Day 11: Sinhalese Buddhists in Malaysia

An and his family were building a special sandcastle to celebrate the new year. Each grain of sand in the castle represented a wrongdoing and would be washed away when the tide came in, enabling their family to start the new year well. An worked to make the castle higher! 

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on the night of the first full moon in April, Buddhist groups such as the Sinhalese celebrate the Theravada New Year. This marks the beginning of the lunisolar calendar, a system that marks both the phases of the moon and the solar calendar. This calendar was commonly used in many east Asian cultures and several Buddhist celebrations are determined by it. 

The Sinhalese in Malaysia originally migrated from Sri Lanka, an island nation south of India, in 1890. Many of them came to assist the British colonial government with the administration of Malaysia and they brought their own form of Theravada Buddhism with them, funding some large temples which are still active and prosperous. About 30,000 Sinhalese Buddhists live in Malaysia today, and Buddhism is the second largest religion in Malaysia, with about 20% of the population, mostly ethnic Chinese, identifying as Buddhist. 

This excerpt is based on a prayer entry from Global Prayer Digest, now merged with Joshua Project’s Unreached of the Day, https://joshuaproject.net/pray/unreachedoftheday 

HOW TO PRAY

Pray that the Sinhalese in Malaysia, as well as in Sri Lanka, come to realize that Jesus Christ Himself is the Light of the World, the true source of spiritual truth for which they hunger. 

Pray for faithful workers who live out and communicate well the message of good news that Jesus has come to light their darkness. 

Pray for every Sinhalese family to come together in gratitude and worship of the One who created the sun, moon, and the stars. 

Sourced from the Buddhist Prayer Guide

Day 10: Buddhists in Thailand

Nung tugged at her mother’s sleeve. “Ma, why are the monks here?” she asked. Her mom answered, “Your little brother has been sick for two weeks and the doctors don’t know why. We have asked the monks to chant for him to bring him healing.” The monks set up in the boy’s room to chant while Nung’s parents prepared gifts to give them after the ceremony. 

At the end of the chanting session, one of the monks took special string and tied it around the little boy’s wrists. He warned his parents, “Don’t break or cut the strings, or let him break them. They will keep his spirit safe in his body while he recovers from his illness. The boy’s parents then formally offered the gifts to the monks in thanks for their services. 

Nung’s brother recovered slowly. She was very happy when he could finally run and play with her as usual. Until primary schools were provided by the state, the only place for boys like Nung’s brother to receive early education was at the village temple. It is still common for many boys to become ordained and serve as a Buddhist monk for a few years before returning to secular life. 

HOW TO PRAY

Pray for boldness for Thai Christians to pray for Buddhist friends or family members when they are sick. Ask God to heal in response to these prayers. (LUKE 9:6) 

Pray for ongoing efforts in Thailand to improve access to healthcare and education in rural areas. (2 CORINTHIANS 9:8-10) 

Pray for young men serving as Buddhist monks in Thailand to find Christ on their journey. (MATTHEW 7:8) 

Sourced from the Buddhist Prayer Guide

Getting to the Harvest is Doable

Charlie and Sarah hadn’t planned on the pandemic. They began 2020 with plans to move to Southeast Asia in July, to join one of Beyond’s movement catalyst teams.

Though they had already left their jobs and were making preparations, the move was halted when their destination country closed to visitors. They hit their knees in prayer and sought God’s direction. 

God directed them to continue investing in a small team of intercessors who would stand in the gap for them and their ministry. They also learned that a medical issue was more complicated than they had initially thought, thus more easily addressed in the US.

After weeks of praying, God opened a door. Charlie and Sarah obtained a visa to enter their country of service. They arrived 10 weeks later than planned. “But,” they declare, “it wasn’t 10 weeks later than God had planned! God’s timing is perfect!”

Getting to the field is doable! God made a way through the obstacles, and Charlie and Sarah are stronger for it. 

*pseudonym

Day 9: Buddhism in Japan

Yua grew up in Japan surrounded by traditional religious practices. Every Saturday, Yua and her friends went to the Buddhist temple for Japanese calligraphy classes which took place after chanting and meditating. They also went regularly to the Shinto shrine to learn martial arts. First, they would clean the shrine, chant, and meditate before practicing the martial arts called “Kendo” as taught by a Shinto priest. 

Buddhism first came into Japan in AD700-800 through scholars who introduced writing systems from China. At first, it was a belief for rich and educated people. As Buddhism spread in Japan, it merged with the existing spiritual traditions of Shintoism, which is often described as an animistic religion with a focus on many spirits who inhabit the natural world. Buddhism and Shintoism were practiced together, with little distinction between them until the late 1800s. At that time, the Japanese empire was restored, and Shintoism became the state religion. 

After World War 2 this changed, but the majority of Japanese continue to practice both Shinto and Buddhist rituals, with Shinto traditions used for weddings and blessings, and Buddhist rituals for death. 

HOW TO PRAY

The Japanese have adapted their beliefs to include many spirits. Pray for them to have the revelation of Jesus, who came to show us the Father. (MATTHEW 11:27) 

Only 1% of Japanese people are Christians. Pray for more workers to share the gospel here. (MATTHEW 9:37-38) 

Read PSALM 104 and be inspired to pray from it for the Buddhist people of Japan. 

Sourced from the Buddhist Prayer Guide

Day 8: Images of the Buddha

Sunju helped her mother prepare a daily food offering for the Buddha image they kept in a special place at home in Korea. Sunju would wonder, “Why does the Buddha have such a small smile?” But she kept her questions to herself, knowing she needed to show respect to her elders and the Buddha. 

Images of Siddhartha Gautama – the Buddha – have been made for centuries. The image is not so much a physical representation as a symbol, and the expression, pose and hand gestures of the image all have different meanings. A Buddha sitting with his right hand raised and facing outward symbolizes protection and overcoming fear. If the Buddha has both hands face up in his lap with his legs crossed, it is a meditation Buddha, representing calm and peace. 

Sunju may have preferred to have an image of the laughing Buddha – who is not actually a Buddha at all, but a Chinese monk who was admired for his teaching and generosity. He represents happiness and prosperity and usually has a fat belly, waiting to be rubbed for good luck. 

HOW TO PRAY

Symbols are important in all faiths. Jesus spoke of himself as the Light of the World. Pray that Buddhists will know that light. (JOHN 8:12) 

Pray for Buddhists to find the righteousness, peace and joy that comes from His Kingdom. (ROMANS 14:17) 

Be inspired to pray for Buddhists from PSALM 115. 

Sourced from the Buddhist Prayer Guide

Day 7: Buddhism in Korea

Hwan recalls a school trip to a Buddhist temple. “We went to see what life is like as a monk. They had us sit on the floor with our legs crossed and meditate for 40 minutes. My legs cramped up and 

I couldn’t concentrate.” The trip was meant to inspire the students to consider joining the monastery, but Hwan, like most of his peers, had no interest in it. 

Buddhism came to Korea in about 372 BC and absorbed some of the earlier Shamanistic beliefs of the region, even incorporating shrines to popular spirits. Today, Buddhists make up about 23% of the population in the South with an  estimated 2% of the population in North Korea. 

In 1907 a Protestant revival occurred in and around the city of Pyongyang, what is today the capital city of North Korea with many people becoming Christians. Prior to the Korean War (1950–1953), two-thirds of Korean Christians lived in the North, but most fled to the South. It is not known exactly how many Christians remain in North Korea today. There has been some Protestant antagonism toward Buddhism in the 1990s, which has caused difficulties in witnessing to them. 

HOW TO PRAY

Pray for Christians in Korea to be an effective witness of the gospel to Buddhists, making a defense for their faith with gentleness and respect, as directed in 1 PETER 3:15. 

Pray for Buddhists in Korea to have open hearts and minds to seek the Lord Jesus. (DEUTERONOMY 4:28-29) 

Koreans in the United States are far more likely to be Christian, with 71% of Korean Americans identifying as Christian. Pray that they will support and join missionary efforts to Buddhists in Korea. (ISAIAH 52:7) 

Sourced from the Buddhist Prayer Guide

Day 6: Buddhism in Cambodia

Sothia pushed his bike to make it go faster. He wanted to arrive in time for the special classes at the big high school in town. His mother had lit an incense stick to pray for his success in school and he wanted to make her proud of him by studying hard and passing the exams.

Sothia did pass his exams but paying for college would be a challenge for his parents, who had divorced. He wondered how he could afford to live in the big city, and then he learned of a free dormitory run by a Christian organization. It was an answer to his problem.

The friendships with other village students at the dormitory helped Sothia to quickly adjust to college. The dormitory staff were also supportive, and sometimes Sothia would listen to the Bible studies that they hosted. After a few months, he came to believe in Jesus.

Sothia’s family took some time to accept his new faith, but they did not reject him. He continued to go to the village for holidays and family events like Pchum Ben (Ancestors’ Day) which is a 15-day long Cambodian religious festival. It is considered unique to Cambodia, and is a time when Cambodians pay their respects to deceased relatives. All Cambodians are expected to participate in Pchum Ben and this can be a difficult time for Christians like Sothia as they work out how to participate in family life and keep their Christian witness.

HOW TO PRAY
Pray the blessings of PSALM 128 on the people of Cambodia.

Young people in college or other training programs are more exposed to new ideas. Pray for them to find the message of Jesus online, or among new relationships. (ACTS 17:32)

Pray for Cambodian Christians to be a good example of honoring their parents and providing for their families, and to earn the respect of others as described in 1 THESSALONIANS 4:9-12.

Sourced from the Buddhist Prayer Guide

Day 5: The Tai Lue People

The Tai Lue people are an ethnic group living in China, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and Vietnam who speak a Tai language. In China, they are officially recognized as part of the Dai ethnic group who live in the southern province of Yunnan, China. The Tai Lue people spread south from China to the surrounding nations of Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia where they adopted Theravada Buddhism.

The Theravada tradition of Buddhism developed in Sri Lanka and was brought to Southeast Asia by monks where it was flourishing by the 12th century. It emphasizes spiritual transformation through one’s own efforts, particularly through meditation, and ideally through life as a monk. However, there are many festivals that are enjoyed by the whole community.

A popular festival is Songkran which marks the new year on the Buddhist calendar and is celebrated in April. As part of the festival, people splash water over each other, symbolizing the cleansing of sin from the previous year and a fresh start for the new year.

The Tai Lue people in the villages can recall the stories told by their grandparents of people who came riding in on elephants long ago in the 1800s; they traveled from village to village sharing stories about Jesus. Some of their stories were even translated into the local languages, but most of the people have continued to follow Theravada Buddhism.

WAYS TO PRAY:
Ask the Holy Spirit to use the awareness of sin in their lives and their need to be forgiven to bring the Tai Lue to salvation. (ACTS 2:38)

Pray for Christian workers and believers who were formerly Theravada Buddhists to be fruitful disciple makers. (MATTHEW 28:19)

Pray blessings on the Tai Lue people. Be inspired by EPHESIANS 1:17-19

Sourced from the Buddhist Prayer Guide

Day 4: Ladakhi People of India

In late October, the northern hemisphere is beginning to experience chilly weather. People often think of this as a time to reap the harvest from previous months. But for the people of Ladakh in Kashmir, northwest India, many are already cut off from the outside world due to heavy snow which lasts over half the year.

Ladakh’s growing season only lasts a couple of months, but somehow, they have traditionally managed to survive as small-scale farmers. Water is in short supply in this high elevation desert, and the land can only sustain a few livestock. Ladakhi farms are irrigated by channels that funnel water from the melted snow from nearby mountains.

Ladakh is often referred to as “Little Tibet” because of the influence of neighboring Tibet. The population is divided evenly between Tibetan Buddhists in the east and Kashmiri Muslims in the west which can bring them into conflict because of their religious differences.

Over the past three decades many things have changed in Ladakh because of modernization. The Ladakh Department of Agriculture was able to persuade farmers to use chemical fertilizers and to replace their traditional communal labor systems for better production. But in matters of religion, traditional Buddhist practices are still followed and passed on to new generations.

WAYS TO PRAY

Pray for the Ladakhi people to look to Jesus, the Lord of the Harvest, for salvation. (ACTS 4:12)

Pray for more workers to serve among the Ladakhi people and for those who are working hard to share the love of Christ with them. (JOHN 4:35-37)

Pray for developments in agriculture and education to help improve the quality of life for the people of “Little Tibet.” (PSALM 43:3)

Sourced from the Buddhist Prayer Guide

 The”Cursed”Son

 In North India, a young follower of Jesus tutors in the home of a neighboring Sikh family. She learned that one of the boys could not hear or speak and that the family was being ostracized. Because of their “cursed son,” extended family members would not let them visit. 

The boy’s parents had spent a lot of money trying to heal him, but nothing worked. They felt deep shame. The father had tried to kill himself several times. The whole family even ingested poison once, attempting to end it all.  

For weeks, the young woman prayed with the family. Then her father, Sanjay, went to their home and read the story of creation: how God created mankind. He explained that as God’s creation, it wasn’t right for them to try to kill themselves.

The family began visiting a nearby house church and listened to the testimonies. After six weeks, they asked to learn how to start a Bible study group in their home. Their lives improved in many ways! The son began responding to his name, and now even says “Mama” and “Dada.” Though some of their extended family members still reject them, they are strong in Jesus.

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