Making Disciples Through Prayer

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Editor’s note: All names of Chinese believers are pseudonyms.

“God uses prayer to remind us the work is not ours; it’s his. We are not handing a plan or a schedule to God to sign his name; we pray to know the list written by God’s hand,” one Chinese pastor’s wife wrote nearly four years ago as she reflected on the importance of prayer in her own life. “Human beings cannot do God’s work unless we depend on his power and mighty hand.”

These are trying times for Chinese Christians. New regulations impose stricter guidelines, replacing the older, more ambiguous laws under which the house church has thrived over recent decades. In this season, one collection of urban Chinese has begun a serious training program focused on building God’s kingdom through prayer. These believers have a vision of a Spirit-filled prayer movement that strengthens existing churches and believers, building God’s heavenly kingdom on earth. They want, through prayer, to make new disciples.

Since the beginning of 2020, prayer has increasingly taken center stage in the lives and ministry of many Chinese Christians. In January of 2020, COVID-19 became first a national emergency and then a global one. In Wuhan, hospitals were engorged with sick. Then the streets turned ghostly silent as a city of millions was cordoned off from the world and strict quarantines were enacted. Almost immediately, daily, online prayer gatherings began popping up among Mainland Chinese believers. Although participants were separated by church network affiliations and physical locations across China, they were united in prayer.

More than a year later, this intentional move toward prayer continues. 


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Christianity’s first adherents were characterized, as Luke wrote in the New Testament, by a devotion “to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and…prayers.” This resulted in a daily litany of conversions for the first-century church. Just so, Chinese Christians are praying kingdom prayers: for revival, repenting for hard-heartedness, and kneeling before a ruling God. 

Wu Enhui, a prayer movement leader in southern China, has said that now is an exciting time for prayer ministry in China. Wu wants to see prayer groups proliferate across China, expanding Christ’s kingdom through prayer and evangelism. Her desire, she says, is to “multiply committed believers to become prayer leaders and carry out the Great Commission.” 

“We all know we are powerless,” said Carrie, a Chinese believer in the States who works to support house churches in Mainland. Yet within God’s paradoxical economy, the weak and despised shake the foundations of the world. These believers are attempting to make disciples, not through strategic plans or well-executed ideas, but through prayer. Carrie continues: “We know what is going on in China with persecution, and that encourages us to pray—because we are powerless, we cannot change anything. But prayer is powerful.”

Scripture commands believers to live without fear or anxiety. Such confidence is, of course, more easily spoken of than enacted in times of challenge. Yet the goal during difficulty is not merely to survive; it is to thrive. The aim is the growth and maturation of God’s earthly kingdom manifest in China. As the Chinese church continues to navigate an uncertain present and future, believers are learning that prayer is God’s gift for fear. 

This is not the first time in recent Chinese history where difficulty directly led to prayer. In the 1970s and before, Chinese Christians underwent great persecution. In the midst of their suffering, “they became a people of prayer,” reflects a Kunming pastor. “By faith they prayed for the revival of the churches in China and the spread of the gospel. I believe it is because of their faithful prayer that we have this generation of believers to inherit their work.”

Currently, the ongoing prayer trainings are held online, and focus on both the theology and practice of prayer. During a training last month, one Chinese believer questioned how he could know if God was answering his prayers. “The biggest answer to prayer, the answer we want no matter what we ask for, is that we would receive God,” teachers exhorted. “Whatever I ask God for, his answer is the answer I want, because my Father just spoke to me.” God does not always answer his children by smoothing their path. Instead, prayer is powerful because it is relational communication between Father and child. In the same uncomplicated way that a child senses her parents’ pleasure with her, we also can know that we have God’s favor. 

Like most Christians, Chinese believers know that prayer ought to be an important and daily part of Christian life. Yet when it comes to a life of prayer, Carrie said, many lack training. Intentional teaching on prayer is leading believers to open their eyes to how they can pray, for what things they can pray, and where and when they can pray. 

The prayer training leads believers to not only pray, but teaches and equips them, through prayer, for all aspects of Christian life. Young believers are trained in the faith by guided prayer through the Old Testament covenants. Every participant in the prayer cells learns to share the gospel through prayer evangelism. Practical love for God and neighbor are taught and prayed through. This routine is not to be confined to a year of prayer class but is meant to be repeated and replicated, hopefully spreading across China and the world. The Chinese church wants to see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven, in China as in the kingdom of God above.

Prayer, explains Carrie, is a habit: difficult to start, but increasingly automatic once begun. Prayer is building a relationship with God, day by day as we take our thoughts and questions to him. “Of course I know God knows what I am thinking,” she said, “but I think he very much appreciates that we can be the one to do this part.”

Prayer is creating camaraderie and joyful sharing between believers across the nation as they are united together before God. There is much that Chinese Christians cannot control. But as they bring their hopes, fears, and troubles to God, they gain fellowship and power by resting in his control of the uncontrollable. 

“Prayer is essentially submission to God. It is a kind of surrender,” said a pastor from northern China of his church’s experience with prayer. “Our vision has come from knowing what God says in the Bible and recognizing our circumstances, and then submitting ourselves to him in obedience through prayer. It is not that we have been given any unmistakable vision or guidance.”

Another pastor shared: “We move forward on our knees, traveling upstream….the vision of the kingdom of the gospel is not something we can accomplish by ourselves. But God has placed this impossible mission into the hands of his redeemed people…We must pray daily and engage in inner training. When we have this inner training, then we can serve outwardly.”

Christians learn to pray by praying. Right now, urban Chinese Christians are prioritizing this vertical communication with their Heavenly Father. In the midst of uncertainty, these believers have great hopes for what God will continue to do as he builds his Kingdom on earth.

“As we pray together with King Jesus,” said Wu Enhui, the prayer leader, “the Lord’s church will be strengthened, and all the disturbances and attacks of evil will be nullified. The gospel will be preached widely, disciples will be built up, and we will become leaders in prayer to carry out the Great Commission.” 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Here are a few ways to pray for Chinese prayer ministry:

-Pray for Chinese Christians to be a people of prayer who “move forward on [their] knees.”

-Pray for God’s will to be done in China “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Our blog exists, not just to share information, but to resource the global church to share the joys and burdens of the Chinese church. Our hope is that everything you read here will lead you to intentional, knowledgeable prayer for the Chinese church.

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Further Reading

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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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