“Ask of me and I will give the nations for your inheritance and the ends of the earth for your possession.” (Psalm 2:8)
God used these words to confirm his call to Patrick Johnston. Just as the Father challenged the Son to pray for and claim the nations, so Jesus in turn bequeathed that challenge to us! This seeking the nations for the Father’s glory defined the ministry of Patrick. After serving for 16 years with the Dorothea Mission – an agency dedicated to soul-winning and prayer for the nations, the first Operation World was compiled to bring people together to pray for the nations. The research and vision for this resource brought Patrick and his first wife Jill into the leadership team of WEC International in 1979.
After several editions of the full version, Jill saw her long standing desire for a children’s prayer guide completed in 1992, just before she went to be with the Lord. The first country covered was Albania; the first country to openly declare itself an atheistic nation. The effectiveness of the prayers of the children decided the title of the book. Jill ran a children’s prayer group and in 1989, when Albania was closed to the gospel, the children prayed earnestly. Later, to their delight, Albania’s atheist rulers were overthrown and missionaries allowed in. One of the girls declared, “We’ve changed Albania!” Hence the title of Jill’s book, “You Can Change the World”.
From the first copies of Operation World until today, people young and old have continued to change the world. Here are just six examples of what could be many volumes of the changes brought to the world through prayer.
- Evangelical Awakening
What is now known as the sixth Evangelical Awakening or more popularly the Jesus Movement, coincided with the launch of the first edition of Operation World in 1965. This was the beginning of the charismatic awakening and global prayer movements across the world. The following 50 years have witnessed the greatest turning to Christ the world has ever seen. Yet, the world’s press has ignored this fact.
In 1983 Brother Andrew challenged the Christian world to a seven-year prayer war to tear down the Iron Curtain. Six years later the Berlin Wall came down, followed by the fragmentation of the USSR. Today in Central Asia there are many indigenous churches with possibly 100,000 believers – none were known in 1990.
- The Miracle of Iran
There were fewer than 500 Iranian believers from a Muslim background when the Ayatollahs set up an Islamic theocracy in 1978. This led to much prayer for Iran. This revolution was disastrous for the country, and, not liking what they had, many began to seek the Lord. There may now be 500,000 Iranian followers of Jesus across networks of illegal house churches, and many more worldwide.
- Breakthrough in Algeria
For a century intercessors prayed and missionaries toiled. Charles Marsh, the great missionary to the Kabyle people, said that he had to bury nearly everyone he led to Jesus (they were martyred). Thirty years ago a few Kabyle were discipled by foreigners; the start of a movement to Christ in the midst of violent civil war. Today we estimate that there are over 300,000 believers.
- The Church in China
Hudson Taylor’s mobilisation of Christians to pray for China is being answered – but the unlikely ‘evangelist’ was the communist Mao Tse Tung. The million evangelicals in 1949 has grown to 100 million or more today.
- Muslim Background Believers
For a century or more a great volume of prayer has gone up for breakthroughs in the world of Islam. The rise of jihadist Islam has been one of many factors leading to this turn-around. There were less than 200,000 believers from a Muslim background in 1960, but today there may be 10 million! In his book, A Wind in the House of Islam, David Garrison identifies at least 69 movements of 1000+ Muslim conversions or 100 churches planted. The 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World project began in 1993. Surely this too has been a stimulus to the great number of Muslims coming to faith in recent years?
This article is based upon Patrick Johnstone’ s reflections that first appeared in the WEC UK magazine. He is author Emeritus of Operation World, amongst many other contributions to the world Christian movement.
May these changes encourage you to engage in prayer for further long-awaited breakthroughs among people clusters in their homelands and diasporas around the world. There are still many people groups with few known believers. Maybe you can adopt such a people for prayer, or use a resource like Operation World (available from WEC NZ). Let’s mobilise an army of intercessors to change our needy world!
“Operation World is an invaluable book that has revolutionised my prayer life more than any other book outside the Bible.” David Platt (Author, pastor and IMB President)
Each month we produce prayer notes for all our Kiwi and Pasifika workers. If you’d like to receive this, please contact us. All our workers would love to have more people “standing in the gap” on behalf of the people they serve. If you’d like to pray for workers in a particular region of the world, please be in touch and we’ll connect you with someone.
Join a prayer group. WEC has several groups around NZ who meet regularly to pray for workers from WEC and often other missions. Contact us for more information. And if there isn’t a group in your area or that doesn’t meet at a time that works for you, get in touch and we can help you get set up.