PATTAYA, Thailand – Hundreds of evangelical leaders from dozens of countries spent Sunday in a half-day fast and full-day prayer for the challenges facing the Church in different regions of the world.
Under the theme of "One Lord, One Body, One Voice," participants of the 2008 World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly devoted their first full day of the conference to prayer with the focus of "One Lord."
Delegates were asked to pray for the financial crisis, which exposed the "moral bankruptcy of godless systems" and for the effects it will have on churches and ministries worldwide.
Other general global prayer points included prayers for new political leaders who will soon be elected in several countries, for the Church to fully witness and act as a moral authority in society, for the reaching of unevangelized people with the Gospel, and for God to watch over and protect the millions of refugees, displaced and trafficked people in the world.
"I think we are increasingly understanding that prayer is – if not the battle – a key part of the battle to see the Kingdom of God expand and manifest itself throughout the globe," said Jason Mandryk of the country-specific prayer ministry Operation World and co-host of Sunday's Concert of Prayer, to The Christian Post after the prayer event.
"So it is very encouraging to see people on the executive leadership level devoting this kind of time to prayer," he said.
Following the general prayers, delegates attending the WEA's first general assembly in seven years dove into specifics for the church by region. WEA member alliances in each region provided praiseworthy points as well as challenges facing the Church in their particular area.
In Asia, the leaders rejoiced that the continent has seen "incredible growth" and that churches have been planted and grown in many previously unevangelized areas. They also praised new levels of unity, maturity and global vision in Asian churches, including the extraordinary rise in mission sending movements.
But churches in Asia also face major challenges including being home to 83 percent of the world's non-Christian population, having the most aggressive anti-Christian regimes that systematically persecute believers, and having some of the world's most difficult to resolve internal conflicts.
African leaders, similar to their Asian counterpart, expressed gratitude for the rapid evangelical growth in the region over the last 100 years – from 1.6 million in 1900 to more than 120 million Christians today.
Evangelicals in Africa are also increasingly impacting the social, economic, and political spheres in their country as well as expanding their mission vision, they praised.
However, there is need to pray for greater discipleship of African Christians, the African leaders shared. While many Africans say they readily accept Jesus Christ as their savior, they have not changed their animist worldview and are therefore not fully living as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Other challenges facing Africa include its socio-political instability and the need to identify and train the next generation of Christian leaders.
For North America, the National Association of Evangelicals expressed gratitude for the numerous opportunities given to evangelicals to voice their opinions in the public sphere, and for the organization's renewed organizational structure and membership. In terms of prayer request, North American evangelicals asked for wisdom in managing their influence and for the development of current socio-political issues such as the sanctity of life, creation care, and immigration.
"[I]t is especially encouraging that we are recognizing that all of our dialogue, theologizing, discussion and reports – while being nice – but [that] ultimately prayer is the work," Mandryk remarked, "and once we do that work in prayer and intercession then we can reap the benefits of the harvest through the ministries we are doing."
Other region's prayer points include:
• Praises: Strong history of the Gospel in Europe; the Global South's help in sparking a revival in Europe; and the growing courage among evangelicals to publically stand up for Christ
• Challenges: Freedom of speech or of religion, which are increasingly threatened in many countries as Europe becomes more secular; and the success of Easter 2009 when thousands of young people from all over Europe and Eurasia are anticipated to attend a missional lifestyle Congress in Germany
• Praises: No unreached people (although many remain unsaved) and relatively political stability that allows complete freedom to preach the Gospel
• Challenges: High levels of HIV-infection (second only to Sub-Saharan Africa); evangelicals are not comfortable with moving beyond their church walls to impact society; and absence of a revival – the Caribbean has never experienced one
• Praises: Burgeoning evangelical population that numbers more than 70 million; the growth of mission movements; and recognition that the Church is a major factor in impacting society
• Challenges: As a multicultural continent, it has a problem with unity and there is large amount of work-related migration that separates families for extended periods.