How to help your family pray for unreached people groups

5 resources to highlight God’s heart for the nations

January 6, 2022

The Muslim call to prayer filled the Central Asian village. All the men in the house slowly rose from the floor cushions to cleanse themselves for prayer — all except the one Western visitor in a private guest room. Mohammed’s heart beat as fast as a hummingbird’s wings. He had waited years for this moment to transpire.

“I will stay with our guest,” he said, stroking his long black beard. Since hospitality and honoring guests are highly valued among Central Asians, the others nodded in agreement. Cultural standards dictated a guest should never be left alone. Mohammed could pray after the group returned.

Once he was certain the other men were gone, Mohammed leaned toward the guest and whispered, “All my life, I have wanted to be near to God.” With 10 minutes of privacy, the middle-aged Muslim man asked the visitor questions about a Bible passage he had read years ago. The guest wanted to give Mohammed a copy of the New Testament in his own language, but he wouldn’t be able to return to this newfound seeker’s far-flung village without raising suspicions. They would need to find a time when Mohammed could visit the city.

What is an unreached group?

The concept of a person or group being unreached can be difficult to grasp in America where multiple churches exist on the same block. But in many parts of the world, this is not the case. A people group is considered unreached when less than 2% of its population is Christian and when that group lacks the momentum to see their people discipled. Simply put, when a people group is unreached, this means that from the time a person is born until the day they die, they do not have a chance to hear who Jesus truly is. 

People who reside in an unreached country can’t walk down the street to a church to ask questions about Jesus, and it’s unlikely they’ll find a Christian in their community. If there are believers present, they are often not open about their new faith because of the persecution and high level of personal cost that comes with leaving their former faith behind. In parts of Central Asia, for example, it’s still illegal for a Muslim to become a Christian.

According to the Joshua Project, 42.5% of the world is unreached with the gospel. This includes 61% of people (about five billion) who reside in the 10/40 Window — an area between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude that stretches across Asia, the Middle East, and northern Africa. 

The Bible’s call to care for the unreached

Christians have a role to play in ensuring those without the gospel get access to it. Some believers go as missionaries to preach the gospel in hard places. But if we aren’t called to go to the unreached, then an important way we can participate in this work is through prayer (Isa. 49:6). In Acts 10, God leads the way for Gentiles to hear the gospel by sending two visions — one to Cornelius and another to Peter. While there are many important truths in this text, I want to point out three that relate to our responsibility as believers to care for the unreached.

First, Cornelius needed someone to share the gospel with him. Cornelius was not a follower of Jesus yet, but when we meet him in Acts 10, he was being drawn to God. Cornelius had “a zeal for God,” but he didn’t yet have the full picture. The Bible tells us that “no one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11) — that no amount of morality or religious devotion can lead to salvation — but the seeking prayers of a person who hasn’t yet been made new can serve as a springboard to their later coming to know Christ. 

Acts tells us that Cornelius’ prayers and alms were acceptable to God (10:4). We can attribute this to God’s grace in his life (Eph. 2:8, Gal. 1:15) — grace that God brought to fullness when he sent Peter to Cornelius’s home. God handpicked the apostle to share the good news with Cornelius so that the Gentiles could repent, believe, and become a part of the global church (10:45; Rom. 10:17).

Second, Peter learned that God’s salvation plan includes the Gentiles. Through a vision, Peter learned that gospel was intended for every nation who fears God (10:35). The vision centered around food initially, but Peter quickly began to understand that God was talking about more than food. God was indicating that “all people are clean” and can become followers of Jesus (10:35). When Peter entered Cornelius’ home, it went against all the Jewish traditions and customs he’d been taught (see Lev. 20:24–26). But though he’d learned not to mingle with Gentiles, Peter now proclaimed the reality that God was making the two divided groups into one.

When Peter preached to Cornelius’ household, he emphasized the fact that God is the Lord of all — over everyone and everything (10:34, 43, and 47). Peter repeats the word “all” several times (10:36, 38, 43) in his sermon. He’s making the point that God’s plan — since Old Testament times — has been to save people from every nation (cf. Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron . 19:7; Job 34:19). God does not show partiality; his purpose is to save people from around the world, not just the Israelites (Gen. 12:3; Isa. 49:6; Psa. 67:2). 

Third, the inclusion of the Gentiles is a fulfillment of the Great Commission. It’s the mission mandate in action (Matt. 28:18–20). God was clearly orchestrating the Acts 10 events. He sent both Cornelius and Peter visions, and through both men’s obedience and the work of the Holy Spirit, many Gentiles were saved. Across the globe, God is drawing people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to himself. He works in a variety of ways: through dreams, visions, healing works, and through the witness of individual believers who share the gospel. 

How your family can pray for the unreached

As we see in Acts 10, God desires that all people to know and worship him. It is his purpose to include those without access to the gospel. As Christian parents, we can share God’s heart for the unreached with our children. Through our prayers, we can take an active role in caring for unreached people like Mohammed who waited years to meet a Christian. 

God wanted Cornelius to hear the gospel, and he sent Peter to proclaim the good news. If God cares about saving those in places where the gospel hasn’t reached yet, then we should find delight in praying for those still waiting to hear the good news. Here are five resources your family can use as you care and pray for unreached people:

  1. You can pray for Bible translation work using Wycliffe’s Bible Translators children’s book, Around the World With Kate and Mack: A Look at Languages From A to Z. This resource engages children with the impact Bible translation has on communities around the world, and it fosters a heart to pray for the Bible to continue to be translated into more languages.
  2. Pray through different countries and people groups around the world using Window on the World: An Operation World Prayer Resource. This made-for-kids missionary prayer book provides insight into what life is like for people in different countries and regions of the world, and it gives prayer prompts that families can use to pray for the people in each country to be reached with the gospel.
  3. Read Rivers Overseas, a children’s picture book that shares about how some are called to go overseas to share the gospel. The book will help children understand how God is faithful to those he calls to go.
  4. Download the free Loving Northern Africa and Middle Eastern Peoples Family Activities resource from the International Missions Board. This five-day devotion allows children to learn more about the culture and needs of unreached people in the NAME region.
  5. Finally, you can sign up for a Joshua Project newsletter and pray for an unreached people group each day. The daily email lists an unreached people group and a prayer focus for that group. During your dinner meal, on the way to school, or before bed — whatever fits your family’s schedule — you can incorporate the daily unreached group into your prayer time. 

Because Peter was a key leader in the Jerusalem church, God wanted him to be an early part of his new work among the nations. Later, when Paul was sent on his missionary journeys, he became known as the apostle to the Gentiles, but God also wanted those who were not working to reach unreached groups as their full-time work to understand God’s bigger plan. 

Peter’s ministry focus wasn’t shifting — he would still primarily focus on sharing the gospel with the Jews (Gal. 2:8) — but God wanted him to embrace the larger mission, so he gave Peter a front-row seat for the enfolding of the Gentiles into the church. God wants our families to have a front-row seat as well. We can teach our children that God is a God for all peoples by regularly praying for unreached people like Cornelius and Mohammed.

Jenny Marcelene

Jenny Marcelene spent six years living in conservative Muslim countries and desires to help parents and children catch a glimpse of how God is at work among the nations. She serves as a regular contributor for Momma Theologians and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24