1) Pray for their physical protection
On June 5, unknown gunmen attacked the St. Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo, Ondo State in southwestern Nigeria; members had gathered to celebrate Pentecost. The attackers senselessly killed an estimated 50 attendees.
Our brothers and sisters in Nigeria are seen as “less than” by many extremist groups, which puts their physical safety at great risk.
Father God, we think of our persecuted family in Nigeria. We think of their physical well-being as the death toll mounts. We pray boldly for their protection. We pray boldly that not one more bullet will take an innocent life. We ask You shield and protect Your children from great harm. Save them, Father. Let not one more life be taken for their faith in You. Please hear our prayers. Amen.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” –Isaiah 41:10
2) Pray for their emotional well-being
On May 25, armed men broke into a church in Katsina State, Nigeria, and kidnapped a priest and his assistant, as well as two boys who were worshiping. It’s currently unknown where they’ve been taken to and what their condition is.
Our Nigerian family is living in the constant fear of not knowing: “Will we be attacked at our next church gathering? Will our village be set on fire? Will we be kidnapped?” Just the threat of violence is enough to steal joy and snuff out peace.
Our great God, we come before you and plead for the emotional well-being of our Christian family in Nigeria. We can’t even begin to comprehend the full gravity of their situation, where the threat of an attack is not just the thing of news articles, but actual reality. We pray You protect their peace of mind and let their peace in You be contagious to their own family, friends and neighbors. Wash over them and let them feel Your constant presence, even in the unknown. We praise You, Father. Amen.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” –Joshua 1:9
3) Pray the Fruits of the Spirit will flourish amid the violence
On May 12, Muslim students from Shehu Shagari College of Education in Wamako, Sokoto State, Nigeria, brutally attacked and killed fellow student Deborah Samuel Yakubu, a home economics major. Why? Simply because she posted an online message: “Jesus Christ is the greatest, He helped me pass my exams.”
Evil is at work and fighting against the greatness of our God. With such tragic stories, it can be desperately hard for the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to flourish.
Our Lord God, we see the horrors in Nigeria. There is a war taking place against Your gifts. We ask and pray that our family feel Your presence, that your priceless gifts might burn and glow from within. We ask that, in spite of the atrocities around them, You would bless your children with Your Spirit, that they would feel you through all circumstances. We pray they won’t be robbed of You. Please hear our cries. Amen.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” –Galatians 5:22-23
4) Pray the Nigerian government will make moves to protect their people
On April 28, the Nigerian Senate passed a bill that would impose jail terms of at least 15 years on anyone who pays a ransom to free a hostage kidnapped by bandits and extremist groups. Open Doors’ field leaders have expressed critical concern over this new bill.
With few resources, sometimes paying a ransom is the only way to get a loved one back. Paired with that, the government seems powerless against the rising violence in their own country, leaving their citizens vulnerable and forced to take matters into their own hands.
Lord, we know the power of government, and we know the difference between a government that helps instead of hinders. We ask You inspire and move inside those in power in Nigeria, that they would not sit idly by as attacks and violence increase, but would instead move and pass legislation to protect their people—all people. We know You are above all earthly kings; we ask You to move in Your earthly servants, that they would move swiftly in protecting those most vulnerable. Amen.
“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.” –Psalm 34:7-9
5) Pray for those in captivity
Agnes was 19 when she was kidnapped by extremists during a deadly attack on her village in northeast Nigeria. She remained in Boko Haram captivity for two years.
Agnes’ story is just one of many. Believers are often taken hostage and are abused beyond mention. Not only that, they’re often forced to renounce their faith in Christ and instead follow Islam.
God, our good Father, we come before You on behalf of our brothers and sisters living in captivity in Nigeria. We can’t imagine the horrors they’re facing. We feel their pain, doubt and fear. We ask You make Yourself known to them, comforting them, reminding them You are still God and are still in control. We pray boldly that all captives will be set free—today—in Your name. Please comfort Your children. Amen.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” –Isaiah 61:1
6) Pray Christians will not hate their enemies
On May 4, Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) fighters attacked Kautikari, located in southern Borno State, Nigeria. The terrorists entered the village in the early evening and shot indiscriminately at men, women and children. Eight people were killed.
Family, friends and neighbors are losing their lives. There is personal anguish and spiritual pain. It can be all too easy to hate the attackers and wish them harm.
Lord, hate is something that can grow inside us, as a small bud at first, but can take deep roots and control our lives. We pray our brothers and sisters in Nigeria will not hate, but love. We ask You clothe them with Your understanding, that they will see these attackers not as brutal, mindless killers, but as Your precious creations. What a hard prayer, Father. We ask that You help our brothers and sisters love; let Your love be the ultimate example. Amen.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” –Matthew 5:44
7) Pray for confusion amongst their enemies
“An unholy handshake.” That’s what Nigerian officials are calling the new alliances between violent extremist groups, such as Boko Haram, ISWAP, Fulani herdsmen, bandits and gangs. The groups are reportedly coming together, coordinating their attacks on Christians and anyone who does not adhere to their strict interpretation of Islam.
It seems the table is being set for the violence in Nigeria to get even worse, especially with the coordination of these extremist groups who will stop at nothing to further their cause.
Father God, we see what’s happening in Nigeria, with the unifying of these groups for a common goal: to press a perversion of Islam and crush Christianity. But like Gideon’s troops watched as there was confusion in the camp below, we pray for the same. You are a God of miracles, and we ask for miraculous confusion amongst these groups. We pray for dissent and differences to push them further apart, instead of drawing them in. We ask this “unholy handshake” shatter into pieces, in Your righteous name. Amen.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” –Deuteronomy 31:6
8) Pray their families will stay united physically, emotionally and spiritually
Charity and her children were forced to flee their village when Boko Haram attacked. Through the chaos and confusion, she was separated from her children. It was after a week of not knowing if her children had survived that they were finally reunited.
The family is one of God’s greatest gifts to His people. A family can withstand the most severe of life’s storms. A united family in Him cannot fall.
Lord, You’ve blessed Your people with the precious gift of family. The evil one is trying to tear family apart at the seams, but we know united, there is nothing we can’t handle. We pray for the families of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, that they’ll overcome the wiles of evil, that they’ll stay united physically, emotionally and spiritually. We pray your blessings over their families, because we know even if evil surrounds their houses, through You, there won’t be a door for evil to open. Please gift Your families with Your unity and presence. Amen.
“No harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” –Psalm 91:10-11
9) Pray God will restore the years taken away
In 2015, Boko Haram violently attacked Christians in Guyaku, Nigeria. The extremist group killed several believers and burned all but six houses. The church, too, was reduced to rubble. However, today, the village has been rebuilt, and the new church stands stronger than ever.
Evil is alive and well in Nigeria, constantly tearing down what others have worked so hard to build up. But with our God, there can be healing, restoration and rebirth.
God, You are the One that can restore. You see the way evil is trying to drag Your people down, but because of You, we don’t have to stay down. In Nigeria, there is pain and loss. So much has been taken away and cut short. We pray for restoration and rebirth. We pray You will work miraculously and build Your people up. Please build Your people up again. Please show them Your mighty hand. In You we pray, Amen.
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” –Joel 2:25a
10) Pray others will be attracted to their bold, daring faith
In Nigeria in 2021, a Christian was killed for their faith every two hours on average; that’s nearly 13 Christians a day and 372 Christians a month. More Christians were murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country. Nigeria accounted for nearly 80% of Christian martyrs worldwide.
But Christians still remain in Nigeria. Christianity has taken root and people see the goodness of God in their land. Christians live lives full of peace, love and joy—attractive qualities amidst the confusion and hatred that is trying to swallow the country whole.
Our good Father, our Christian family in Nigeria has not recanted their faith. Even though the numbers of those injured and killed for their faith are staggering, Christians joyfully remain in Nigeria. We pray others will see the peace, love and joy in Your people and be attracted to it. We pray conversations and conversions will take place, that even though there is an enemy trying to kill Christianity, the number of Christians in the country will boom. We pray boldly that You work in the hearts of those opposed to Christianity; we pray they will see the error in their ways, confess their souls and welcome You in. We pray You restore Nigeria and make Yourself visible to all. Do what You do, Father God. In all things. Amen.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7