Matthew 25: Prayer for children’s protection

Samira continues to recover from the trauma of being trafficked.

Children are a precious gift from God. As adults, we have the privilege and responsibility to care for them, pray for all children’s protection and safety, and help children around us live the full and abundant life God desires for them. Sadly, love and security aren’t the reality for hundreds of millions of children who suffer from sexual exploitation, labor in hazardous conditions, or struggle to survive on the streets.

In some places, warfare can separate children from their families, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. Children are also forced to join armed rebel groups to serve as soldiers, porters, sex slaves, and more. Extreme drought and hunger force families to make desperate choices about putting children to work or girls into child marriage.

Despite being outlawed in many countries, girls are still undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM), and some girls aren’t born at all because of prenatal sex selection. In other places, children are trafficked for sex, sent to work in dangerous factories, or locked into domestic servitude. And in some countries — the U.S. included — gang violence tears families apart and creates a culture of violence that draws youth into harmful activities.

Child abuse, neglect, exploitation, child labor, bodily harm, child marriage, and other forms of harm against children — even murder and child sacrifice — are among the greatest evils in the world. Join us in prayer for the protection of children, for an end to all harm against children, for the children who remain trapped in this nightmare, and for World Vision’s work to protect children around the world.

I have come in order that you might have life — life in all its fullness. —John 10:10 (GNT)

Samira* loved going to school and longed to continue her education. However, at the age of 14, her family could no longer afford that luxury. They sent her to live and work with her older sisters in Mumbai, India.

Samira asked her sister’s husband to find some work as domestic help in someone’s house. He came to her one day saying he’d found a good opportunity for her, but instead, he gave her to traffickers who pushed her into the world of commercial sexual exploitation in the brothels of Mumbai.

She spent three months in captivity in a brothel.

“What I went through, I would not want any other girl or woman to go through,” she says.

She also faced the heartbreak that it was a family member who had trafficked her.

Pray for supernatural protection for children.

The criminals who exploit children roam the world like the predators they truly are, looking to prey upon the vulnerable. They use lies, threats, coercion, and violence to force children into sexual and other kinds of exploitation. This is an evil business of supply and demand. Ask God to eliminate the demand and blind their eyes from seeing potential “supply” in children.

Dear Lord, Your Word is filled with accounts of miraculous protection. We claim that power for vulnerable children. Make Your little ones invisible to people who seek to exploit them. Whisper in the ears of the children to run and hide until the danger passes.

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. —Psalm 82:3­–4 (NIV)

Pray for the safety of children working in hazardous conditions.

Worldwide, 152 million children are involved in child labor. Of these, 73 million are involved in the worst forms of child labor, including mining, construction, scavenging, domestic and factory work, and agriculture. Hazardous conditions endanger children’s health, safety, and moral development. Ask God to keep children from harm as they struggle under heavy loads and work with unsafe tools and harsh chemicals.

Lord, we know You love all children, and we pray that when they must work, that You would protect children’s growing bodies. Please keep them safe and free of injuries and toxins. Deliver them from oppressive bosses and hazardous conditions. Make it possible from children at risk to stay in school.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” —Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

Pray to eradicate the root causes of child exploitation.

Child exploitation means using a child for profit, labor, sexual gratification, or for some other personal or financial advantage. At the heart of child exploitation are complex issues, including extreme poverty that can lead parents to sell their children. Sometimes moms and dads are tricked into believing that their children will work in a wealthy person’s home and will be treated fairly. But many are held as virtual slaves. Throughout the world, sin leads people to put their evil desires above all else, ignoring how they destroy the lives of innocent children. Ask God to do what only He can — soften people’s hearts and heal their minds.

Dear Lord, Your Word calls us to hunger and thirst for righteousness — a righteousness that leads to compassion for the poor and a renewing of minds. Lead us to this kind of faith that works to make a better world for all children.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. —Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Twelve-year-old Arafat works in a lathe machine shop from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., six days a week. He earns less than US $6 per week.
Twelve-year-old Arafat works in a lathe machine shop from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., six days a week. He earns less than US$6 per week. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Pray for an end to child labor.

Child labor can be fought at many levels — governments can enact or strengthen laws around human trafficking and labor; corporations can ensure that children are not exploited along their supply chains; communities can take greater responsibility for collectively protecting children; families can value their children’s well-being above economics. Pray for the power of God’s love to counter greed and desperation to change the hearts of people who can create better circumstances for children.

Lord, You are our provider, and we know all good things come from Your hand. Help families to find reliable incomes so children don’t have to work. We pray that laws and cultural practices would help protect children from a childhood of abuse and suffering.

“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “I will protect them from those who malign them.” —Psalm 12:5 (NIV)

Pray for an end to human trafficking.

After three months, Samira and few girls were taken to a hotel for work. A police raid happened while they were there. Some of the girls who’d been at the brothel longer hid, but Samira saw it as an opportunity to escape. She ran to the police asking for help.

Police took her to a shelter home in Mumbai and then one in Kolkata for a total of six months where she could begin to recover and heal. Finally she was able to return to live with another sister who raised her. She continues to heal by working with a World Vision case worker.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Nearly 40.3 million people worldwide are being trafficked for the sex trade, forced labor, forced marriage, and other illegal purposes. And evidence from Alliance 8.7 suggests that one in four modern slaves are children. Many are sold into prostitution to pay off family debts or abducted from the streets and forced to work in brothels. Children who escape or are rescued face a difficult physical and emotional recovery process — often suffering with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

Dear God, there are times when it is right — and righteous — to be angry. It is right to be angry about people who exploit children. Let that righteous anger fuel action, Lord. Don’t let it fade into complacency.

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. —Proverbs 31:9 (NIV)

Faith feels prepared for her future after going through a World Vision Alternative Rites of Passage program. She is thankful that she will not face FGM like so many of her peers.
Faith feels prepared for her future after going through a World Vision Alternative Rites of Passage program. She is thankful that she will not face FGM like so many of her peers. (©2021 World Vision/photo by Joseph Martin Muluka)

Pray for female genital mutilation (FGM) to stop.

Sixteen-year-old Faith loves education and longs to study nursing at the university. She was on course when COVID-19 caused schools to close down in Kenya.

“I was afraid of going home because one of my friends had gotten married off and another underwent FGM during the December 2019 school holidays,” she says, at her home situated in West Pokot County, Kenya.

Breaks from school pose a danger for girls in communities that still practice FGM like Faith’s. World Vision encourages communities to abandon FGM through mentorship programs such as the Kenya Big Dream Project. Participants receive Alternative Rites of Passage training, which offers a way to affirm traditional values while also upholding girls’ dignity.

Girls transition into womanhood through alternative methods, without being circumcised and married off. Both girls and boys learn about reproductive health, child rights, good health, and the harmful effects of FGM.

Boys, men, girls, and women all participate in the training sessions so they can become anti-FGM champions in their communities.

In fact, Faith’s mother told Faith about the workshops. She accompanied Faith to the training and became an advocate against FGM after the first day. Now they both visit communities sharing what they’ve learned about the harm that FGM causes and offering girls and boys alternative rites of passage.

World Vision and other organizations are educating and empowering girls and their communities to end FGM, often substituting positive rites of passage for teen girls and boys.

But COVID-19 has taken a toll. Due to pandemic-related disruptions in prevention programs, an estimated 2 million FGM cases could occur over the next decade that would otherwise have been averted.

Lord God, help families that practice FGM see its damaging effects on girls and young women. Motivate these families to turn away from inhumane practices, and we pray that You protect their female children from all forms of harm, including FGM. Help the Alternative Rites of Passage programs that have been delayed by the pandemic be restored so that more girls don’t have have to undergo FGM. Lay a hand of protection over girls at risk of FGM.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  —Romans 12:10 (NIV)

Pray for an end to child marriage.

In developing countries, one-third of girls are forced to marry before their 18th birthday. Fear of premarital pregnancy, rape, hunger, homelessness, and harmful traditional practices are all drivers of child marriage. Girls will also marry because of threats and coercion. Of the 25 countries with the highest rates, the majority are affected by conflict, fragility, or natural disasters.

Girls trapped in child marriage tend to be poor, under-educated, and live in rural areas where birth and death rates are high and conflict is common. They are more likely to experience domestic violence, forced sexual relations, and poor reproductive health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted efforts to end child marriage, which may result in an estimated additional 13 million child marriages taking place between 2020 and 2030 that otherwise would not have occurred.

World Vision helps organize local leaders, parents, educators, law enforcement, and social services to support girls in pursuing education and avoiding child marriage. And World Vision children’s clubs empower girls with information, particularly on child rights and healthy physical development.

Lord, we echo the psalmist’s confidence that You will deliver those who cry out to You for help. See to the needs of precious girls and boys vulnerable to child marriage or already trapped in its grasp. Hear and answer their cries for help. Remove the barriers caused by the pandemic and protect those who are most at-risk for child marriage. May cultures where it is accepted and encouraged learn of the harm it causes to children and change these societies.

For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. —Psalm 72:12 (NIV)

Felistus Malyoongo, 15, was lured into child marriage at age 14, but the local child protection committee brought her back home. Now 15, she stands in a classroom of the school she attends in rural Zambia.
Felistus, 15, stands in a classroom in her school in rural Zambia. Though she was lured into child marriage at age 14, the local child protection committee brought her back and encouraged her to return to school. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Pray for an end to child sacrifice.

Child sacrifice is an abomination. In certain districts of Uganda, witchdoctors convince people desperate for money to bear children or to rid their bodies of disease that can only be cured by traditional medicine mixed with a child’s body part, such as the head, fingers, or private parts. Ritual demands that the parts be removed while the child is still alive and conscious. World Vision’s Amber Alert-style program is taking on child sacrifice in Uganda.

Father, we come to You in prayer to protect Your children from abductors who prey on the most vulnerable. Bless the radical partnership between leaders of all faiths, law enforcement, traditional healers, and communities to stop child sacrifice once and for all. Comfort grieving parents in their time of unimaginable loss.

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. —Proverbs 24:11 (NIV)

Pray for children to find their identity in Christ — not gangs.

Drug trafficking, gang activity, easy access to guns, and ineffective justice systems have contributed to high levels of crime and violence in Central America and urban areas worldwide. Even people living in small towns fear being robbed, threatened, extorted, or kidnapped. In a 2019 report released by The Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice — a Mexico City-based advocacy group — 23 of the most 50 most violent cities in the world are in the Latin America/Caribbean region. Pray for World Vision’s work, which helps young people find their identity in Christ — not gangs — and teaches them vocational skills so they can better resist the temptation of easy money from criminal activities.

Lord, chaos and fear cripple communities overrun by gang violence. Thank You so much for the gift of Your Son. Through Him, we truly become a new creation. We claim Jesus’ blessing for peacemakers in Matthew 5:9. Help young people see themselves the way You see them, so they can help bring peace and hope to other people’s lives.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” —Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

On her way to and from school, Angel often saw child labor. World Vision invited Angel and other student leaders to join the Child Labor Trafficking seminar. She says, “I learned that there are more horrible things that could happen to a child such as child trafficking. As a student leader, I need to do something.” Now Angel advocates against child labor.
On her way to and from school, Angel often saw child labor. World Vision invited Angel and other student leaders to join the Child Labor Trafficking seminar. She says, “I learned that there are more horrible things that could happen to a child such as child trafficking. As a student leader, I need to do something.” Now Angel advocates against child labor. (©2020 World Vision/ photo by Ramon Lucas Jimenez)

Pray for all eyes to be opened about child exploitation.

Child exploitation isn’t only a problem “somewhere else.” It’s an issue everywhere, including the most developed countries. Anyone can be exploited or trafficked, regardless of race, class, education, gender, age, or citizenship. Ask God to open the hearts and minds of people everywhere to recognize the signs of child exploitation and give them the courage to take a stand for protection.

Dear Lord, Your Word tells us that it is a sin to do nothing when it’s in our power to help someone in need. Help us to speak out like Angel against crimes against children. Prod us to act whenever we suspect that a child is in danger. Don’t stop prompting us until we do the right thing.

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.” —Isaiah 1:17 (NIV)

Pray for World Vision’s work to protect children.

Inspired by World Vision founder Bob Pierce’s prayer, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God,” World Vision works to protect children from all forms of harm. This includes preventing children from being trapped in abusive circumstances; protecting children with shelter and healthcare; and restoring children through life-skills training, education, and reintegration with families. Pray for strength and courage for staff at the forefront of this work and for donors to give generously to help even more children.

Prince of Peace, You know the challenges our brothers and sisters face in helping people and working for peace. We ask that You give grace to World Vision’s staff to fulfill the responsibilities You’ve placed in their hands. Thank You for empowering them to be Your hands and feet.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” —Galatians 6:9 (NIV)


*Name changed for protection

Kari Costanza, Chris Huber, Denise C. Koenig, and Kathryn Reid of World Vision’s U.S. staff, Martin Muluka of World Vision Kenya’s staff,  and Neola D’Souza of World Vision’s India staff contributed to this story.

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