"First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." - 1 Timothy 2:1-4
A quick note before we begin - prayer can often be intimidating (what do I say? where should I pray?), and tends to feel like a Spiritual Activity that we launch ourselves into as we block out the world around us. We initiate it, we sustain it, and we often force it. But a short piece that I read by Glen Scrivener reminds me that I'm not the author and perfecter of prayer. God is.
We do not pray to and beg God on our own - we are mere latecomers to the prayer meeting that has been going on for a very long time (Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 2:1)! We do not know the perfect words or posture for prayer, but the Holy Spirit helps and teaches us through and in spite of our stumbles (Romans 8:26). And God doesn't ask that we 'pray our way up to Him', as if a magic sequence of words will somehow build a staircase to God. Scrivener writes: "We are not meant to be strong pray-ers but weak pray-ers, feeling our littleness and yet knowing our welcome nonetheless." Amen.
Pray for Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo is a generous man. He gave the ball to the back of the net not once, but thrice, in the nail-biter against the Spaniards, and reportedly gave 600,000 Euros in 2016 to World Vision, a Christian charity that tackles poverty and injustice internationally. Portugal is itself a rather 'Christian' nation, with some 93-94% of the population professing to be Christians.
While the numbers are encouraging, and should lead us to praise God in our prayers, please pray also that the Word that the Portguese people have received will be 'planted deep in them', and that they will let God 'shape and fashion them in His likeness'.
Pray for Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Iran
Morocco is, on the numbers, the exact opposite of Portugal - 99% of its citizens identify as Muslims. This is much like Saudi Arabia (91-92% Muslim) and Iran (98% Muslim).
Pray for these countries, places where Muslim men, women and children face Mecca and pray multiple times each day, and where the name of Jesus (Isa) is known and is respected. Pray that in their devotion and ritual, in their time spent in fasting and prayer, that Jesus Christ will come to them, not as a prophet or a taskmaster, but as a gentle Saviour. That "no longer will they be called servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing". Instead, may they experience the deep and longing love of Jesus for them, and be called His friends.
May it be said of each person who comes to know Christ in these countries that "You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will remain."
Pray for Uruguay
Uruguay has anywhere between 64 - 68% of its citizens professing to be of the Christian faith. That's honestly quite wonderful, and Operation World reports that the congregation in Uruguay actually doubled between 1998 and 2005. What a period of growth that must have been!
But it is also a sad and sobering reality that where growth is rapid, discipleship does not always keep pace. Reports suggest that cults have sprung up and mixed with Christian congregations, and that a superstitious 'spirituality' is often mixed in with their belief in God.
Pray against heresy, and against people who seek to deceive and to lead believers astray. Pray that there will be faithful men and women who will "hold on to the pattern of sound teaching with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" even if it should cost them their lives, that the people of Uruguay might come to fully know the Jesus who loved them and gave Himself for them.
Pray for Spain
What do I know about Spain? Not very much, save that the piece of art that is chorizo elevates the pedestrian sausage to a fine delicacy, a savoury chew from the bits of pork fat given new life by the infusion of smoked paprika and peppercorn. Picante!
The largest religion in Spain is Christianity - 77% of the population report it as their religion of choice. But while the statistics bring cheer, the missionaries in Spain often struggle with producing bible translations in regional languages and dialects, and old problems like high rates of drug addiction and a growing hedonism (the wild pursuit of pleasure and self-indulgence) among the Spanish youth remain obstacles to not just the spread of the Gospel, but the practice of a Gospel-centered life in community.
Pray for Spain. Pray that the access that many have to the Gospel will not be taken for granted, but will be treasured, and that the piercing truth of the Gospel - that we are boldly free in Christ Jesus to love God and know Him and to serve others with all our hearts - will capture and convict Spain's youth and impact the generations to come.