Skip to content Skip to cookie consent
Tearfund home

How to pray for the Turkey-Syria earthquake

A guide for individuals, groups and churches to pray for people affected by the deadly earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Written by Rachael Adams and Gideon Heugh | 07 Feb 2023

Two women hugging near a collapsed building.

Whole towns have been flattened by the earthquake and tens of thousands of people have lost their homes. | Image credit: Islamic Relief

A powerful earthquake in Turkey and Syria has left millions of people at the mercy of a freezing winter as their homes have been reduced to rubble. And now, on 20 February, another earthquake of 6.4 magnitude has struck Turkey. More than 35,000 people have lost their lives and it’s a race against time to reach people in desperate need.

‘In Aleppo, many hospitals and medical centres had been destroyed during the conflict and haven’t been rebuilt yet,’ explains Martin Leach, who leads Tearfund’s work in the region.  ‘People were already extremely vulnerable, so this earthquake is a crisis on top of a crisis.’

From shelter to food and warm clothing, the needs are enormous – but prayer can make a difference.

Please join us in praying for the people across Turkey, Syria and the region who have been affected by this disaster.

This guide is divided into two sections: the first giving you suggestions about what to pray for, and the second providing different creative prayer ideas for you and your church, group or family to use.

A heavy vehicles trying to remove rubble from a destroyed building.

A building in Syria destroyed by the earthquake. | Image credit: Karam Al-Masri/DEC

What to pray for…

There are four areas we can focus our prayers on: for the emergency response; for people affected by the earthquake; for the church in Syria who are responding; and for peace.

Pray for the emergency response

  • Lift up first-responders and pray for energy and strength as they work around the clock to save lives.
  • Pray for clear roads and bridges, so that emergency services and supplies can quickly reach those in need.
  • Pray that those who are still missing will be found safe.
  • Ask God for good weather so the rains and snow do not slow down the response.
  • Hospitals in the areas affected are overflowing. In Syria, many hospitals have not been rebuilt since they were destroyed in the conflict there. Pray for resilience for health workers as they respond; pray for capacity to treat people who are injured and for resources – medicine, equipment and hospital beds – to be readily available.

Pray for people affected by the earthquake

  • Pray for comfort for those who have lost their loved ones and healing for people who are injured. Ask God to draw near to them in this time of grief and uncertainty.
  • Pray for provision of safe shelter, food, clean water and warmth for people who have lost their belongings, homes and livelihoods. Ask God to give them courage and strength to face these new challenges.
  • Pray that vulnerable people – such as people with disabilities, orphans and pregnant and nursing mothers – will be protected and that no one will have to suffer alone.
  • Pray for freedom from anxiety and fear for people who are feeling distressed – particularly those already in fragile situations throughout the region.

Pray for our church partner

Tearfund’s local church partner is responding now. Here is how you can pray for the vital work they are doing.

  • Pray for wisdom and resources as they respond to people’s immediate needs and plan for how they can support communities in the long-term.
  • Pray that the three shelters that they have opened in Aleppo for people made homeless by the earthquake will be a place of safety and comfort.
  • As people receive shelter, hot meals, water and other essentials from them, pray that they will feel loved and encouraged.
  • Pray that God’s power will be revealed through the church in this situation – bringing a message of love and hope in the midst of the tragedy.
  • Pray that the work they are doing to support others will inspire other churches across the region to unite in action to care for communities in need.

Pray for peace

Conflict broke out in Syria in 2011. Much of the country now lies in ruin. The city of Aleppo, which was badly hit by the earthquake, is home to millions of people who have already faced devastating conflict. Many people in northern Iraq, who are rebuilding after years of conflict, and in Lebanon, also felt the earthquake tremors.

  • Pray for a lasting peace and recovery for Syrians who have suffered more than a decade of conflict.
  • Pray for peace and comfort as people are further traumatised by the earthquake and already are feeling anxious, depressed and fearful. Pray that people will not lose hope – even in these challenging times.
A man standing on the rubble of a destroyed building.

Entire towns have been reduced to piles of rubble. | Image credit: Karam Al-Masri/DEC

Ways to pray…

Pray using a map

Use an internet search engine, globe or an atlas to find a map of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon.

As you look at the map, invite the Holy Spirit to reveal a particular location to you.

Once you have chosen somewhere, lay your hand above it on the map. Pray for that location and the people there. Ask God to reveal specific things you can pray for, or use the first part of this guide to help.

If doing this activity as a group, you could take it in turns to choose a location to pray over. If you’re using a physical map, you could keep it up as a reminder to pray and add Post-it notes throughout the week.

Pray with children

A simple way you can invite children to pray for the earthquake is to do it by using building blocks, such as Lego or Duplo.

Together, build a house and explain to them as you go ahead that many people have lost their homes due to the earthquake.

Give your homes a new name – such a ‘House of Peace’ – and as you build, ask the children what they should be filled with, eg hope, warmth, joy, beds, food... As these come up, pray for the people affected to have these.

If you don’t have building blocks, this activity also works by painting or drawing a house with the children.

Keep the homes up in your house as a reminder to pray.

A child using building blocks.

Using building blocks can be a creative way to teach and encourage children how to pray for people around the world. | Image credit: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

Pray for people’s mental health

Conflict is draining. It affects every part of who you are – not just your physical health, but your mental and emotional health too. This prayer exercise will help you to pray for people who have long been affected by the conflict and are now traumatised from the earthquake.

Find a still, silent place. Become aware of God’s presence.

Read Matthew 11:28-30 a few times to become familiar with it:

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

  • Read the text again. This time, notice a word or phrase that catches your attention.
  • Meditate on this. Ask God to reveal why he chose to highlight this word or phrase. Ask God what it means for people affected by the conflict and now hit by the earthquake.
  • Use this – and let the Holy Spirit guide you – to pray for these people. You can use the prayer points above to help you.
  • Do not rush away – rest in God’s presence.
  • End by thanking God for working in and through you.

Write a psalm of lament

This earthquake feels like a huge injustice. Millions of people – who were living in poverty and affected by conflict – have had their world turned upside down again.

The Psalms are full of prayers and songs of lament: of pain and hurt. They can help us to put into words our disappointment, desperation and anger at the world around us – such as the earthquake hitting people who are suffering so much already. David, who wrote many of the Psalms, even voiced his anger at God himself (Psalm 13, Psalm 79).

Begin by reading some of the Psalms to help you find the words to bring to God. Then, write your own psalm of lament to God over this crisis. Ask God to move in power to help end this injustice.

If you’re doing this as a group, you might want to write a psalm together and read it out at your church, encouraging people to pray openly and boldly.

An open Bible displaying the book of Psalms

The book of Psalms in the Bible can help us to put into words how we’re feeling and guide our prayers for people affected by the earthquake. | Image credit: Tim Wildsmith/Unsplash

Pray on the go

Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon are in the grip of winter. Getting outside to pray can help us to focus on the needs of people who have been made homeless by the earthquake and who are more vulnerable in freezing weather.

You can pray on your commute or head to your local neighbourhood or park. If you or anyone in your group struggles with walking, you may want to choose a location, such as a park, that has benches so that everyone can join in.

As you walk, focus on the needs of people in winter and how God can meet them. Think about how the earthquake has made people more vulnerable and the kind of support they will need. You can use our prayer pointers to help you.

While out, keep your eyes open for what’s around you and let the Holy Spirit use them to guide you in prayers. For example, snowdrops and the coming of spring might inspire you to pray for hope and courage amid the challenges.

Pray by fasting

Fasting involves purposefully giving up something that you’ll miss in order to shape your focus. Many Christians choose to do this for Lent, which begins soon. Maybe you could start early or incorporate this into your prayer time this Lent?

  • First, choose what to fast from. Food is the most common choice, but you could also fast from TV or social media. Make sure you consider your health and consult a doctor if needed.
  • Then, decide how long you want to fast for. Challenge yourself but don’t be unrealistic. You could start with missing just one or two meals on a particular day, then repeat that on the same day each week.
  • Use the time that you would have spent preparing and eating food, or scrolling through social media, to focus on God. When you notice that you’re longing for whatever it is you’re fasting from, use it as a reminder to focus on one of the areas of prayer listed above.
  • If you’re doing this as a church or a small group, think of ways you can encourage each other throughout the day. This could be by sending each other Bible verses or sharing what God has been speaking to you.

Pray while sharing a meal

As you sit down to a meal – either with yourself, your family, or your church group – set aside a few minutes to pray for those affected by the earthquake.

Reflect on the needs people might have. Pray that they will be fed and nourished. If there is a traditional prayer of grace that you say, think about how you could adapt this.

You could also host a prayer and fundraising event and cook or provide a meal inspired by Turkish or Syrian cuisine, and use our prayer guide to pray for the crisis and encourage people, as they feel led, to donate to the earthquake appeal.

Thank you…

Your prayers are making a difference. Thank you for standing with people affected by the earthquake.


Written by

Written by  Rachael Adams and Gideon Heugh

Similarly Tagged Content

Share this page

Share this page to spread the word and help support those in need.

Get our email updates

Learn about our work and stay in touch with Tearfund. Hear about our news, activities and appeals by email.

Sign up now - Get our email updates

Cookie preferences

Your privacy and peace of mind are important to us. We are committed to keeping your data safe. We only collect data from people for specific purposes and once that purpose has finished, we won’t hold on to the data.

For further information, including a full list of individual cookies, please see our privacy policy.

  • These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

  • These cookies allow us to measure and improve the performance of our site. All information these cookies collect is anonymous.

  • These allow for a more personalised experience. For example, they can remember the region you are in, as well as your accessibility settings.

  • These cookies help us to make our adverts personalised to you and allow us to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.