It is estimated that over 3 billion people in the world are currently considered unreached. Unreached peoples and places are those among whom Christ is largely unknown. The church is relatively insufficient to make Christ known in its broader population without outside help.
Seeing disciples made among the unreached should be on the radar of every Christian, particularly in view of Christ’s command to make disciples of “all nations” (Matthew 28:19). And one way we participate in this work is through prayer. Outside of specific prayer requests from missionaries supported by our churches, it’s easy for our requests to remain so vague. These prayers can be so general that it becomes difficult to stay motivated to pray consistently. Beyond, “God, please save the world,” we’re not always sure what to pray.
Below you’ll find a list of ways to pray for unreached people and places based on various truths found in God’s Word. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it can serve as a starting point as you pray for those with little or no access to the gospel.
Pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest.
What Jesus told his first disciples is still true today: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37). This is particularly true when it comes to unreached peoples and places, where there are few, if any, workers. Therefore, we should begin where Jesus told us to begin—by praying “earnestly” for the Lord to “send out laborers into his harvest” (v. 38).
Pray for God to open the minds and hearts of the unreached to the light of the gospel.
Like all unbelievers, the unreached have been blinded to the light of the gospel by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4). Even when they hear the gospel, the unreached are unable and unwilling to receive it due to their spiritual condition. Only by God’s grace and power do people see the beauty of Christ and their need for him. That’s why we should ask God to shine in the hearts of the unreached to give “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v. 6).
Pray for healthy churches and faithful pastors to be raised up among the unreached.
The long-term goal in sending missionaries to the unreached is to see disciples made and then gathered into churches. Planting biblically-sound churches is the best way for the gospel to take root and spread within a people group. This means that indigenous pastors will eventually be needed to lead these churches. We should pray that Christ would continue to build his church and those faithful pastors would be raised up.
Pray for God to sustain the faith of missionaries and indigenous believers through trials, persecution, and pressure.
In addition to spiritual blindness, there are a variety of other barriers to the spread of the gospel among the unreached, including various forms of persecution and other physical difficulties. Missionaries and the few indigenous believers (if there are any) in these places need endurance to persevere in the faith and bear witness to Christ, regardless of the cost. Pray that God would preserve them by his power and sustain their hope according to his promises in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35, 37–39).
Pray for God to work in the lives of those who persecute the church, either converting them or otherwise thwarting their efforts to stop the spread of the gospel.
While God can and does use persecution for the spread of the gospel, persecution remains a significant barrier to the spread of the gospel in many parts of the world. We should ask God to convert unjust leaders through the witness of his people. Otherwise, we can pray that God would remove them and thwart their efforts to harm his people and their witness. Regardless of how God chooses to work, we can trust that all earthly rulers are under the sovereign control of Christ’s lordship (Psalm 2:1–12).
Pray for Scripture to be translated into languages where Christ is not now known.
When people proclaim, teach, explain, and read his Word, God saves and sanctifies his people. Having access to Scripture is therefore crucial for the life and health of any church. We should pray that Scripture would be translated into more and more languages among the unreached and that God would bless this slow and often painstaking work. The Spirit-breathed words of Scripture are sufficient to give God’s people new life and to build them up in Christ (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Pray for God’s kindness and mercy to be shown toward those among the unreached who face extreme physical suffering.
We need salvation offered in the gospel. Yet many among the unreached experience extreme physical suffering and hardships. Many face war and violence, poverty, a lack of clean drinking water, and human trafficking. These are needs that should concern Christians as we seek to love our neighbors who are far away (Matthew 22:39). We cannot meet every need that arises in the world. But we can pray that God would help churches meet these needs. We should partner with churches both near and far from the unreached. In this partnership, we seek to meet physical needs and share the gospel.
For more on specific ways to pray for the unreached, visit Stratus, an online tool that details both spiritual and physical needs from every country in the world.