Who should we pray for this Christmas? | Christmas with a Difference
In the run up to Christmas, it can be very easy to keep focused solely on our own lives, and get caught up in a personal whirlwind. While this can be expected: it’s one of the busiest times of the year, perhaps today you’d like to stop for a little while, and think about something a little different.
Christmas can be a really tough time of year for lots of people, in a number of ways. Today I thought I’d put together a list of prompts for myself and others to use when praying this Advent – because while the majority of people may be ecstatic about Christmas, there are people who won’t be.
THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
Around the world, there are over 200 million Christians who experience high levels of persecution because of their faith. Open Doors put together a ‘World Watch List’ every year, with the top 50 countries where it is the most difficult to live as a Christian. To view the full list, click here. I for one, do not realise the blessing I have to be able to openly worship, and openly celebrate the truth of Christmas. For many, if they were to even publicly mutter the name of Jesus, they are at risk of death.
This Christmas, I want to uphold the persecuted church: those who cannot celebrate Christmas, those whose faith is hidden.
- The top 5 in the WWL are North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan.
- Refugees who have been forced to flee their homes: may they experience God’s unparalleled peace and comfort this Christmas, even when far away from their homes and sometimes families.
- Those who are imprisoned wrongly for their faith: for justice and peace despite the circumstances.
- For church leaders in these places: wisdom, knowledge and encouragement
According to a recent survey by Shelter, there are around 300,000 people in the UK who classify as homeless. To put that number into perspective (which I always find helpful), that’s 1 in every 200 people.
Even then, that number doesn’t include those who are ‘hidden’ homeless. Winter is the must punishing season in terms of the weather, and so many people don’t have someplace warm to go to. Even something as simple as snowfall sends the nation into a spin, but how often do we think about those who are stuck outside in that weather?
The homeless are people just like you or me. I find it heart-breaking that we’re living in a society where homelessness is so prevalent, and it doesn’t seem to be improving.
- For those who don’t have a place to stay this Winter: safety, peace and love
- For those in local authorities: that they begin to tackle homelessness head on, rather than dodging the problem
- For local organisations who run Winter Night Shelters: for the volunteers, the guests, and the friendships formed
- That we may not ignore the situation around us: that we don’t walk past and dodge eye-contact, but that we offer a friendly face, smile and even a warm drink
For some, this will be the first Christmas without a loved one. Christmas and New Year is such a family-oriented time, and that loss can feel so obvious, sometimes in ways that you hadn’t expected before. It’s important for us all to be sensitive – we don’t always know what someone is going through. Grief could also be for those who are mourning the loss of relationships. Regardless of what it is – the festive season can be a real challenge, and something we should be aware of.
- Those for whom the loss is raw, and fresh, and the last thing on their mind is Christmas: may they know God’s peace, comfort and strength
- For any who are fearing the prospect of Christmas ‘without’ someone
- For broken families, and situations where relationships have been fractured: that Christmas could be a time of reconciliation, and that God goes before them.
Although this may seem hard to believe, Christmas can be a really lonely time of year. For those who have no family, or live far away from them, it is hard to embrace the ‘family’ spirit of Christmas. It is also a time of year where feeling ‘lonely in a crowded room’ is particularly prevalent – especially if you’re feeling disconnected, or on the outskirts of a friendship group.
Perhaps you know of someone who is going to be on their own this Christmas, maybe you could invite them to spend Christmas with you?
- For those who are on their own on Christmas Day, or over the holiday
- For those who may be stepping out and serving Christmas lunch at Church, or inviting someone in.
- For those who feel lonely even when surrounded by people: may they experience God’s love in a new way and feel comforted
THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW JESUS
And ultimately, Christmas is one of the most exciting times of year from an evangelical perspective. People who may never go to Church year-round are more open and amenable to attending Church at Christmas time, and this is such an important opportunity. I feel encouraged to pray for those who don’t know Jesus, yet may have this opportunity this Christmas. For sharing the Truth and power of the Gospel is one of the most exciting things – and if we’re not excited about it, then we may come to the new year disappointed.
- Those who are stepping out in faith and inviting non-Christian friends to Church services
- Those who don’t know Jesus: may their hearts be open, their ears attentive, and eyes turned towards His glory
- For Church leaders, may their words be blessed and anointed, in ways that touch the hearts of those who need to hear the Good News
- For those who believe Christmas is all about presents, materialism and Santa Claus, may they realise who really is the Truth of Christmas, and the greatest gift of all
This is by no means an exhaustive list, instead merely a starting point, or something to encourage you to keep praying, and thinking about those for whom Christmas is a hard time of year. Because there is power in prayer, and we can make a difference.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)