12.12. is a day for Christians around the globe to pause and pray for our most needy neighbors. Suffering college students, it’s time to lift your eyes from your text-books and intercede for the suffering of others. Families preparing to celebrate the coming of our Suffering Servant Savior, it’s time to pray that that Savior would become real to those with very little hope. These are busy times, but pain takes no vacation. And today, as always, our good God is waiting to respond to the requests of His people on behalf of those the world forgets, but He doesn’t. Today is the annual Global Day of Prayer for the Poor and Suffering.
What follows is a rather lengthy guide to serve as a catalyst for your time of intercession, whether it’s a minute or an hour. Use it in whole or in part. No moment in prayer is insignificant or wasted.
Setting the Stage
When it comes to praying for the poor and suffering, there are countless issues that could be described and prayed for. It is truly overwhelming. However, every journey begins with a single step, and though the needs of the poor and suffering are astronomical, the simple commitment to pray for even one or a handful of issues, is an important step. I’ve taken the prayer points out-lined by Convoy of Hope’s prayer guide, and drawing from about a gazillion resources, have high-lighted an issue or two that can help us all pray with more knowledge and intentionality for each category. Don’t hesitate to add issues that burden your heart into this list.
In these prayer points, I frequently share numbers and statistics. To put those numbers in perspective, keep in mind that there are now close to 7 billion people in the world, and around 300 million in the United States.
About 80% of all people are living at some level of poverty, and 1 out of 4 live in extreme poverty. When you pray for the poor and suffering, you intercede for a large portion of the world…and a large part of God’s heart as well.
Pray for God’s Workers, Pray for God’s Power, Pray for God’s Love
Think of some of the missionaries you know working among the poor in the developing world, or with other suffering populations around the world. Lift up their ministries, that they would be marked with God’s power and compassion. And pray that more people would respond to God’s call into the harvest fields.
Consider this thought: The greatest injustice in the world today is that people don’t know Jesus. The greatest suffering people face is not knowing the love God has for them and the value He gives them. In Luke 4:18, Jesus declares that He came to proclaim good news to the poor. Pray that the poor would hear the good news Jesus came to bring them.
-There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today—more than any other time in history.
-800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year
-70% are women, 50% are children
-World-wide there are an estimated 2 million children in the commercial sex trade
-An estimated 14,500-17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year
Focus Issue: Forced Labor
Forced labor slavery is the use of deception or violent coercion to compel someone to labor without pay or for no pay beyond the substance necessary to continue the labor.
Modern-day slaves face brutal conditions in rock quarries, rice mills, brick kilns, fisheries, garment factories and many other industries around the world. Victims of slavery are often deprived of the freedom of movement, unable to leave the facility where they are forced to work and unable to seek employment elsewhere. Forced laborers are also often victims of violent physical and sexual abuse.
Debt bondage is a common method used to entrap victims of slavery. In this illegal scheme, an employer offers a small loan (often as low as $25) to a laborer, with the under-standing that the loan will be repaid through work at the owner’s facility. The perpetrator ensures this repayment is impossible by inflating the loan through exorbitant interest rates, false charges and denying requests for information on the status of the loan. The laborer is forbidden to leave the work facility until the loan is repaid in full. The employer becomes the laborer’s owner – and the loan’s conditions are often extended to relatives of the victim, including children, who are forced to work off a false and ever-growing debt.
Focus Issue: Refugees in Burma
Over fifty years of civil war have left Burma one of the poorest countries in the world. The military dictatorship attacks its own people, killing thousands, and leaving millions displaced.
Many in opposition are either imprisoned or killed. There are over 1 million internally displaced people, and over 1 million refugees who have fled the country. There is continual environmental destruction, an HIV/AIDS epidemic, the ongoing laying of landmines, human trafficking and religious persecution. The ethnic minority is especially vulnerable to attack. Many villagers have been forced to flee and going into hiding or leaving the country as refugees. Landmines are often deployed to keep villagers from returning to their homes.
Focus Issue: Contaminated Water
Around the world, one in six people does not have access to safe water. According to researchers, well over half of all childhood deaths are connected to dirty water. Children around the world walk long distances to fetch water that may carry cholera, giardia and typhoid, instead of going to school. Dirty water is linked to the deaths of about 1.5 million children each year.
Focus Issue: Famine in the Horn of Africa
FAMINE: when 2 or more people per 10,000 people die every day; when 1/3 of young children suffer from acute malnutrition. While many people suffer from hunger and on-going malnutrition, famine is very rare. This year the United Nations declared the first famine in nearly 30 years occurring in the Horn of Africa. There are more than 13 million lives are at risk, and 35 percent of all children in the region now facing emergency levels of malnutrition.
In Somalia alone, the famine has killed more than 29,000 children under the age of 5 and millions are at risk. While the famine continues to affect millions, it has become “old news” and is being ignored by much of the world.
Focus Issues: Land Seizure and Street Children
Across Africa, many widows and orphans are left defenseless when their husband or father dies. In this time of vulnerability, they become victims of ‘succession-related’ property grabbing – the term for illegal property seizure in the aftermath of a death. Victims often lose not only their homes, but – for many who raise crops or engage in small enterprise on their land – their only sources of livelihood, leaving them and their children homeless and without income. In Uganda, 30% of widows and orphans surveyed had been the victim of property seizure.
Around the world, millions of children live on the streets. Some have a poor home to return to at night; many simply fend for themselves, finding shelter where they can, for example, in city sewers. Street children exist in many major cities, especially in developing countries, and may be subject to abuse, neglect, exploitation, or even, in extreme cases, murder by “cleanup squads” hired by local businesses or police. In Latin America, and in parts of Asia, a common cause is abandonment by poor families unable to feed all their children. In Africa, an increasingly common cause is AIDS killing parents, or otherwise rendering them unable to care for their children. The number of street kids is nearly impossible to estimate, but the number is certainly in the tens of millions and quite possibly over 100 million.
Focus Issues: Aids Pandemic and Death in Childbirth
There are 40.3 million people living with Aids world-wide, 1/3 between the ages of 15-24. Many of those people are wives who have contracted the disease from their husbands, or children who got it from their mothers. While there is a treatment for HIV that allows it to remain dormant for a lengthy time, not many people can afford medication, and many people (especially in places where AIDS carries a great social stigma) do not even know they are affected until it is too late.
Nearly 600,000 women die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth each year. 98% of those deaths are in developing nations.
Education and Employment
Focus Issue: Sweat-shops and the Cycle of Poverty
In the world today, lack of good employment options is a major contributor to poverty in all its forms. Sweat-shops are factories that capitalize on the vulnerability of the poor, demanding their employees work long hours for very little pay, and often in violent or abusive conditions. Large corporations will almost always choose the bid from factories that save them the most money (that have the lowest labor costs), and so bad conditions are rewarded rather than challenged. Unemployment is rampant in many countries, and making one or two dollars is better than making nothing, so poor laborers find themselves trapped in an ongoing cycle of poverty, lucky if they can keep themselves and their families alive, never able to rise above subsistence living, no matter how hard they work.
Lack of education is another huge factor in the vulnerability of the poor. Without education, job choices are severely limited. Learning to read and vocational skills are two key areas of education that could make a huge difference for the poor. This is especially true for women, who are even less likely to be given an education, and are extremely vulnerable to being trafficked into the commercial sex trade.