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Researching for Effective Prayer for a People

Jesus taught us to pray,

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

The goal of this prayer is for God to be glorified through the fulfillment of His will on earth, just as it is already fulfilled in heaven. According to this prayer, God’s will includes four basic components:

  1. Physical sustenance for all people (“give us today our daily bread”).
  2. Right relationships between all people and God (“forgive us our debts”).
  3. Right relationships among all people (“as we also have forgiven our debtors”).
  4. Right responses to sin and Satan (“lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”).

By researching the historical influences in each of these four areas for a given region and/or people, we can better understand the current situation and pray with greater specificity, see answers with greater clarity, and so glorify God.

Our research should be guided by God, meaning we need to ask for his guidance and listen to him through his Holy Spirit in us and in each other. With that as a foundation, here are some guidelines for pursuing a greater understanding of how to pray for God’s kingdom to come to a particular people or place:

Physical sustenance for all people

Certain physical needs are common to all people throughout the world. They include food, water, clothing, shelter and safety. However, factors such as natural resources, urbanization, wars and other disasters often result in unmet or under-met physical needs. By researching these kinds factors, we can better understand and pray for the physical needs of people in a given place.

Sample research questions:

  • Are the basic physical needs of people being met? Which needs tend to be met; which needs tend to be unmet or under-met?
  • Are certain groups of people more likely to have their physical needs met than other groups of people? Who are these different groups? Why is there a discrepancy?
  • Are there certain physical or health problems that are typical of the people or that are common within a certain geographic or socio-cultural sub-group? What are they? Why do they exist?
  • What trends exist within each of the earlier questions? What trends are influencing the current and future physical needs of the people?

Use the results of your research to describe 3-5 physical needs and underlying causes and trends of the people you and others will be praying for. Suggest ways for people to pray – that is, what specific changes will happen in this area as God’s kingdom comes to this group of people?

Right relationships between all people and God

The greatest need for all people is a right relationship with God. Although this need is universally expressed, it always begins with a false fulfillment in the worship of the created rather than the Creator. By researching the ways people worship and the things people worship, we can better understand and pray for the spiritual needs of people, which can only be met in Jesus Christ.

Sample research questions:

  • What are the historic religious beliefs and practices of the people?
  • What are the current religious beliefs and practices of the people? Do they vary among different geographic or demographic groups? If so, how?
  • To what degree and in what way have the historic beliefs and practices been incorporated into the current beliefs and practices?

Use the results of your research to describe 3-5 false beliefs and the ways in which they are manifested. Suggest ways for people to pray – that is, what specific truths of God can directly combat these spiritual lies?

Right relationships among all people

In addition to being in right relationship with Him, God designed people to be in right relationship with each other. However, just as sin has broken our relationship with God, it has also broken our relationship with each other. While this is obvious at many levels, it is most damaging at the level of unforgiveness. By researching ways in which relationships tend to be broken, we can better pray for the healing of relationships through forgiveness.

Sample research questions:

  • Men and women – how do men and women treat each other – within marriage? in the workplace? in society? How common is marriage? How frequent is divorce? In what ways are women most likely abused? In what ways is this accepted or challenged?
  • Adults and children – how are children viewed? Who raises them? How? In what ways are children most likely abused? In what ways is this accepted or challenged?
  • Politics and power – in what ways has political or military power been historically exercised over the people as a whole? How has the historical use of power affected current-day relationships in government, society, business and the home?

Use the results of your research to describe 3-5 common sources of broken relationships. Suggest ways for people to pray – that is, what ways do people need to both be protected from each other and to forgive each other?

Right responses to sin and Satan

Even after people repent of their sin and entrust their lives to Jesus Christ, they remain vulnerable to temptation and are often targeted for attack by the armies of Satan. God’s people are therefore encouraged to stand firm in temptation and are warned to resist the attacks of the evil one. By researching the particular ways in which the people of God tend to be tempted and attacked, we can better pray for them to master both sin and Satan.

Sample research questions:

  • Lust of the flesh1 – what kinds of physical temptations are common to the people of God? This could include sex, drugs, food, etc.
  • Lust of the eyes – what kind of mental temptations are common to the people of God? This could include fantasy about sex, food, drugs, etc.
  • Pride of life – what kind of social temptations are common to the people of God? This could include power, prestige, possessions, etc.
  • Satanic attack – who does Satan tend to attack? In what ways does he tend to attack these people? How do the people of God interpret, respond to and protect against these kinds of attacks?

Use the results of your research to describe 3-5 common temptations, as well as 1-2 ways that Satan frequently attacks the people of God. Suggest ways for people to pray – that is, what ways do people need to be prepared for these temptations and protected from these attacks?

Standing in the Gap

In the time of the Old Testament, God sought out the prophet Ezekiel to “stand in the gap” before God on the behalf of a people.2 Ezekiel’s job was to intercede for those people so that they would experience the gracious will of God rather than the wrath of God. That is what we do when we pray for God’s kingdom to come, and his will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

May God use your research to help many stand in the gap with you on behalf of the people He has call you to.

1See 1 John 2:16 for the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life

2This phrase is from Ezekiel 22:30; examples of standing in the gap include Abraham’s interecession for Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33), and Moses’ intercession for the Israelites (Exodus 32:11-14).


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