A 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.