For 20 years a great tool—the “Intercessors for China” prayer calendar—has been available to help those who love and/or serve in China pray effectively for China. Each year had a different theme, and each day had a specific item for prayer. The 2016 edition, which focuses on Taiwan, will be the last edition.
We recently caught up with the compiler of the calendar and asked him three questions about the story of “Intercessors for China.”
1. What is the story of the calendar? How and when did it get started?
This has been a team effort from the start. We published our first prayer calendar in 1996 with the inspiration coming from a Chinese Christian and with major production and distribution help coming from a Singaporean Christian. At that time, my wife and I were part of a multi-national team of Christians living and working in a large city in north China. There had been a major revival in some rural areas for a number of years, and we knew that prayer had fueled that revival—prayer from foreign workers who had lived in China before 1949 as well as prayer from Chinese Christians who had lived through the dark days after 1949. However, we saw very little evidence of that revival in China’s cities.
Brother Bian, a Chinese Christian friend who had experienced those dark days, once shared with us that he and his wife prayed for our team every day. We were extremely moved by that remark, and it got us thinking about how we could get Christians outside of China to pray every day for China, especially for revival in the cities. (At the time, we did not even know that Brother Bian had written the famous missionary poem, “To My Brother, the Unknown Evangelist”).
We brainstormed with our Singaporean team leader about a way to mobilize prayer for China. The tool had to be something easy to use and yet also attractive enough to appeal to people who might not ordinarily be interested in China.
The idea of a beautifully designed wall calendar seemed to meet our needs. Our team leader gave us permission to devote time to write the text of a prayer calendar for other cities where we also had teams. Then he introduced us to a design, printing and distribution organization in Singapore. With this help, we printed 5,000 copies and distributed them through our team members and other organizations with workers in China to potential prayer warriors outside of China.
The reception of that first calendar was so positive that we were spurred on to develop a more long-term plan—to cover in prayer all the 600+ cities in China in a strategic, comprehensive, and specific way. “Strategic” meant that we had daily items organized along themes that were intended to cover all of society, e.g. Monday for the family, Tuesday for the church, Wednesday for the workplace, Thursday for the government, etc. “Comprehensive” initially meant prayer for cities in all of China’s provinces and autonomous regions (plus the national municipalities).
We started with a plan that devoted an entire week to major cities; for those first years, we were covering 52 cities each year. However, later on when we began to highlight smaller cities, we prayed for a different city each day. “Specific” meant that each day we initially prayed for a named individual or group in the designated area, and we included a Bible reference so that God’s Word could be the foundation for each daily prayer.
The first version of the prayer calendar was in English. Within a few years, we offered a version in Chinese traditional script. We have also had editions in Korean, Portuguese, Romanian and Chinese simplified scripts in some years. We now also post the prayer items on our webpage and send them via twitter.
2. How do you put it together? What is your process of compilation?
Generally we separate research for the top and bottom pages. The top pages have a general theme, and the bottom pages have daily prayer items for geographic units. Some years the top pages have featured people, e.g. Chinese Christian Men (2004), Chinese Christian Women (2005), Foreign Missionaries (2007), etc. Some years there is theme, e.g. Boxer Martyrs (2000), the Gospel in Chinese Characters (2006), Beijing Olympics (2008), the Sichuan Earthquake (2009), the Family in China (2015), etc.
Much of the material for the top pages comes from books. Fortunately I like to read, and I have spent many pleasurable hours researching periodicals or books by favorite authors like Xue Xinran, Ma Jian, Liao Yiwu, Simon Leys, Jasper Becker, Frank Dikötter, Steven Mosher and Rodney Stark.
The process of compiling material for the prayer items on the bottom pages has evolved with available technology. In the early years, we would travel to places in China and interview people or use material from Christian periodicals and newsletters that were carried into China for me to read. When I came across items that could potentially be used in my daily reading of the news, I would save items in a database that is organized both by subject and geographical place. It was amazing how many times I would want an item for X place and when I checked my data base, I would find something from the prior year or two that was exactly what I needed. In recent years, particularly when we began to have daily items on less populous counties, we would rely heavily on focused Internet searches.
I did the initial research and writing. My wife did the editing and has worked with several different wonderful layout artists on the design, choice of photos, etc. When our children were younger, they often also helped during the summer on different aspects of the project. All told, we have printed nearly 500,000 copies.
3. Why have you decided to end it?
We completed our initial goal of mobilizing prayer for China’s cities in 2007; we were amazed and encouraged to see how God worked to bring growth to the urban church during those years of focused prayer for China’s urban millions. At that time we sensed God leading us to continue with the 1600+ counties of China, and that goal was accomplished with the 2015 calendar. We have also been moved to see that our many prayer items calling for an end to the one-child policy have just been answered with policy changes, albeit incomplete, in a better direction.
We decided to do one more year—the 2016 calendar— after a visit to Taiwan made us more aware of the great spiritual needs there. The 2016 calendar rounds out a 20-year effort, and as my wife and I are in our late 60s, this seems a good place to stop with the printed calendar.
Even though the calendar will no longer be published after the 2016 edition, current prayer items will continue to be posted on the Pray for China website. and via Twitter (@pray4china). Copies of the current calendar (and some past editions) can be purchased on the website.
Thanks to “Intercessors for China” for helping so many people know how to pray for China!
Image credit: "Intercessors for China."
Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio