Lord God and Heavenly Father, on this Lord’s Day – the first day of the new year – we re-affirm our commitment to You. We are no longer our own but were bought at a price. Therefore we pray that You will make us ready for service, for obedience, and – if it is Your will – for suffering. Grant that we will be faithful, steadfast and content in whatever circumstances You ordain for the glory and honour of our Triune God, we pray in the Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 6:20; Philippians 4:12)
The world around us appears to be more uncertain and volatile than ever before, yet the trials and troubles that face us today are those of which the Church was forewarned in the Bible. Conquest, war, famine and death are all prophesied in Scripture, as is the persecution of the Church that began in the earliest days of Christian history and will persist until Christ returns (Revelation 6:1-11). While, therefore, all these things are concerning, we may rest in the knowledge that God is not caught off guard or surprised. Pray for increased confidence that the Lord remains in sovereign control, and that He will preserve the Church of Christ according to His promise (Matthew 24:13)
Extremists in India say that religious conversions coerced using force, fraud or allurement are “a nationwide problem”. This was the claim of an activist who has requested that India’s Supreme Court direct the federal (central) government to implement a nationwide anti-conversion law – a law that criminalises religious conversions solicited through force, fraud or allurement. The court in turn has asked the federal government to submit a response to the petition. Previous petitions by the same activist to the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court against religious conversion have been dismissed for lack of evidence and because India’s constitution upholds the right to religious liberty. Give thanks for Indian courts’ willingness to uphold the rights of Christians to share their faith, and pray that this latest petition will also be rejected.
Continue to pray for Christians in the 11 Indian states that have passed anti-conversion laws that criminalise religious conversions solicited through force, fraud or allurement. Church leaders have argued that these laws violate Article 25 of the Indian constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion. This is especially so in states such as Karnataka and Gujarat that have a much broader definition of allurement than other states, including – in the case of Gujarat – the promise of divine blessings. In these states, therefore, simply sharing the Gospel could be considered a form of allurement. Ask the Lord to give wisdom to church leaders and all Christians in responding to these laws. Pray that the laws will be applied fairly, and not become a means for extremists to stir up increased hostility towards Christians or make unfounded accusations against them.
Give thanks for a decision of the High Court in Odisha, India, that upheld the life sentences of four extremists who murdered a church minister in 1999. Among the extremists was Dara Singh, who led a mob that attacked and killed Dibakar Parichha, a church minister in eastern Odisha. Dara also led the mob that killed Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons, and murdered a Muslim trader named Shaik Rahaman, in separate attacks that same year. Join Indian Christians in praising God that the court has taken seriously the violent persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.
Praise the Lord that the eternal, unchangeable God, who made heaven and earth, did not remain aloof from His creation. Rather, in grace and mercy the second Person of the Godhead was made incarnate, bringing light and life to the world (John 1:4-5,9). Give thanks that Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Saviour, was willing to undergo suffering and violent opposition, so that His people who have suffered and endured persecution know that they are following where their Saviour has already led. Pray that our Father God, who led the Magi by a star to worship the incarnate Son of God, will continue to lead His people in worship, guiding and sustaining us until we reach our journey’s end in Christ our Lord, in whose Name we pray.
Give thanks to God that in the closing weeks of 2022 the Egyptian government announced that another 125 churches and church-affiliated buildings had been granted licences. This new batch means that so far 2,526 churches out of the 3,730 that applied for licences in 2016 have now had their applications approved. Prior to the repeal of Ottoman-era restrictions on church buildings in 2016 it was almost impossible for Christians to gain permission to construct or renovate a church. Pray that the supportive stance of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government towards Egypt’s Christians will continue, and that more churches will gain licences in 2023.
Father God, we think of the acute need facing so many of our brothers and sisters around the world as we begin this New Year. Many face violence and threats of violence because of their faith. Others suffer extra poverty and deprivation because they are Your children. We ask that You will preserve Your children through persecution, restrain the hands of those who seek to harm them, and bless the work of those seeking to provide food, water, medicine and all manner of aid to Your suffering people, for we ask in the Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Christians in Pakistan are vulnerable to false accusations of “blasphemy”, as simply stating certain Christian beliefs can be construed as “blasphemy” by zealous Muslims. Lower courts usually favour the testimony of Muslims, in accordance with sharia (Islamic law), while judges are often reluctant to acquit those accused of “blasphemy” for fear of reprisals. Give thanks that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has recognised that “blasphemy” charges are often malicious and unfounded. Pray that Christians facing such allegations will be acquitted, and that Pakistani courts at every level will exercise courage and sound judgment in assessing such cases.
Barnabas supports 1,608 poor Christian families in Pakistan with food and other essential supplies each month. Each parcel includes staples such as rice, wheat flour, lentils, tea, cooking oil, salt, spices, toothpaste and soap. Family income that would otherwise be spent on food can now be released for other vital needs such as medical treatment, children’s education, the repayment of loans or much-needed home improvements. Give thanks that through God’s grace and supporters’ generous giving Barnabas is able to provide Christian families across Pakistan with food and essential hygiene items. Pray that the Lord will continue to direct our project partners to those most in need and transform lives.
“The hospital does not look damaged, rather it looks regenerated!” exclaimed a Christian health worker in Pakistan. He was marvelling at the Barnabas-funded repairs to Tank Christian Hospital, its church and Sunday school hall following catastrophic flooding in Pakistan between July and September 2022. Give thanks to God that the minority Christian community in Tank, traumatised by the severity of the floods, has been uplifted and encouraged by the quality and efficiency of the restoration work. Praise the Lord that the hospital is operational again and that, through its healing ministry, the light of God continues to shine.
Two Buddhist monks, a local government official and two other people interrupted a Sunday morning worship service in Siyambalanduwa, Sri Lanka claiming that they had received a complaint that a secret worship service was being held at the premises. They inquired from the pastor if the church was registered and requested the registration documents. The pastor informed the police about the incident the following day and confirmed that the church is registered. Such instances are common in Sri Lanka, even though registration for places of worship is not a legal requirement. Pray that harassment of worshippers and disruption of services in Sri Lanka will cease. Ask that the Lord will give wisdom to pastors and church leaders as to how they may continue to meet for worship and conduct their regular activities.
Islamism in Muslim-majority Bangladesh has been growing, with jihadi movements going through “a phase of recruitment and fundraising” and one Al Qaeda-linked group “recruiting robustly in Bangladesh”. Islamist propaganda, economic downturn and youth unemployment, and the perception of poor governance are all factors in radicalising young Muslim men. Pray for the authorities in Bangladesh, that they will have success in combating religious extremism. Intercede for the small Christian community of Bangladesh, that they will be able to live and worship in freedom and safety.
Jihadi groups are growing more active in the West African nation of Benin, with Islamists linked to both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) active in the northern regions that border Burkina Faso and Niger. Nearly half (around 49%) of the population of Benin is Christian, while Muslims represent just over a quarter of the population and the rest practise other religions, including Traditional African Religion. Christians, however, are a minority in the Muslim-majority north of Benin. Pray for our brothers and sisters as Islamists increase their activities, asking that the Lord will preserve them from harm and continue to provide for them even amidst their enemies (Psalm 23:5).
Heavenly Father, we lift up before You our brothers and sisters who face the daily threat of terrorism. We pray for their protection against those who seek to instil fear. We particularly remember those driven from their homes in northern Nigeria, the Sahel, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We ask that Your people will stand firm as Your representatives when faced with extremists. Please enable Your children to know that they are chosen by You and that You will strengthen, help and uphold them with Your righteous right hand. We ask in the Name of the One who triumphed over terror and evil, our Lord Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 41:10)
“Our efforts have been fruitless,” said a Christian farmer in northern Kenya, “due to wild animals invading our farms and eating everything – hippos, elephants and buffalos. Families have been struggling with nothing to eat.” The invasion of wild animals devouring the farmers’ limited crops adds to the prolonged drought, which is biting ever deeper. Children in northern Kenya have already begun to die of hunger. Barnabas Aid is continuing to feed Christians in the region where they are a minority and often do not get help from the main aid agencies. Pray that the Lord will direct His people in supplying aid to the region and reach those most in need.
“The Lord’s ravens have brought them food! To God be the glory!” Our project partner, recalling God’s miraculous provision for Elijah (1 Kings 17:4), describes the “overwhelming joy” of a faithful Namibian Christian couple on receiving food for their community. Through Barnabas Aid’s food.gives programme 20 tonnes of food and other aid were delivered to 6,000 Christians in the Kunene region in north-west Namibia in September. The marginalised, semi-nomadic Himba people move across the region throughout the year in search of water. Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, especially vulnerable to harsh weather patterns.Thank the Lord for the provision of this aid at the right time, and pray that He will continue to use food.gives to provide for impoverished Christians in Namibia.
“I am the most blessed of the girls of my generation,” said Dawandala, a young Christian woman forced to flee jihadi attacks in northern Cameroon. She was one of 100 displaced Christian women given 50 Barnabas-funded sewing machines to share in pairs to make a living and support their families. Dawandala added that, God willing, she plans to purchase another sewing machine next year with the profits from her venture. “God bless the donors,” she continued. Give thanks for the gracious and patient endurance of Dawandala. Pray that we learn from her example and rejoice in hope, be patient in our tribulations and constant in our prayer (Romans 12:1
Lift up to the Lord believers in the troubled north-eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In a recent incident, Islamist militants killed at least 11 people, including a pastor, in a Christian village in the province of North Kivu. An additional 20 people were unaccounted for following the raid, in which 25 houses were destroyed. Pray that those who have lost loved ones, and a congregation that has lost its minister, will be comforted by the Lord. Pray that He will bring violence to a swift end so that our brothers and sisters can live and worship in peace.
“The terrorists prevent people from farming. Granaries and barns have been destroyed in many villages. They carry away all the cattle.” A Barnabas contact summarised the parlous state of Burkina Faso where Islamist groups are estimated to control at least 40 per cent of the country and two million people have been forced from their homes. Army Captain Ibrahim Traore, the country’s interim president following a coup on 30 September, warned that Burkina Faso’s very existence is in danger from Islamist militants. Ask the Lord to bring peace to Burkina Faso. Pray that Christians stand firm in their faith, looking to God as their Rock and their Refuge. Ask for Divine wisdom to direct the country’s authorities so that they find a solution to the violence.
Seven villages in the Leo Chiefdom, Chad, were attacked by terrorists who killed 50 villagers and caused scores to flee. When the survivors later returned to their home villages, they found their homes destroyed, burned to ashes along with many grain stores and five church buildings. Shortly afterwards the heaviest rains for 32 years brought devastating floods, forcing people to move from one village to another by canoe in search of shelter and food. Give thanks that Barnabas is providing for 4,000 Christian families left homeless and destitute by floods and terrorism, and that our brothers and sisters in Chad will be able to rebuild their lives.
Our Father in Heaven, we ask You to comfort Christians in many countries who have lost homes and livelihoods, even loved ones in natural disasters. Strengthen our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, Nigeria and Chad who have fled their homes because of rising floodwaters. We pray for the provision of food, water and medicine for those in the Horn of Africa experiencing famine conditions. Please help those still rebuilding their lives months after the cyclone in Madagascar and typhoon in the Philippines. Thank You that You are the God who restores. Just as You intervened to preserve Your people through famine in Egypt, we ask You to restore Your people again. We ask in the Name of Your beloved Son Jesus Christ. (Psalm 80:1-3)
Christianity in North Korea remains illegal, and actions as simple as praying or owning a Bible can result in whole families being imprisoned, and believers facing torture and death. All religions and ideologies other than the official state ideology of juche (self-reliance) are outlawed in this repressive authoritarian regime, but Christianity is especially despised for its supposed association with the West. Pray for secret believers in North Korean society, and for those facing untold horrors in prison and labour camps. Ask that the rulers of North Korea will be as King Manasseh of Judah, who began by committing “detestable sins” and shedding “so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end” (2 Kings 21:11,16), but afterwards repented of his sins “and told Judah to serve the Lord” (2 Chronicles 33:12-16).
The leadership of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), China’s official Protestant church, has published a new five-year plan for the Sinicisation of Christianity to coincide with the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Sinicisation means to make Chinese, but can also be a means of pressuring churches to conform to the CCP’s ideology of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. TSPM chairman Xu Xiaohong said that Christianity must remove from itself the “stigma of foreign religion”. Pray that TSPM pastors and church leaders will be granted wisdom to preach faithfully the unchanging Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ rather than the political ideas of either the Western world or the communist authorities.
Pray for the Christian community of Niger State, in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, after a church minister was burned to death in an attack by armed Islamists. The attackers set fire to the home of Isaac Achi in the early hours of Sunday 15 January, and he was unable to escape the blaze. A colleague, who was staying with Isaac, did escape, but was shot and injured – he is recovering in hospital. Intercede for believers in northern and Middle Belt Nigeria, where anti-Christian violence is constant, asking the Lord to bring peace.
Lift up in prayer Christian converts from Islam in Muslim-majority Uzbekistan, who face increased hostility from extremists in the own communities, including relatives and former friends. In some cases, husbands have forced their wives and children out of the family home, leaving them with no shelter and nowhere to go. Such incidents take place even as pressure and persecution from the authorities has been reduced. Ask that our brothers and sisters will be comforted with the words of our Lord, that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).
Give thanks for Christian converts from Islam in one part of a Central Asian country who abound in the joy and hope of the Lord, despite hostility from their Muslim relatives and neighbours (Romans 15:13). The majority belong to underground churches and risk arrest if they meet for worship. Their one safe meeting place is a centre used for church retreats, which belongs to a registered church. More than 3,500 Christians met in the camp in 2021 alone. They celebrated God’s word together, ignoring the worship hall’s leaking roof, cracked flooring and state of disrepair. Pray that the Christian community will be further strengthened and grow following Barnabas-funded renovations to the worship hall.
“This project was proof that God hears our prayers,” said an Albanian pastor after Barnabas supporters provided 30 impoverished children with shoes and clothes to enable them to go to school. Muslim-majority Albania is among the poorest countries in Europe, and Christian converts are among the poorest of the population. Families struggle to pay school fees, or equip their children with the clothing and materials they need for school. Many Christian children are at risk of not having an education at all. Pray that Christian children grow in their love of Jesus. Ask that they receive a good education, enabling them to break free from poverty and to strengthen the Church.
Lord Jesus, we remember Your followers throughout the world who are imprisoned today because of their love for You and their loyalty to the Gospel. Help us to stand with our brothers and sisters as though physically present with them in their suffering. We pray that they will receive encouragement that, through their faithful witness, the light of Your truth is reaching the darkest places. Please enable Christians in prison to serve as ambassadors, despite their chains, to convey Your message by their lives and words. Fortify them with the witness in their spirit that Your Word is never in chains. (Hebrews 13:3, Colossians 4:18)
Give thanks for a court ruling in favour of a Greek church in Istanbul, Turkey. The European Court of Human Rights held that the rights of the church had been violated when the Turkish authorities refused to allow it to register a large plot of land that has been in the church’s possession since at least 1936. The court further ruled that Turkey must pay €5,000 (£4,400; $5,120) in costs and expenses to the church. Pray that the ruling will act as an encouragement to the Turkish authorities to respect the rights of the country’s small Christian community.
Pray for a congregation in the province of Banten, Indonesia, who have been denied permission to construct a new church building by the local authorities. Legal difficulties are created by a 1975 agreement that prevents the building of churches in the locality, while anti-Christian prejudice has also played a part in the decision to deny the building permit. In recent years Indonesia has seen a rise in hard-line Islamist ideology. Give thanks that figures from Indonesia’s central government have been supportive of the church’s application, and ask that the church will be able to construct a suitable building in which our brothers and sisters can meet for worship.