by Karen Hardin
Karen is passionate about equipping children and families to understand God’s global purposes and embrace their role in advancing His kingdom. She loves creating mission resources, training children’s workers, and hanging out with some of the cutest folks on the planet—kids. Karen currently serves with WEAVE, a ministry of the Center for Mission Mobilization. weavefamily.org
Children’s prayers have no limits. Their prayers can travel to the far corners of the world, penetrating unreached communities and effecting boys and girls they’ve never met. Thomas is a case in point. When his teacher presented a lesson on the Bhils, a tribal group in North India who is virtually unreached with the Gospel, God burdened Thomas’ heart to pray for them. Two years later, Thomas' mom contacted the church, asking for information about the "Bhil" people group. Apparently, her son had been praying for them every night for two years! How can we equip our children to become powerful intercessors for the unreached?
Make It Connect
To young children, “unreached” means an elusive cookie jar on a high shelf. Older children reflect on endless weeks before summer vacation begins. We need to expand their concept of “unreached” to include not only distance and time, but also lack of access. Here are six activities to help kids contrast their access to information about God with that of an unreached child.
1) Visit a local Christian bookstore and stand in the Bible section or count all the Bibles in your house. Unreached peoples do not have access to even one Bible—God’s revelation of Himself to us.
2) Listen to a favorite worship song. Unreached peoples have never sung a song of praise to the true, living God.
3) Watch an animated Bible story or movie. Unreached peoples have no movies that depict what God does or how He relates to people.
4) Name programs, activities, or classes that have taught you something about God. In unreached cultures, children do not attend Sunday school, Awana, Vacation Bible School, or Christian camp. These programs do not exist.
5) Use a phone book or the Internet to find names of Christian churches in your community. How many are there? Unreached peoples live in places where it is impossible to attend a church where God’s Word is taught. There aren’t any!
6) Name family members and friends who are believers. The grandparents, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and friends of unreached children are unreached, too. These boys and girls do not have anyone who can show them what it looks like to follow Jesus in daily life.
Once children relate to the situation of the unreached, their prayers will become heartfelt.
Make It Biblical
Even heartfelt prayer, if based solely on emotions like concern or pity, is fleeting. How do we develop a habit of intercession that prevents prayers for the unreached from being supplanted by another cause or shut down by despair at the enormity of the issue? We need to infuse children’s prayers with hope by undergirding teaching about the unreached with a biblical understanding of God’s heart and plan for them. God’s Word is clear about His love for all peoples, His plan to redeem them, and His desire to receive their worship.
Start with a familiar passage: John 3:16. We often teach children to personalize this verse by substituting their own name for “world.” “For God so loved Nathan, …” Revise this activity to underscore God’s loving plan to include people from every culture on earth in His eternal family. Choose five unreached people groups (joshuaproject.net) and teach your children to pronounce their names. Recite John 3:16 with your group, replacing the word “world” with the name of an unreached group. “For God so loved the Tajiks, …” Explain that God had all peoples in mind when He sent Jesus, even those who are still waiting to hear about Him for the first time.
After sharing God’s global plan with children, give them a peek at the future. Design a glitzy poster that says “heaven.” Give your children cards with names of unreached peoples or objects that represent them (like flags from other countries, ethnic hats, clothing, international dolls, or paper figures of international children). Invite your children to place their objects near the “heaven” poster as you read the following verses.
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” Revelation 7:9-10.
Discuss the phrase “every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.” Explain that once God sets a plan in motion, He does not stop until His purpose is fulfilled. People living in unreached cultures today will someday know and worship the true God. Knowing that God is saying “yes” to their prayers for unreached peoples gives children the confidence to keep praying over the long haul.
Make It a Partnership
Children need to understand that their prayers for unreached peoples are both far-reaching and powerful, not because of their words, but because of the God who hears and answers them. Here’s a simple demonstration that teaches children that when they intercede, they have a powerful partner and ally in heaven who uses their prayers to change the world.
Squeeze a world squishy ball and invite your children to observe what happens. Discuss how the ball changes shape as pressure is applied. Explain that when they pray for unreached peoples, God hears their prayers and begins to act. By His power, He changes and shapes the world for His purposes.
Make It Personal
Children can’t relate to millions of unreached peoples, but they can identify with one boy or girl. Here are two resources that equip children to intercede for the unreached in specific ways.
1) The Kids Around the World series (cmmpress.org) includes videos that showcase 11 different unreached cultures from a child’s viewpoint. Each set includes activities (language, games, crafts, foods, geography, history) that enable children to experience a bit of daily life in the featured culture. Bible lessons teach about the religious beliefs of the unreached group and prayer activities provide hands-on ways for children to intercede.
2) The WEAVE website (weavefamily.org) includes a monthly story of an unreached child with a cultural activity, recipe, discussion questions, and prayer requests.
Make It Engaging
Children learn through involvement. Here are some prayer activities that engage their minds, bodies, and hearts.
Kids Like Me Prayers
Lay a large world map on the floor. The children will take off their shoes and sit around it. Choose children to take turns standing on countries with many unreached peoples. China, Indonesia, India, North Korea, and North Africa are good ones to start with. Let each child pray for the boys and girls who live there, using one of the following categories. Example: “God, please help the kids in India who like soccer to come to know you.”
same age same hair color same sport or hobby
same eye color same grade same favorite school subject
same name same favorite color same number of people in family
Praying for unreached Han Chinese. Most Chinese families use chopsticks. Put prayer requests on slips of paper. Fold the slips in half and place them in a large bowl. The children will use chopsticks to remove the prayer requests. Read the requests and pray.
Praying for unreached Kazakhs. The Kazakhs were traditionally shepherds, but God sees them as lost sheep. Find a simple sheep pattern online. Make copies, cut out the sheep, and write a prayer request on each one. Hide the sheep around the room and the children will search for them. Read the requests and pray.
Praying for unreached North Koreans. Across Asia, families drink tea. Print prayer requests on small pieces of paper. Staple them to the paper tags on teabags. Place the teabags in a teapot. The children will pull out the teabags, read the requests, and pray.
3) Disaster-Related Prayers
Tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, and famine often hit areas with large numbers of unreached peoples. God uses these situations to soften hearts and cause the unreached to cry out to Him. Here’s a way for children to pray during this time of spiritual openness.
In a bag, put items that represent needs (suggested items below). Tailor this to the specific situation. Lay a large world map on the floor. The children will take off their shoes and sit around the map. Tell the children a little about the disaster that occurred. Locate the country on the map and place small bandages on it. Choose a child to pull one item out of the bag. Talk about what it represents (below). The child will then pick up a bandage from the map and replace it with the chosen item. Pray for God to provide for the need represented. Example: “God, help kids injured in the Haiti earthquake to have the medicine and doctors they need.”
fruit = food
notebook = school
cup = clean water
toy house = home
pill bottle = healthcare
family picture = loving adults
Bible = Jesus
God has given us the privilege of discipling children in our homes and churches. Let’s help them become mighty prayer warriors who can intercede for the unreached with compassion, hope, and perseverance.