How to Pray for Work in Sensitive Areas of the World

There are nearly 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, and more than 1,600 languages — including sign languages — that likely still need translation to begin.

Much of this remaining work is happening in countries where the gospel isn't welcome. Because of this, precautions have to be taken about what information can be shared, particularly online. The work is sensitive, and we need to be careful to protect our missionaries who are faithfully serving God by bringing his Word to people living in these hard-to-reach areas.

As prayer partners, we can cover these missionaries and their work in prayer. It's a significant part of Bible translation! But how can you pray when you often don't know specific details? When you don't know the actual language name, or maybe even the country that they live in? It can be difficult and challenging, but not impossible. After all, the important thing is that God knows exactly who you’re praying for, where they live and what’s happening in their community.

Here are a few tips to get you started as you pray for work happening in sensitive areas of the world:

Pray for what you do know.

As often as we can, Wycliffe shares details related to translation projects, teams and communities that are being reached with the gospel. That way you can pray specifically and intentionally for what is happening around the world.

But sometimes names — whether of individuals, languages or even countries — have to be changed to protect the missionaries and their work. Even if an alternative name has to be used, God knows who you're talking about! Simply pray for the language, the people and the work with whatever information you have available.

Pray for what you don't know.

The remaining 1,700 languages that likely still need translation work to begin are often in some of the most sensitive, hard-to-reach places Wycliffe and its partner organizations have worked in. As a result, there may be significant obstacles to relaying information about projects starting, progressing and even finishing. Often this information is so sensitive that it can't be shared in any online platform. But these projects still need to be covered in prayer!

Romans 8:26-27 says, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will” (NLT). Ask the Holy Spirit to pray on your behalf and trust that God will accomplish his will as he deems best. Even if you have to pray in generalities, your prayers still make a difference.

Pray for Bible translation in general.

Bible translation can't happen without the faithful prayers of God's people. We've seen doors open, obstacles overcome and lives changed as a result of people interceding on behalf of the work of Bible translation all around the world. And you're a part of that!

When you pray for God's name to be made known among the nations, he listens — and he's answering in tangible ways every day! Whether you know specifically what's happening in a project, what people group is being reached or what language is being translated, your prayers are fueling this life-transforming work.

Pray for those awaiting Scripture.

Whether it’s a portion, New Testament or all of Scripture, pray for the hearts of those waiting for the Word in their own language. Some have been waiting years for translation to begin and others are expecting more Scriptures to gain a deeper understanding of God’s plan for their lives. Pray for communities and governments (even if you don’t know them by name) to be prepared to welcome and receive translation work and, ultimately, the gospel. Pray for mother-tongue translators, exegetical consultants and other critical workers to be raised up and strengthened for the task.

As you pray join with the psalmist when he declares, “I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray” (Psalm 17:6, NLT). God hears your prayers, and he’s answering them. Whether you know who exactly you’re praying for or not, he’s at work. And as you lift up the work of Bible translation and the lives that are impacted when they hear God’s Word in their own language for the very first time, you can trust that God will answer.