12 Ways to Pray | Practical Mobilization


12 Ways to PrayA friend relayed the story of a young boy in London attending his first-ever nativity play at school. When it was over, she asked what he thought.

“I liked it. It’s a great story. But I have one question.”

“Sure. What is it?” my friend asked.

“Why did they name the baby after a swear word?”

Ah, Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, for some. For others a source of pain. For many others little more than a day on the calendar.

As believers we have an opportunity to partner with God to increase the impact of Christmas in our own homes, in our towns, and really to the ends of the earth. As you celebrate, will you join me in lifting prayers for the nations? Many peoples are presently facing unique and challenging situations. Many who work with under-evangelized peoples find themselves with fresh but perplexing possibilities around Christmas.

Here are a dozen ways to pray in the days leading up to Christmas. And here’s a bit of cheer: In a rare moment of restraint, I refrained from framing these totally around the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and asking you to start at the beginning and pray through them all with each additional prayer request!

1. Ask Jesus to show up in dreams and visions.

When he came to Earth the first time, it pretty much caught everyone off guard. Ask him to visit in dreams and visions and once again surprise people, giving them reason to look for answers, to reach out to Christians, or to read the Bible.

2. Pray for correction of conception misconceptions.

Ask God to help many Muslims, starting with your Muslim friends, understand the miraculous nature of the birth of Jesus.

Pray for an end to lies that say God and Mary had a carnal relationship and baby Jesus was the result. (Read more.)

3. Remember school daze.

Pray for non-Christian kids navigating the craziness of Christmastime at their schools. Your schools may celebrate Christmas or they may be carefully secular, but either way it’s hard to miss the holiday hullabaloo.

Let’s empathize in prayer with kids whose cultural faith precludes Christmas. Pray for teachers as they love and guide these kids.

4. Consider Christmas in the worst possible conditions.

Let’s intercede for the Rohingya people who will pass Christmas under siege in Burma or in relatively safe but deplorable conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Up to 600,000 have fled there for their lives.

Few Rohingya celebrate Christmas, but only in their dreams can they be home for these or any other holidays. Let’s lift them up.

5. Seek fresh hope for Syria and Iraq.

Rejoice that full-scale hostilities are coming to an end in Syria and Iraq. Pray for fresh hope with the year to come.

Pray for the rebuilding process, for many believers to answer the call to help reconstruct these countries, and for the kingdom of God to grow wonderfully there.

6. May wise men and women still seek him.

Ask God to move in the hearts of many academic, political, and business leaders to seek the life Jesus offers.

Pray particularly for the leadership of Saudi Arabia where fresh reforms are being implemented and staggering ones are promised.

7. Pray for peace where cultures meet.

Pray for peace in cities where Christian neighborhoods border Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim ones… where Christmas celebrations will happen just a block away from fervent followers of other religions.

Pray not only for peace, but also winsome, loving proclamation of good news and great joy.

8. Lift up those dear to us gathered near to us.

Back in our own cities, let’s pray that tons of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others receive and respond to kind invitations to share in Christmas gatherings. May extra places be set, gifts thoughtfully purchased, and welcome warmly extended.

For many of us, Christmas is decidedly, and understandably, family time. May God give us grace to stretch the definition a bit this year.

9. Pray for new neighbors to find ancient truth.

Intercede for servants who volunteer or work full time to help refugees resettle in America or other nations.

Pray for wisdom as they host Christmas parties, deciding what to include, what to say, and what to avoid. Pray that they’d arrange joyful celebrations that appropriately honor Jesus as the main point of the party.

10. Bless the hands that prepare your holidays.

Do you realize that many, maybe most, of the gifts we purchase this Christmas and the decorations arrayed to help us celebrate were made by Chinese people?

As we wrap, open and adorn, let’s pray for the hopeful blessings of Jesus to be known in fresh ways among those through whose hands passed the material we now hold.

11. May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts not cause Uncle Fred to go ballistic.

Jesus was provocative. There’s just no way around it: His birth. His life. His death. His insistence that his followers hear and obey his teaching!

Let’s pray that around Christmas tables all over this year, conversations would take place that put the teachings of Jesus front and center. Pray that many would consider afresh the relevance of his words to immigration, the refugee crisis, travel bans, and the billions presently beyond the direct touch of the gospel.

12. Remember for beautiful feet propped up before foreign fires.

Ten of my good buds and their 15 kids will celebrate Christmas in Sicily this year. You could do worse, certainly, but tears will be shed both here and there at the distance between them and the rest of their families.

Would you join me in praying for the Catania crew and the thousands of other ambassadors among the nations who will celebrate Christmas away from home? Pray also for their families.

Many tears will fall in lonely silence, seen only by the Father who knows what it’s like to have a kid away from home on Christmas.

Subversive Mobilization

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If you’ve received value from it this year, please take a moment and shoot her a quick thank you. You can reply to this email and it will go directly to her. If you want to get her chocolate to feed her soul or an Amazon gift certificate to feed her book habit, you can email me for her address.

From darkness to light | World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeMissions Catalyst News Briefs 12.06.17

  1. PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Embers Fanned into Flame
  2. NIGERIA: Missionary Shot after Singing Amazing Grace
  3. EGYPT: 21 Churches Receive Long-Delayed Approval to Rebuild
  4. UZBEKISTAN: Silk Road Secrets
  5. USA: Dinner Churches Spring Up Nationwide


I LOVE Christmas hymns. For one glorious season, truth is in the air! Hymns are full of good stuff, theologically speaking. Check out my new favorite, When Love Crossed Over by Paul and Rita Baloche.

Paul told King Agrippa that Jesus told him to “cross over” to the Gentiles so that they “may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18).

Do you suppose that some of these dark places would benefit from the simple, true theology of the hymns? I believe the powers of darkness hate and fear such hymns, as the Nigeria story below suggests.

Speaking of Nigeria, have you heard of the late, great Nigerian hymn writer Ikoli Harcourt Whyte? He wrote over 200 Igbo hymns with his leprosy-riddled hands. Some say that the Queen of England also became aware of his music and once requested the BBC to play his hymns on Christmas Day. Read Letter from Africa: The Nigerian Who Composed Hymns from a Leprosy Colony (BBC, with thanks to Justin Long for this find).

Rejoicing with hymns,

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Embers Fanned into Flame

Source: Ethnos 360, December 3, 2017

Underneath the palm frond canopy of the church roof sat elders and deacons representing 24 churches and three teams of missionaries. The 50 men filled the church, its half-height walls permitting the early morning light to illuminate their faces. Each face told a story. And though we only heard a portion of them, each story contained a common element: Praise to God for his faithfulness as he built his church in and through the Mouk people.

The Mouk live on the isolated island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. Their name, “Mouk,” means “a live ember on the end of a stick waved back and forth to provide light on the paths at night.”

And indeed, God has sent his light to the Mouk, embodying in them the meaning of their name as they faithfully carried his light to every Mouk village and are now carrying it cross-culturally to the neighboring Lusi, Anem, and Kove peoples.

» Full story describes what it took to reach and disciple the Mouk and how God is now using them beyond their borders. A related article includes prayer requests from a Mouk cross-cultural missionary, with insights into ways “sending” is different in their context. Does the name Mouk ring a bell? You may remember the Mouk from the popular video Ee-Taow.

NIGERIA: Missionary Shot after Singing Amazing Grace

Source: The Christian Post, November 27, 2017

A Christian missionary was shot dead in Nigeria after playing “Amazing Grace” on his guitar, two of the British survivors who were rescued in November revealed.

“Ian [Squire] was a man of faith, humor, music, and invention,” David Donovan told The Telegraph on [November 24].

The kidnapers took the Donovans and the other two hostages at gunpoint, ignoring their pleas that they were missionary medics. The missionaries explained that the men who took them belonged to the “Egbesu Boys,” a cult-like gang named after an ancient war god in local Ijaw tribal culture.

After taking the four hostages to the hut, the kidnapers decided to hand back some of their belongings, which included Squire’s acoustic guitar. The British optician decided to try and raise the spirits of the other captives by playing and singing “Amazing Grace,” which happened to be the only song he could play without using music sheets.

“It was the perfect song, and at that point things began to look not quite as bad,” David Donovan recalled, stating that it reminded the other missionaries about their decision to serve the gospel and follow their calling.

“But then, after Ian finished playing, he stood up, and a salvo of gunshots killed him instantly.”

» Read full story. A version of this story that appeared in the Guardian includes pictures of three of the four hostages.

EGYPT: 21 Churches Receive Long-Delayed Approval to Rebuild

Source: World Watch Monitor, November 29, 2017

Twenty-one churches in Egypt’s southern rural Minya governorate can restore, expand, and rebuild their churches after receiving approval from the Minya Governor. Governor Essam al-Bedeiwi approved the 21 applications over the last six months. Some of the churches had been waiting for more than 20 years for a permit to come through.

Some analysts note that the approvals have preceded several visits by international evangelical delegations to Cairo.

[On November 19], leaders from evangelical churches around the world met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo, as part of the celebrations marking 500 years since the Reformation. This followed a visit in early November by a delegation of Christian evangelicals from the US to meet evangelical leaders in Egypt.

» Full story also describes other developments involving religious liberty and government actions in Egypt. Also from this source, see Syria: Homs Christians Return to Rebuild Homes and Lives.

UZBEKISTAN: Silk Road Secrets

Source: Create International, November 15, 2017

The ancient silk road, famed for the transportation of exotic spices, silks, and other valuables in the ages past, winds its way through Central Asia including Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara, all cities in the beautiful nation of Uzbekistan.

In this past year the Uzbek Bible has been published. The next step in the process is to develop strategies for scripture engagement. Our contacts were eager to create tools that would both assist with this and also share the love of Christ with the 30 million Uzbeks.

It turns out that both [the prophets] Daniel and Job are well known to Uzbeks. The official tomb of the Prophet Daniel is in Samarkand. Also there is a spring that has a legend connected to Job, known to Uzbeks as the “Patient Prophet.” Both monuments set up for these men are visited by many Uzbeks every day.

So we set out to make “documentaries with a difference”—sharing the beauty and history of Uzbekistan with their own people and giving insight into these two characters. The films tie together scripture and Uzbek culture in unique ways to express how the gospel is not foreign (i.e., not Russian) and Jesus is their way to salvation.

» Read full story. I don’t see a way to get the documentaries described here, but found a link to a IndigiTube, a related website where you can download more than 450 gospel films in over 120 different languages and search for audio Bibles in more than 1,300 different languages.

» See also Believers in Tajikistan Risk Their Lives to Share the Gospel (Open Doors) about the growth of the church in a neighboring country.

USA: Dinner Churches Spring Up Nationwide

Source: Joel News International, December 4, 2017

In 2009, Saint Lydia’s, a Lutheran church in Brooklyn, New York garnered national attention when it began holding a weekly service over dinner. Longing to dispel feelings of isolation often reported among young New Yorkers, founder Emily Scott decided to model her service around the early church practice of having a meal together as Eucharist.

Meanwhile, the Assemblies of God Community Dinners in Seattle, Washington; the Disciples of Christ Potluck Church in Madisonville, Kentucky; and the Episcopal Southside Abbey in Chattanooga, Tennessee began experimenting with their own ideas of meal-centered worship. One by one, communities began to emerge, though many remained unaware of others participating in the movement.

In the years since, the model has grown from four to over forty congregations across North America and Europe, with new communities emerging on a weekly basis.

» Learn more (Christian Food Movement). Story includes links to dinner church locations. Maybe you want to start one or incorporate some of the ideas. Thanks to Joel News for this story. Subscribe here.

What would you change? | Resource Reviews


From Forest Hills Church in Charlotte, North Carolina: Watch this reminder that we have much to be thankful for.

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SURVEY: Missions Catalyst in 2018

Greetings, readers! We’re thankful for the chance to serve you and grateful to our families and colleagues who continue to give us the freedom to keep this thing rolling. Much thanks!

Quick question for you as we head into the last month of 2017:

What’s one thing you would have us change about Missions Catalyst to make it more helpful to you in 2018?