"When we pray for the unreached, we align ourselves with God's heart, embracing His love for all people and His desire for their restoration," says Ian.
There are parts of the world where hundreds of millions of people live, work, laugh, mourn and play, where the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ is shining very dimly. Where there is so little Christian witness. These places include OM’s five key focus regions: the Mekong, the Sahel, the North Caucasus, the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia.
Where I live in the Middle East, there have been painfully stinging times over the years, driving through remote village after remote village for hours, knowing that there is no Christian community or Christian witness at all. Or visiting many households over a period of days and coming away with the burden that not only is the knowledge of the gospel basically zero, but that the opportunities to encounter Jesus through the life and testimony of one who follows Him are also, humanly speaking, so small. It can drive us to despondency or to resignation. Or it can drive us to prayer.
OM has identified five key focus regions, with the aim of focusing extra prayer, extra attention and, at times, extra resources, as we long to see the transformative power of the gospel go deeper and further in these places. The heart of the Father is for all peoples, of course, and while these spotlight regions are certainly least-reached regions, they are also clearly not the only least-reached regions in the world. Therefore, although we continue to focus on the least reached everywhere, we are putting special emphasis on these five regions. They are a call for us to engage in the transformative action and habit of prayer.
Why do we pray for these key focus regions?
1. Because the task of reaching the least reached is spiritual in nature. We ourselves can accomplish nothing. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (NIV). Prayer becomes our way to engage in the spiritual realm; in a sense, it allows us to be used by God to pave the way for His grace and mercy to flow amongst the least reached.
2. Because breakthrough is 100 per cent dependent upon God’s intervention. In prayer, we acknowledge this. I believe in things like planning and strategic thinking (these are also God-given tasks and instruments), but we ourselves cannot bring about the transformation we long to see. We long to see His miraculous work unfold, and that is why we seek, through prayer, His intervention and His touch upon lives in ways we can’t even imagine.
3. Because prayer has the power to soften and change hearts. As we lift up the least reached in prayer, we ask God to work within communities, breaking down barriers of resistance and cultural strongholds that hinder the acceptance of the gospel. Hearts that once seemed impenetrable can be softened (Ez. 36:26).
4. And again, because prayer has the power to soften and change hearts: ours. One of the most profound truths about God's heart is His love for all people, regardless of their background or location. In John 3:16 the term "world" encompasses every corner, every tribe and every nation. God's heart is deeply concerned for the least reached, and in prayer, we align ourselves with His love and compassion.
The power of prayer
Throughout the Bible, God reveals His desire to restore the broken and lost. Jesus was sent to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and to release the prisoners from darkness. Not always, but often, least-reached communities face oppression, poverty and or injustice. In prayer, we are asking God to bring healing and restoration.
Do we really believe this? Do we believe that God can do it? Do we believe that seeds of faith can grow and blossom in the driest places? Do we believe that prayer changes the reality for the least reached? Do we believe that God responds to our prayers? When we pray for the unreached, we align ourselves with God's heart, embracing His love for all people and His desire for their restoration.
So let us, as a community of believers, passionately seek God’s intervention. And as we do so, may we find ourselves transformed, our hearts growing in compassion and our faith deepening as we witness God's very power at work.
Ian leads field ministries in OM, making sure that OM’s vision and mission get carried out in the day-to-day activities of the various ministries. He grew up in Europe but has lived most of his adult life in the Middle East. Ian has served with OM as both the director for the Near East and the area leader for Middle East and North Africa. He is passionate about seeing people thrive and the least-reached reached.