Japan needs our prayers.

It’s not as though the nation of 122 million people – fewer than one per cent of whom are Christian – doesn’t already need prayers from God’s people. But when you add COVID and the Olympic Games to the mix, things start to get complicated.

“It’s a sad story,” says Kodai Yamamoto, who is a member of the Sydney Japanese Evangelical Church at Naremburn-Cammeray. “We were very excited about hosting the Olympics two years ago, and the opportunities, but nobody welcomes it now.”

Not only that, but prior to COVID many thousands of people were expected to come to Tokyo to see the Games. Local Christians and missionaries were gearing up for outreach events and greatly increased opportunities to talk about Jesus. Most of these aren’t possible now, but the encouragement is still for people to pray – for the safety of locals and athletes, for COVID in Japan, and for God’s word to go out despite this setback.

“It’s a good idea for Australian people to pray,” says Mr Yamamoto, who remains part of the leadership team at his home church in Tokyo. “Even though there are no spectators at the Olympics we can pray... It’s a very difficult field to spread the gospel, but we can pray [Christians] will have the strength from God to do that.”

CMS NSW and ACT is encouraging its members to pray for wisdom and safety as the Olympics and Paralympics are held. Youth With A Mission suggests Christians around the globe use the Games as a reminder to pray for a spiritual awakening in Japan – for unity in the Spirit among believers, and for a continuation in what its Tokyo office describes as “a new level of openness in the hearts of the people”.

The Japan International Sports Partnership still plans outreach during the Games (although at a reduced level because of COVID), and also asks for prayer. JISP’s director, the Rev Hiroaki Yonai, said: “We really want you to pray as partners for the salvation of the souls of Japan and for sports ministry... We are praying to see much fruit and rejoice with people all over the world after these major events”.

Adds Mr Yamamoto: “The word will still go out... through good times or bad times you need to share the gospel with the world, so we can pray that [Christians in Japan] will get strength from God and strive to tell people the gospel.”

For specific prayer points during the Olympics, you can sign up to www.japan1million.com or YouVersion’s 17-day Pray 4 Japan plan.