interceding for the nations

How to Pray for the Nations

While Jesus’ call to pray for the nations of the world is indisputable, the practical how-tos of such a seemingly 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 five 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.

The call to pray for the nations

“Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8 NIV)

It is hard to comprehend what a magnanimous heart God has when one considers the verse “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Think about it. The world, the entire world includes 196 nations and the 7 billion people who inhabit them. That takes a whole lot of love. Something only Jesus could accomplish through His death on the cross, burial and resurrection. And it is His ultimate intention that “all the nations, whom [He] has made shall come and worship before [Him].” (Psalm 86:9)

Even a cursory reading of the Bible immediately conveys this loving concern God carries for the nations of the world. We are explicitly told in Psalm 66 that “His eyes keep watch on the nations.” (vs. 7) In nearly every book of the Bible we find the evidence of this heart expressed through prophetic utterances and/or divine initiatives to both reveal Himself and draw nations through repentance and faith toward Himself. From His Old Testament promise to Abraham to bless all the nations of the world through him, to the New Testament command of Jesus that the gospel of the kingdom be proclaimed throughout the entire world, we see His unshakeable purpose to make the nations His inheritance. Again, that is a whole lot of love! How can He possibly do that?

His choice is to do it through the instrumentation of prayer and intercession. From the book of Genesis forward we find God looking for individuals to answer His call to become intercessors on behalf of His purposes for the nations. Just consider the intercessory ministries of the likes of Noah, Moses, Daniel, Nehemiah, the prophets, Paul and the apostles. “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance” He pleads. (Psalm 2:8) “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one,” He declares through Ezekiel. (22:30 NIV) “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought Him salvation, and His righteousness upheld Him.” (Isaiah 59:16 ESV) And with that He calls forth His son Jesus who alone is able to save and who “ever lives to make intercession.” (Hebrews 7:25)

How to pray for nations like Libya

As political unrest and cries for freedom from oppression are sweeping across the nations of North Africa and the Middle East what is our responsibility as Christians? And more specifically how should we be praying? Several days ago I happened to be reading Psalm 94 and was deeply impacted by its relevance for the present uprisings sparked in Tunisia and spreading to Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and the likes. I found it providing very specific ways to pray and empowering my faith to join in the fray through prayer.

As Christians we believe that the God whom we serve is the Lord of the nations. Nothing escapes His notice or happens without the unfolding of His plans and purposes. It is important to note that the prophecies of the Old Testament dealt with the fate of many nations and not just Israel. “It is God who judges; He brings down one and exalts another.” we are told in Psalm 75:7.

Throughout the ages God has invited His people to rule and reign with Him from a place of prayer. The great John Wesley once said “God does nothing except in answer to prayer.” We are therefore as followers of Christ, who are seated with Him in His throne in the heavenlies, privileged and empowered to join Him in effecting His will in the earth through prayer. (Ephesians 2:6)

Psalm 94 begins by declaring that God is an avenger and invokes Him as the judge of the earth to pay back the proud and the wicked.“How long” the psalmist asks will the wicked “pour out arrogant words . . . full of boasting?” (vs 3-4) Sounds like some dictators we know does it not . . .Gaddafi et al.? The ensuing verses continue to chronicle the cruelty and oppression suffered at the hands of such cruel regimes.

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