The Discovery

World Christian Prayers

The Prayers of a World Christian

To become a World Christian — a Christian who affirms and fulfills God’s global purpose — your first step in becoming is to gain a global vision. Once you believe that God’s passion is for all people groups to be reconciled to him by following Christ, then Jesus becomes more to you than just your personal Savior – he takes his rightful place as Savior of the world.

As Genesis 12:1-3 says, God has blessed you as one of his children in order that you will take the blessing of salvation and reconciliation to all people groups of the earth. That’s his plan. Once you understand this pivotal biblical truth, you are on your way to being a World Christian. When you commit to being part of the action right where you are, you become initiated as a World Christian. A World Christian “realizes that he or she is responsible to believe, think, pray, and act according to their knowledge of this truth.” It’s not just knowing, or even believing – it’s acting on the plan. Right now you may be fired up about God’s mission and ready to take the mission to the streets, but you don’t know how to make the action happen.

To reach the world, begin on your knees. Prayer is a crucial weapon in our armory. Paul says in Ephesians that with prayer in our arsenal we will be able to stand our ground and win the battle. W. O. Carver paraphrases Ephesians 6:18 this way: ” Carry on the [battle] in continuous prayer by means of every form of prayer offered in every situation, always in cooperation with the Spirit, who prays with us and for us . . . and be ever on the watch for the occasion calling for prayer.”

Recently I discovered that I have been “misfiring” my prayer weapon. I began to suspect that my prayers for the lost of the world contradicted the prayers and teachings of Jesus. Whereas I tended to pray for the “harvest” – the lost and unreached peoples of the world — more than I pray for harvesters to go work in the harvest fields, I realized that Jesus teaches the exact opposite in Matthew 9:37-38.

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” In this passage, Jesus was looking at crowds who were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” He had compassion on them, the Bible says, and from this compassion comes his teaching not about praying for the lost, but about praying for harvesters to go to the lost. Could Jesus be telling me to pray for Christians to go to the lost before I pray for the harvest itself?

I decided to research Jesus’ prayer habits further, and reading John 17 I found some surprising truths about Jesus’ priorities in prayer.

Read John 17.

What did Jesus pray for first? (verses 1 & 5)

Who did Jesus pray for first? (verse 9)

In verses 11 & 15 what did he pray for those people?

What did Jesus pray for after that? (verses 17 & 19)

Who did Jesus pray for in verse 20?

What three things did Jesus pray for these people? (verses 21-23)
1. verses 21-23
2. verse 24
3. verse 26

Compare your answers with my findings. I discovered that Jesus first prayed for God to be glorified through him. John Piper says that missions exists because worship doesn’t. That is to say, the glory that rightfully belongs to God is being given to rocks, trees, and stone idols by people who feel the need to worship but who do not know the One True God to worship. So we undertake missions activities in order to tell these people about the One True God. We bring the glory of God to the nations who farm out his glory to lesser gods. Write a prayer below asking God to be glorified in his people – in you — so that all the nations on Earth will know and worship him as the One True God.

Then I see that Jesus prayed for those the Father had given to him. That’s us. Jesus distinctly says, “I do not pray for the world (i.e. the nonbelievers), but for those you have given to me.” I find significance in the order of Jesus’ prayer. He prays first for God’s glory and then for his followers.

The content of Jesus’ prayer for his followers was also curious to me. He asks God to protect his followers. He doesn’t ask God to make them effective witnesses, but he asks God to protect them by the power of his name. Today, the torture and murder of Christians is real and vicious in many countries of the world. Write a prayer below for God to protect his people by the power of his name. In your prayer, you may want to insert the name of a people group like the Ambonese Christians of Indonesia who are being driven from their island home or killed because they follow Christ.

The next issue Jesus raises in his prayer is for the sanctification of his followers. Sanctification is a high falutin’ way of saying set apart. Jesus asked God to make sure his people were distinctive among all other peoples of the world. He goes on to say that we become set apart or distinct by the word of God. Write a prayer below asking God to sanctify his people – to set them apart — through their understanding of his Word.

Jesus then prays for “those who will believe” in him through the testimony of his followers. This part of the prayer could be for non-believers. In the final analysis, though, Jesus is still praying for people who believe in him. What he prays for them is significant. Jesus prays for unity among all of his followers so that the world will know two things: (1) that he came from God, and (2) that he loves his people. As I hear about the bickering within denominations, the jealousy between ministries, and the petty arguments between Christians, I realize the significance of Jesus’ prayer for the unity of his people. Perhaps Jesus prays for his followers to be unified and sanctified more than he prays for the lost to be saved because God realizes that he can save non-believers more easily than he can convince his people to work together in unity!

Elsewhere in the book of John Jesus said that the peoples will recognize his disciples by their love for one another (John 13:34-35, HCSB). According to these statements by Jesus, unity among God’s people would do more to reveal God’s glory to the nations than all evangelism strategies ever invented. Write a prayer below for God’s people to be unified in love so that the world will know him as the Author of Love and the Prince of Peace.

As we examine Jesus’ prayer technique, I am in no way advocating that we cease to pray for the lost and unreached peoples of the world. Nor am I suggesting that we stop asking God to help us be effective witnesses. PUH-LEEZE do not tell anyone I said either of those things – because I didn’t. After all, Paul himself asked for prayer to be a bold witness and if he needed prayer, I do to! I am simply suggesting that we adopt the priorities in prayer that Jesus demonstrates in John 17 and Matthew 9:37-38. If you examine the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9 and Luke 11:2), I think you will find similar priorities. Write a prayer asking God to continue to break your heart for the lostness of the thousands of people groups who are still unreached with the gospel.

Then write a prayer asking the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers to those harvest fields. By default, you must ask where he will have you to labor in the harvest.

Finally, look at Psalm 2:8. What prayer request does God gives us in that verse?

Each day, choose a different nation, or people group, around the world and ask God to give you that nation as part of your inheritance as His child. You may not feel worthy to ask such a thing, but Jesus has made you worthy and God has asked you to ask for this very thing, so don’t hesitate!

In 1 John 5:14-15, John writes that if we ask anything in Jesus’ name – or after the desire of His heart – we know that He hears us. He goes on to say that if we know that He hears us, we know that He will give us what we have requested. By using the prayers above, your prayers for the nations are exactly in line with the heart of God. In fact, you will be praying exactly what Jesus prayed and what He told us to pray, so you can pray confidently in Jesus’ name and wait expectantly to see how God answers your prayers for the nations. Who knows, but God may not only ask you to pray for the nations, but He may ask you to be the answer to your own prayer request to reach the nations!

Parts of this study are taken from “In and Not Of: Life Mission of a World Christian” by Felicity Burrow and Laura Savage, Lifeway Publishers: Nashville, 2000.