Sunday, October 5, 2008

Why should we pray for people groups?

Philipose Vaidyar

Why should we pray for people groups? Is prayer mobilisation more important than proclamation of the gospel? How effectively do we pray and how much of the wide range of information available about the unreached people, do we use for prayer? The following lines are an attempt to answer these questions.

1. Why should we pray for People Groups?
There are more than 16,000 people groups in the world. All of them put together, the total population of the world as estimated is 6,351,063,509. The great commission of Lord Jesus Christ is to reach them all. Each of these people groups need to have an opportunity to listen to the gospel in their own language and in understandable terms. Their culture and practices are distinct but they need to experience salvation by following Jesus Christ and becoming His disciples. Jesus has asked us to pray for the harvest. He asked us to pray to the Lord of harvest to send out labourers for the harvest - to the ends of the world. Therefore, we need to pray for the unreached people groups.An earlier approach in reaching the unreached was linguistic. Many missions pioneered in different languages of the world.The great commission of Lord Jesus is to make disciples of all nations (ethnic groups). This vision of God about people groups was given to the apostle John as recorded in the book of Revelation:"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands ..." Revelation 7:9 (NKJV)All these people groups need to listen to the gospel and become children of God. Therefore, the gospel needs to be communicated to all the people groups of the world and we need to pray for each of them that the Lord will send the right kind of workers and the Spirit of God will prepare the hearts of the people.

2. Is prayer mobilisation more important than proclamation of the gospel?
The Lord may lead us to share the gospel to anyone at any time even when we are not prepared. We may be specially guided by Spirit of God as He guided Apostle Philip to the Ethiopian. But we need to be prepared to be used by the Spirit of God. We need to look around, collect information, and look for the right and appealing points of contacts or frames of reference that will help us communicate and the people understand the message. When we pray, God prepares the people, change their situations and send His people to them even those who pray.Jill Johnstone, who compiled the children's edition of the Patrick Johnstone's Operation World, shares her experience in her book. She writes, "I started writing this book with the country of Albania. The children in our "You Can Change the World" prayer club were sad because the Albanians were not allowed to worship God, to pray to him or have any books about him. They prayed hard for change in Albania and soon the men who ruled Albania were removed from power. Now people there are free to believe in Jesus. The children's prayers, and those of other Christians around the world, changed Albania, so I had to rewrite that chapter. Will your prayers help change other countries too?"(Jill Johnstone, You Can Change the World, OM, UK, 1994, p.6)I was personally challenged by this; praying for unreached peoples and preparing and helping people prepare mobilization tools have become my vision since then. Christians, prospective missionaries and young people are challenged to go into unreached places or cultures after hearing or seeing about the needy. There are 52 people groups on the Western Ghat (the southern hill ranges of the country bordering Kerala from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka stales) alone and many in the plains of that region do not know of them or know that there are that many of them.One of my first slide presentations about a hill people group motivated a local Lions Club to arrange a medical camp among them. I have seen positive responses made by people after reading or watching printed / video profiles about unreached people groups. People profiles are very important in mobilizing prayer for the unreached.

3. How effectively do we pray for the unreached peoples?
There is more information available today in different formats for those of us who want to pray. IMA has published about 400 profiles of Dalits and mega people groups. Several mission agencies across the world have similar publications. Several websites have online profiles of unreached peoples of the world. The prayer tool Operation World by Patrick Johnstone has been available in books and / or card form since 1974 and is found in many Christian homes.But do we use all these available resources for praying? How do we use them and where do we use them? How many of our church or fellowship group members know about these unreached people groups? Do our children or people in the circle of our influence pray for the unreached peoples?Those of us, who have this burden and information, have to disseminate it to our own people. Let praying for the unreached people become part of our Christian life. In our personal quite time, family, group and church prayers we need to discuss and pray about these. Let us talk about the unreached whenever and wherever we can, in formal, informal and family meetings until our friends and children catch this vision. Specific prayers offered in faith will have specific answers from the Lord. We need to collect, compile and pass on specific information of the unreached and set role models in praying for them. Our Sunday Schools, Vacation Bible Schools, children clubs, and churches will pray for the people groups of the nation / world if only we start doing it at home, at least from today.
Prayers mobilized for the unreached can rewrite the story of peoples and when we pray, their lives will never be the same.

First published in Indian Missions, India Missions Association and republished by ____________________
Philipose Vaidyar has been a missionary, teacher of Communications in a seminary under the Senate of Serampore, a developmental reseracher, journalist and an alternative-media consultant. This article was published in Indian Missions while he was the Coordinator for Research and Communications at India Missions Association (IMA). His stories about a dozen people groups are published at and about 40 people profiles are published at Philipose assists missions in India by researching and writing about the most needy and negleted people groups and minority languages.

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