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Our world is broken. We only have to turn on the TV or switch on our phones to see news alerts showing us the latest tragedy. And there are many more stories that don’t get media attention. But God is at work in the midst of the chaos. And through prayer we can join him in bringing healing to our broken world.

But how do we do this? The term many Christians would use is intercessory prayer, which simply means praying to God for other people.

The Bible is full of examples of people praying to God on behalf of others. And we can be encouraged because many of these stories include powerful answers to prayers.

In the Old Testament, the prophets – Ezekiel, Joel, Deborah, Habakkuk, Samuel and Hosea, to name just a few – all interceded for nations. They called for, among other things, forgiveness, judgement, mercy, and an end to drought.

In the New Testament, Paul repeatedly asks for prayers and also teaches that we should ‘carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.’ (Galatians 6:2).

The Gospels make it clear that Jesus wants all people everywhere to experience the love of God and life in all its fullness (John 10:10). This includes every aspect of our being: spiritual, emotional, mental and physical.

But in this broken world, not everyone is able to live life to the full. Poverty, conflict, the climate crisis and other disasters have robbed people of hope, health and opportunities. We know God’s plan is to restore this world and so, as Paul urges us to, let us pray for people who are struggling, that they may have life in abundance.

God is already at work. And we have the privilege of being able to partner with him by praying on behalf of our global neighbours.

In South Sudan, farmers pray together before they begin work out in the field. The farmers have received seeds and training from Tearfund to improve the quality and quantity of crops to help combat hunger in the region. Image credit: Will Swanson/Tearfund

Where to begin

It can be difficult to know where to start, with so many challenging situations across the world. So here are some tips on how to get started:

  • Ask God to place a country on your heart. Spend some time listening and reflecting on what he shares with you.
  • Begin by acknowledging God’s power. Then pray general prayers: pray for God’s kingdom to come; pray for individuals and communities; pray for those in power. 
  • Then, find out more information about what’s going on in the country. You can use Tearfund’s website to help you out. The more you know, the more specific your prayers will grow to be.
  • Pray that local churches will be a beacon of hope in their communities. Ask that they will be filled with God’s love and that the Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen them as they support people in practical and spiritual ways.
  • Keep inviting the Holy Spirit to speak into the situations you’re praying for. Listen to what God is saying.
  • Make time each week to pray about this country. You could set a reminder on your phone or put a sticky note in your Bible to remind you.
  • Use a notebook to write down your petitions and answers to prayers.
  • Invite a friend to join you via WhatsApp, text or email. Exchange prayer alerts about the country and pray together. Or commit to praying as a family, household, or church small group. Stick a map of the country to your fridge and attach sticky notes.

Finding others to pray with regularly can help motivate and inspire you to keep praying. In Angola, a women's group at Nazaré church gather to worship, read the Bible and pray together. Image credit: Tom Price-Ecce Opus/Tearfund

A marathon not a sprint

Intercession changes us. When we bring others before God our attitudes begin to shift as our hearts become more aligned with God’s plan for the world. We get to see how God sees the world – how much he loves individuals and creation – and our relationship with God and others can become deeper as a result.

You may not see answers to prayer immediately, or see the effect your prayers are having on people’s lives, but you can be assured that God is at work. Your prayers will be making a difference and changing lives.

There will be times when situations seem impossible, but we are praying to a God who can do even more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). We are praying to a God who healed the blind, parted the seas, and who created the entire Earth. So feel free to pray your biggest and boldest prayers.

And when we are tired, or unsure of what to say – when the situation feels too big – remember that ‘the spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans’ (Romans 8:26). Our prayers can take the form of silence, sobs or even shaking our fists and stamping our feet at the injustice in the world. God listens. God understands. God cares.

In Bolivia, some of our staff and local partners gather together to pray. Tom Price-Ecce Opus/Tearfund

Where to next?

If you’re looking for ways to practice intercessory prayer or to regularly pray for people living in poverty then you may want to sign up to our weekly prayer email, One Voice in Prayer.

Each week, we share short prayer points and stories from around the world. Join a movement of prayer and sign up to receive One Voice in Prayer.

Our global staff and partners appreciate how so many of you and your churches faithfully stand with us each week in prayer, interceding for us and the people we serve. It makes such a difference. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers, and know that we continue to hold you in our prayers too.

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