lives in deep poverty and 80% are dependent upon external aid. Widespread unemployment and Israel’s imposition of economic controls prevent the majority from working their way out of poverty.
c) A fair apportionment of the water resources. Palestine has access to only 17% of the available water resources, with the remainder used by settlers, by Israel or sold back to Palestine. Only 28% of Gaza has regular access to clean water.
d) The political leadership of Palestine and Israel. The Palestinian National Authority is an elected quasi-government which all know has no real power to govern.
Pray for a means by which legitimate and effective leadership might govern Palestine.
e) The future of Jerusalem, claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians, each as their exclusive capital.
Pray not only for the peace of the land, but that both Jewish Israeli and Palestinian Arab meet the Prince of Peace. It is through Him alone that any meaningful reconciliation will come.
Palestinian Christians find themselves attacked or betrayed from all sides. They are regarded as Arab Palestinians by Israel and as Western collaborators by extremist Muslims, and they are generally ignored or abandoned by the global Church. Yet they trace their roots back to pre-Islamic times. Their numbers in Palestine itself have declined at an accelerating rate, largely due to emigration. The pull to leave is strong, with a vastly greater quality of life available elsewhere, and with increasing pressures from Israel on one side and Islamists on the other.
Pray that those who remain might continue to stay strong in both their Christian faith and in their commitment to live out the gospel in very difficult conditions. Pray that they might also know God’s protection.
Panama’s strategic location and stability also attract many other forces to the area. Proximity to Colombia and the prevalence of offshore finance mean that drug cartels and other undesirables are strongly present and using much of the economy to launder money.
Pray for a government that will root out corruption and oppose wickedness.
The Church’s impact is significantly less than its size. Nominalism is widespread in both the Catholic Church and in many English-speaking churches. Catholicism has lost much impetus to the more dynamic evangelicals, JWs, Mormons and Muslims. The Church lacks the strength to turn this trend around and is further compromised by many of its members dallying with the false teachings of New Age, astrology and psychics.
Pray for the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
Pray for the less-reached sections of the population:
a) The upper-middle classes. They are under-represented in the churches, but a number of lively charismatic fellowships have started in recent years. There are now many professional and business people who follow Christ.
b) The Chinese. Most still speak Hakka (60%) and Cantonese, with many traditional Chinese religionists and some nominal Catholics among them. Allegedly, the Chinese population in Panama has spiraled upward to 300,000, most of them recently arrived illegal immigrants. There are only 11 congregations among them (none of them speaking Hakka) and a mere handful of workers.
Pray for more workers and fruit in this rapidly growing community.
c) The South Asians, who are largely Gujarati-speaking. Most are Muslims, some Hindus, and others Sikh. There is no known specific outreach to them.
d) The 9,000 Jews. There is a Panamanian Christian outreach to them called Messianic Association “Remnant of Israel”. Most Jews are Orthodox and hard to reach.
30. Papua New Guinea:
The nation faces many crises just to prevent meltdown, never mind to oversee progress. Some groups and governments involved with PNG see an impending failed state and social chaos. Corruption is endemic and hampering progress. Pray for a government that will act with courage and foresight, moral integrity and wisdom.
Pray for the following challenges facing the churches:
a) Effective discipling is the most urgent and prevalent need. Nominalism, syncretism and pollution of Christianity with spiritism and the occult are sadly widespread. Culturally appropriate ways of building biblical faith, character, lifestyle and worldview must be developed.
Pray for creative, insightful groups to achieve this.
b) Failure to engage with Scripture. Lack of Scripture translations and widespread functional illiteracy generate both spiritual stuntedness and vulnerability to nominalism or theological error.
Pray for more Bible and discipleship material specifically developed for oral learners.
c) The Wantok (“one talk”) system is one of mutual sharing – important in a society of subsistence hunting and farming. Yet the communal, trans-generational sense of obligation and mutuality can not only hinder economic progress but also restrain those who wish to press on in their Christian walk.
d) Continued divisiveness based on ethnicity. Strong tribal ties, ancient animosities and diversity of languages persist. These barriers hinder fellowship and the flow of spiritual blessing.
e) Denominational division is less now than in the past, but unity and cooperation are far from achieved. The PNG Council of Churches draws together mainline denominations; the Evangelical Alliance does the same for most Protestant and many independent groups. They see good progress at the leadership level. Pray for divisions to be broken down, particularly on the local congregational level.
f) Attempts to Islamize PNG are underway and will be an increasing challenge to the Church. Pray for adequate preparation and equipping that will enable Christians to wisely face such encroachment.
There is still a need for forgiveness and reconciliation. The slow move towards independence is being handled cautiously, but reopening the copper mine could reopen old wounds as well.
Pray for long-term peace after decades of bitterness and hatred between the PNG government and the Bougainville islanders.
The spiritual need of Bougainville is much greater than in PNG, as the evangelical presence is quite small.
Pray for revival throughout the Bougainville Church, and for leaders to develop vision and initiatives reflective of Christ’s mission.
a) Overall church membership is decreasing, though Pentecostal churches such as Foursquare (21 congregations) are growing and beginning mission work in neighbouring Solomon Islands. Syncretism and nominalism abound.
Pray for sound teaching and discipleship that matures believers and for effective outreach across denominations that bears lasting fruit.
b) Genuine faith in Christ needs reviving. During the Bougainville civil war many people flocked to churches professing faith in Christ, only to fall away once the war ended.
Pray for wisdom as believers strive after unity, understanding and respect for one another in these days of restoration.
Thank you for joining us in prayer for the nations of the earth.
Germaine Copeland and the Word Ministries Staff
Mission Info Bank. Used by permission.
Copyright © 2012 Global Mapping International. All Rights Reserved
Use and reproduction subject to User Agreement.
© Operation World 2001
With thanks to Dawn Ministries and Operation World
Hosted by 24-7Prayer.com, Edited by Eloise Armstrong
This information is only about 20% of what is available in the ‘Operation World’ book and CD-ROM.
To find out more click here, to buy the book click here.