Matthew 25: Prayer for refugees, disaster survivors

God is with people suffering from disaster — the refugee, the earthquake survivor, the family facing famine. He calls us to follow Him in offering hope to the most vulnerable in their hour of greatest need. Following Jesus’ example, we seek out the lost, injured, and threatened, providing care and protection when it seems all is lost. Join us in prayer for refugees and disaster survivors — for all who find themselves “strangers,” as Jesus calls them in Matthew 25:35.

I was a stranger and you invited me in.—Matthew 25:35 (NIV)

Growing up in a small fishing village on Thailand’s western coast, Jane Sunari Udomsawat’s family made a living from the sea. But on Dec. 26, 2004, the sea that had provided for the family became an angry foe.

Early that morning, Jane and her father left the house to pick up a relative at a bus terminal about 7 miles inland. Her mother and sister remained home, unaware of the wall of water surging their direction.

Jane and her father were still on the road when they heard about the tsunami’s destruction. They quickly returned home.

“There was nothing left of my house,” Jane says. “Everything was gone with the water.”

Jane’s mother and sister were among the missing. Jane and her father searched for hours, finally collapsing from exhaustion in a temporary shelter. World Vision was there to help them and many others who had nowhere to turn.

But a place to sleep wasn’t all they found. “We saw my mother and sister there,” Jane recalls. “I was very happy.”

Soon, World Vision also provided Jane with a school uniform, shoes, and supplies so she could return to her studies. Jane became a sponsored child, which allows her to do two things that are important to her: grow her leadership skills and remain in school. Jane’s goal is to graduate from college and work for Thailand’s government. Praise God for this!

But not every disaster survivor’s story turns out as well. Join us in prayer for refugees, families facing famine, and survivors of tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes — for all who are affected by crises and natural disasters.

Show God’s love to the most vulnerable in their hour of greatest need.

Pray for disaster survivors.

Since the middle of the 20th century, recorded disasters have increased fivefold, with the majority stemming from weather-related disasters. By providing rapid help to people devastated by natural and man-made disasters, World Vision serves the most vulnerable in their hour of greatest need. During this time, people desperately need emergency assistance: food and clean water for basic sustenance, emergency shelter and blankets to keep warm and dry, and emergency health services.

Merciful Counselor, we grieve with communities suffering from disasters and struggling to recover. Speed the restoration of community life so children can feel secure again. Give families strength and perseverance while they rebuild their homes and livelihoods. We pray for disaster survivors to find refuge in You.

“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” —Psalm 57:1 (NIV)

Lilly Rosales wants her 4-month-old son Alex Xavier to grow up in the same house where she grew up and continues to live. But for that to happen, Lilly, her husband, Jose Linares, and the rest of the family will have to rebuild after the damage caused when Hurricane Harvey flooded their home.
Lilly Rosales wants her 4-month-old son, Alex Xavier, to grow up in the same house where she grew up and continues to live. But for that to happen, Jose Linares and the rest of the family will have to rebuild after the damage caused when Hurricane Harvey flooded their home. When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas Aug. 25, 2017, as a Category 4 hurricane, it became the country’s first major — Category 3 or higher — hurricane since Wilma hit Florida in October 2005. It kicked off a historically destructive 2017 storm season for the Caribbean and the southern U.S. World Vision assisted nearly 250,000 people affected by Hurricane Harvey. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Pray for international disaster readiness.

Many disasters strike with little or no warning, as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami demonstrated. That morning, the tsunami traveled at up to 500 mph, radiating across the Indian Ocean before slamming into the coasts of 14 countries. Families had little time to react, much less prepare. So communities all around the Indian Ocean — even to Africa’s shores — experienced widespread destruction and homelessness.

In disasters, World Vision works across all humanitarian sectors to save lives, reduce suffering, and ensure families can begin to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. We also help communities prepare for future disasters, so people and property are safer in the years to come. And for every $1 spent in disaster preparedness, countries save $3 to $4 after disaster strikes.

Almighty God, You know that the hardest hit when disaster strikes are people who are poor and have few resources to recover and rebuild. Inspire leaders of the world’s wealthy nations to be ready to respond to disasters with compassion and generosity. Help governments invest in disaster risk reduction and preparedness training so their citizens are less vulnerable during emergencies.

“In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.” —Psalm 37:19 (NIV)

Pray for refugees.

The number of people displaced by war, conflict, or persecution is at a record high of 70.8 million, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Some are refugees; others are displaced within their countries’ borders. The refugee crises originating from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar paint the poignant picture of people fleeing conflicts and extreme poverty.

Good Shepherd, no refugee is a stranger to You, and no one is ever far from Your loving care. We pray for You to watch over refugee children and families as they travel to refugee camps or relocate within their country. Shelter their souls and their bodies. Heal the hearts of refugees who have endured unimaginable tragedy and trauma.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” —Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

Pray for peace and stability in countries with ongoing violence.

Violence and insecurity in Syria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Venezuela, and the Central African Republic have destabilized the lives of millions. Poverty and gang-related violence have created a wave of migration from Central America. Join us in praying for places around the world where peace is in short supply.

Lord of the nations, You tell us in Psalm 34:14 to “Turn from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” We grieve to see the lives of so many people disrupted by war and violence. This evil kills and maims people, separates families, harms the most vulnerable, and makes poverty a constant companion. We ask You to make “wars cease to the ends of the earth” (Psalm 46:9) so children and families can enjoy safety and prosperity again.

“He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” —Psalm 46:9 (NIV)

Syrian refugees in Lebanon affected by a winter storm in January 2019. Children walk through a flooded tent settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Many Syrian refugees have been flooded out of their shelters and lost all their possessions.
Syrian refugee children walk through a flooded tent settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley after a winter storm in January 2019. Many Syrian refugees have been flooded out of their shelters and lost all of their possessions. The Syria civil war, now in its 10th year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced 11.8 million from their homes. Many children caught up in this crisis have fared the worst, losing parents or friends to the violence, suffering physical and psychological trauma, or falling years behind in school. (©2019 World Vision/photo by George Mghames)

Pray for vulnerable children, particularly refugees and disaster survivors.

Refugees and disaster survivors are caught in difficult circumstances, and the most vulnerable people among them are children. World Vision’s disaster relief programs give priority to children and empower them — together with their families and communities — to become active participants in improving their well-being. World Vision operates Child-Friendly Spaces: havens that allow children to play, draw, sing, and share their feelings; be safe from physical danger and the evil of trafficking; engage in nonformal education; learn resilience and life skills needed for adapting to their new environment; and return to or maintain a normal routine.

Loving Provider, we echo the psalmist’s confidence, “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help” (Psalm 72:12). Hear and answer girls’ and boys’ cries for help. Let aid distributions reach children and families who need it most. In Your mercy, we pray for You to provide refugee families and disaster survivors with what they need to survive.

“For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.” —Psalm 72:12-14 (NIV)

Pray for children separated from their families or who have lost loved ones.

In the confusion of conflict, some children become separated from their parents and families. Others are sent with friends or extended family in search of better conditions. Still, others witness or experience the death of parents or siblings and are left all alone. Losing family members — especially parents — leaves lifelong scars. These boys and girls are more vulnerable to abuse, labor, exploitation, and trafficking. Pray that God will continue to walk alongside each child and give them hope for the future.

Compassionate Father, we ask that You keep all separated children safe from any kind of abuse. Help children reunite with their parents and family soon. Turn the hearts of people bent toward evil so they treat vulnerable boys and girls with dignity and respect. Be a Shepherd to children who are missing their parents and grieving a great loss. Heal them, provide for them, and let them know Your peace that surpasses understanding and Your love that surrounds them each day.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” —Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

Acheng feeds her 18-month-old son, Garang, a pouch of ready-to-use therapeutic food at a center in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The toddler has struggled with tuberculosis and malnutrition as the country suffers widespread food shortages due to conflict. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Stephanie Glinski)

Pray for children’s health during refugee crises and after disasters.

In low-income nations, children younger than 5 are already at heightened risk for malnutrition, diarrheal diseases, and pneumonia brought on by contaminated water, reduced food, and inadequate shelter. After a disaster, children may miss important vaccinations, putting them further at risk for preventable diseases. All children in tents or makeshift shelter face winter and summer weather extremes. Many displaced children do not have access to medicines or clinics if they fall ill.

Great Physician, we pray that You protect girls and boys — particularly refugee children and those who have survived a disaster — from illness and heal children who have fallen ill. Help their little bodies fight off sickness and disease. Allow medical help to reach children who need it most. Help parents and caretakers find appropriate shelter for all who need it.

“Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins. In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment.” —Jeremiah 4:20 (NIV)

Pray for children’s education during refugee crises and after disasters.

Children on the move or in temporary housing often miss out on their education. Children not in their home countries usually can’t afford school or don’t understand lessons taught in another language. Girls and boys displaced in their own countries may not have access to formal classes or enough teachers in temporary settlements. And the average displacement now lasts more than five years — about half of a child’s school years.

Heavenly Father, You placed in children a curiosity about their world. This spark is what ignites learning. We ask You to make a way for every displaced girl and boy to restart school and make up for the lessons they missed. Help them gain the knowledge they need to reach the goals they have for the future. And give teachers the training to help these students regain what they may have lost.

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” —Proverbs 2:6 (NIV)

Survivor of 2018 Lombok Indonesia earthquake, a woman sits inside a temporary shelter after the August 2018 earthquake and aftershocks
A woman sits inside a temporary shelter after the August 2018 earthquake and aftershocks in Lombok, Indonesia. Indonesians in Java and Sumatra experienced earthquakes in April and July 2018, but the most damaging quakes of 2018 occurred later on Lombok island and in Central Sulawesi. The strongest of those quakes was a magnitude 6.9 on Aug. 5, which killed more than 500 people and injured nearly 1,500. Earthquakes greater than magnitude 6 occur almost yearly in Indonesia. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Petry Purenia)

Pray for World Vision and its partners’ disaster and emergency responses.

In 2019 alone, World Vision assisted more than 20.1 million survivors of 132 emergencies in 57 countries, including the United States. World Vision has highly trained experts to respond to catastrophes. But this critical work is only possible because of the faithfulness of World Vision’s donors and partners, who provide the resources essential for this kind of response.

Dear Lord, thank You for donors and partners who faithfully support World Vision’s relief work around the world. Continue to equip World Vision and other organizations whose staffs work tirelessly during disasters, providing life’s essentials to meet urgent needs. Equip and inspire aid workers when they are exhausted so they can continue to help families recover and rebuild. Let support for refugees and disaster survivors never dwindle.

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” —Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)

Denise C. Koenig of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. and Paiwan Benjakul of World Vision’s staff in Thailand contributed to this article.


View All Stories
In Ethiopia, the ongoing Tigray conflict creates a dire humanitarian crisis. Learn what World Vision is doing to help affected children and families.
From the Field

Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

A camp for internally displaced people in northwest Syria offers a bleak and cold existence for Samer*, 5. Aid workers are working around the clock to provide emergency support, but with tens of thousands of people arriving every day, supplies are low and the humanitarian response is overwhelmed. *Name changed to protect identity.
From the Field

Syrian refugee crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help


View All Stories
In Ethiopia, the ongoing Tigray conflict creates a dire humanitarian crisis. Learn what World Vision is doing to help affected children and families.
From the Field

Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

One-year-old Beto — now the picture of health — lights up when his mother, Ndahambelela, holds her face close to his.

Matthew 25: Prayer for children’s health