And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” (Mark 11:17, Isaiah 56:7 NIV)
While Jesus’ call to pray for the nations of the world is indisputable, the practical how-tos of such a momentous task are not as clear. Praying effectively for the nations requires digging into both Old and New Testament Scriptures to discern God’s ultimate purposes for the nations.
Because we know that the key to getting our prayers heard and answered is to pray according to His will we must ask the question – what is God’s will with regard to the nations of the world? “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
From a study of the Bible, the following are six approaches I have found helpful in which to pray for any given nation based on God’s will and His ways in dealing with the nations.
1. Pray for each nation to fulfill God’s destiny – God’s ultimate intention is that every nation will one day worship and glorify Him. In the book of Revelation we see a glimpse of a heavenly host singing what is referred to as the song of Moses and of the Lamb in which they declare: “All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:4 NIV) This is a direct quote from Psalm 86:9 which concludes with “they will bring glory to your name.” What an amazing picture this paints of God’s unrelenting purpose that “all the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ that he might reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
2. Pray for the believers and churches in that country – God’s purposes on earth are ordained to be accomplished through His church. In Jesus’ great prayer for His followers recorded in John 17 we have a perfect model to use in praying for believers in a nation. (See “Prayers for the Church”) There we see Him praying for the church to be 1) Glorifying God, 2) Fortified against the enemy, 3) Unified, 4) Sanctified and 5) Multiplying.
The Bible also encourages us to remember those who are persecuted for their faith and suffering as though we ourselves were there with them. (Hebrews 13:3) Therefore it is important to pray that God would bless them with His presence, comfort them and deliver them. (Matthew 5:10, Psalm 139:8, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 & Psalm 72:12-14)
3. Pray for the unfettered preaching of the Gospel – Jesus’ last command, known as the Great Commission was for His followers to go forth into the whole world to all nations in order to preach the gospel of the kingdom and make disciples. (Matthew 24:14, Mark 13:10) Practically that means praying for God to raise up Gospel workers to go forth into the harvest fields; and for the effective and bold witness even in the face of persecution, of all believers, both citizens and foreigners, in a given country. (Matthew 9:38) Paul the Apostle makes it plain with regard to the nations that “God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:3)
4. Pray prayers of repentance on behalf of the nation – “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” (Proverbs 14:34 NIV) God’s dealings with the nations, as demonstrated primarily in the Old Testament, were always based upon their relationship with Him and the corresponding obedience or disobedience to His moral law summed up in the Ten Commandments. He was continually appealing to them through His prophets to return to Him with humility and repentance, acknowledging their sin and asking for His mercy. Seek to identify in prayer the strongholds ruling over the nation that keep its people in bondage and then pray that they might be torn down and the captives set free. (2 Corinthians 10:4, Matthew 16:19, 18:18)
The role of the intercessor is to confess on behalf of the nation their sins, asking for God’s forgiveness, appealing to His mercy and reminding Him of His ultimate purposes for that nation. Two excellent models that can be used for such a prayer are the great intercessory prayers made by Moses and Nehemiah on behalf of the nation of Israel. (Deuteronomy 9:26-29 & Nehemiah 1:4-11)
5. Pray for the leaders of nations – In one of the seminal calls to intercession for governmental leaders Paul writes “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings (presidents, prime ministers, dictators etc.) and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) It helps to keep in mind that God can sovereignly work in a leader’s life and make a way where there seems to be no way. Nothing is too hard for Him. (Proverbs 21:1, Isaiah 43:19, Jeremiah 32:27) Pray for the gift of good government and for God to depose bad rulers and raise up wise and righteous ones. (Psalm 75:5-7, Daniel 2:21)
6. Pray both with the spirit and with the understanding – There are basically two approaches a person can take in praying for something or someone. We can pray by revelation from the Holy Spirit and by understanding we have gained from acquired knowledge. Paul encourages intercessors to do both. “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding (mind).” (1 Corinthians 14:15 ESV) It is important to always be dependent upon the Holy Spirit for revelation in our praying, sensing both the focus of our prayer and specifically how to pray. But there is also a great benefit in gathering information about the subject of our prayer that provides wisdom in praying with greater depth of understanding. When combining revelation and research, invariably we find both a deepening of our burden and quickening of our faith.
For example, in recent months during times of waiting upon the Holy Spirit I have frequently been prompted to pray for three nations in particular (other than the United States where I live). Those nations are Turkey, Azerbaijan and Tunisia. I have a special interest in Turkey because my daughter lives there and my wife and I spent time in that country last fall. We fell in love with the history and beauty of the land and with its people. As for Azerbaijan and Tunisia, I knew nothing about either one of those nations before the Lord focused my attention upon them and gave me a heart to pray for them.
Immediately I turned to an invaluable tool I use in praying for the nations, a recently updated version of Operation World, an amazing book subtitled a “Definitive Prayer Guide for Every Nation.” It provides background and statistical information on each country’s geography, people, economy, politics and religion plus answers to and challenges for prayer. In addition, over the course of time I also do research on key nations using the internet and for some nations I have subscribed to daily Google news alerts that keep me updated on developing trends.
In the case of these three nations, the combination of revelation and research have linked them as centuries old West versus East, Christian versus Islam spiritual battlegrounds. All three are currently bellwether Islamic nations which carry great influence in Africa and/or the Middle East. Each has governments who are currently in throws of trying to define and distinguish themselves as secularist and freedom embracing countries while facing the pressure of radical Islam. It is my sense and prayer that doorways to the furtherance of the gospel into the Islamic world can be provided through these nations.
As a result I am interceding with fervency for them in accordance with the six principles shared above. This list of approaches to prayer is by no means exhaustive or definitive. I would be interested in getting your feedback and wisdom as to things you have learned or practices that you have developed in praying effectively for the nations.
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