As I sat down to watch my first World Cup match of the season, it suddenly struck me how this is a glimpse of what heaven is to look like! Football is often described to be the global game. From the developed Nordic nations, to the desert of the Middle East, to the cities of Asia and even in the war-torn nations, one can probably find someone playing this game. Every 4 years, the world is glued to their screens as countries compete for the coveted title of "World Cup winners". This is the hope that keeps nations going.
In Rev 7:9-17, we are given a far greater hope and glory. John had a vision of a great multitude from "every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb". In Gen 12, Abraham was given the blessing and promise that his descendants will be so plentiful, they will be like stars in the sky and like sand on the seashore. In Matt 28:19-20, the Great Commission is given because God intended for His people to come from the nation. We will see this fulfilled perfectly when He comes again.
So, as we watch the matches this season, as Christians, let's also think about the people of these nations! These are people that are also made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and still need to hear the good news of what Christ has done. There are also people in these nations "who are (God's) people" (Acts 18:10) and we will one day meet in the new heavens and new earth.
We will try to list a few prayer requests for each country playing each day! As you read the news, check your Twitter/Facebook feeds for the updates, keep one eye on the news and another eye on the Word of God!
Pray for Sweden
According to the Joshua Project, 56% of Swedes profess to be Christians, but only 6.5% are evangelicals. The annual evangelical growth rate is at -0.5%. Many go to church, but 8 out of 10 claim to be "not religious" or "convinced atheists".
Pray for the pastors in the Swedish church to remain faithful to the gospel and to hold out the clear teaching of Jesus. Pray that the Sprit will work in the hearts and minds of Swedes to see their sin, and their need for a Saviour.
Pray for South Korea
South Korea has a significant population of evangelicals (17%) but the majority of the South Koreans profess to be non-religious (31%).
Thank God for the growth in the Korean church after the Korean War. Continue to pray for the Christians as they seek to live the gospel out in their lives as they struggle to not only be "disciples in the church" but also "disciples in life".
Pray for Belgium
While 67% of the country professes to be Christian, many are nominal Christians. Evangelicals only number 1.7% and Belgium is a largely secular nation.
Pray for the Christians in Belgium, that they will persevere in their faith and continue to obey God's word even if it means going against the changing social and cultural norms.
Pray for Panama
Panama seems to be a Christian nation, with 88% of the population professing faith. Evangelicals number 18%. Praise God for our brothers and sisters in Panama!
According to Operation World, Panama is growing as a sending nation, but "the main obstacles to greater mission sending are lack of unity, lack of vision and lack of training". Pray for the pastors and leaders to growth in their faith as they study God's Word, so that they will be able to train and raise up faithful men who will guard sound doctrine.
Pray for England
Once the home of many faithful preachers and teachers of the Word, England is now nominally a Christian nation.
Pray for the churches in England to continue to stand firm in the Word and to preach it faithfully, even if it means going against the cultural norms. Pray that the churches in big cities like London will also reach the nations in their midst, and be faithful in their discipleship and evangelism.
Pray for Tunisia
Tunisia is a country with 99% of the population professing faith in Islam. Only 0.4% are Christians and only 0.03% are evangelicals. This is rather sad considering how the Tunisian Church used to be widespread and produced leaders such as Tertullian and Cyprian.
According to the organisation WIN, we can pray for "continued growth and discipleship in Tunisia’s churches. There are about 200 committed Christians, a tiny proportion of the country, but it is really difficult for many Christians to keep going because they become isolated and fearful. Pray that God would bless them with faith and courage to continue to persevere; few Tunisian Believers have been Christians for more than 10 years."