The fabric of life in Afghanistan has been torn apart. Since the 1979 Soviet occupation, there have been years of fighting, killing, and bombing. Even after the Soviet forces withdrew in 1989, the violence did not end. A period of civil conflict began, and innocent civilians were often caught in the crossfire.
As chaos and banditry spread across the region, a group of religious students led by Mullah Mohammed Omar emerged as the Taliban and took over the country. The capital city of Kabul fell to the Taliban in 1996.
An Uzbek man in northern Afghanistan recalled, “We were all terrified of what the Taliban would do. I was taken into jail and beaten just for having trimmed my beard.”
In Kabul, a young Hazara man who was jumped by several Taliban and stabbed with a bayonet confessed, “The person I used to be is no more. I am different now.”
Afghanistan is a land desperately in need of peace, reconciliation, healing, and hope.
America turned its attention to Afghanistan and the Taliban after the horrific 9/11 attacks by al Qaeda on New York City and Washington, D.C in 2001. The Taliban protected Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda fighters often facing off against the U.S. military.
During the four decades of conflict, whole villages and huge swathes of cities have been leveled. Communities have been broken, families scattered. Many have fled into neighboring countries, where they’ve remained as refugees for a decade or longer.
The future of the country is uncertain. Many fear Afghanistan will dissolve into civil war as rival groups fight for power. Others fear the ascendance of extremist groups like the Taliban and ISIS, who would impose the strictest interpretation of Islamic law. Corruption is rampant. Basic infrastructure is crumbling. Faced with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and one of the lowest per capita income levels, many Afghans struggle to provide for the most basic needs of their families.
Afghanistan is a land desperately in need of peace, reconciliation, healing, and hope. As Christians we have a calling to intercede for those living in the shadow of death. We invite you to pray with us that a light will dawn on Afghanistan.
10 Creative Ways to Pray for Afghanistan
The following activities and suggestions are designed to be used alongside the prayer guide, Afghanistan Prayer Guide: Prayers for the Healing of a Country.
1. Beautiful Feet
Afghans never dishonor a home by wearing street shoes indoors. For a set period of time—a week or a month—ask everyone in your home to take off their shoes at the door. Post the verse, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the gospel of peace,” by the door and ask God to send Christians from around the world to take the gospel of peace to the Afghan people.
2. Bread of Life
Afghans sit on floor cushions called “toshacks” rather than on chairs. Sit on cushions or pillows on your living room floor. Instead of eating at the table, lay a plastic tablecloth on the floor in the middle of your cushions and spread out your dinner on the tablecloth. Remember that Jesus and his disciples reclined on cushions when eating a meal. Pray that the Lord will invite many Afghans to his table and that they will believe in Jesus, the Bread of Life.
3. Water of Life
Don’t use hot water for a day. Instead, boil water on the stove to use for everything from taking a bath to having sterile drinking water and washing dishes. Remembering that Jesus is the source of living water, pray that he will satisfy those who thirst and create streams in the desert.
4. Removing the Veil
Women in Afghanistan cover their hair with a scarf. Many also cover their entire bodies and faces by wearing a burqa. Wear a veil for a day by wrapping a long scarf such as a pashmina around your head, being sure to cover your hair and neck. Allow the covering to be a reminder that Afghan women’s hearts are veiled to the Truth. Pray that the Lord would remove the veil that keeps them from believing in his Son.
Go into lockdown for a day. You can lead your Sunday school, church, or even just your family in a time of unexpected lockdown. Call everyone together into one room and put them on lockdown. Cover windows and turn off lights. No one is allowed to leave or have any contact with the outside world—no cellphone games or iPads allowed. Use the time to think about Afghans who live in this state of uncertainty. A whole city can be shut down for days because of security reasons. Pray that in this unstable environment, Afghans will turn to the gospel for an eternal hope and security that cannot be shaken.
Many Afghans suffer their entire lives from ailments that are completely curable with the right medical care. Inflict an imaginary ailment on someone in your family or small group—for example, tie a scarf around someone’s eyes and say they are blind for a period of time. Everyone must help that person navigate in home or at church. Some people in Afghanistan think they are blind, but they just need glasses or they have a cataract that could be easily removed. Pray for the physical and spiritual healing of Afghans and for the development of better medical facilities and care for those who suffer from diseases that are treatable.
7. Host a Henna Party
Henna, a temporary artwork drawn on hands and other parts of the body, is a popular beauty technique in Afghanistan and other parts of Central Asia, South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. It can be found in many ethnic shops in the United States. Buy henna and host a fun event by painting henna designs on the hands and arms of your guests. Download henna patterns at hennastories.org. For a simpler version of this event, use washable markers to draw on hands.
8. Host a Prayer Tea
Host a Sunday school, small group, or gathering of friends to drink tea and pray for Afghan women. Make the event as cross-cultural as possible. Some ideas:
—Ask women to remove their shoes as they enter the home.
—Spread tablecloths directly on the floor and seat guests around them on cushions. Serve traditional snacks like nuts and dried fruits on the cloths on the floor. Put out spoons (not forks). Serve green tea or spiced black tea with milk and sugar. Serve fruit as the dessert. (Provide knives for people to slice their own fruit.) Before and after you eat, bring a pitcher of water with a bowl, soap, and a towel to wash women’s hands.
—Use the Share Tea, Share Life booklet and prayer tea guide to facilitate the prayer time.
9. Kites for Kids
Children in Afghanistan make their own kites from sticks and tissue paper or plastic bags. The size ranges from kites just larger than their own hands to kites as big as the children themselves. Some children simply tie string on a plastic bag and run with it flying behind them. Help children create kites similar to Afghan children’s kites. Lead them in a prayer time for Afghan children. Pray that the Holy Spirit will move like a mighty wind across the country.
Many children in Afghanistan learn their alphabet in elementary school just like American children. Introduce your children to the Dari alphabet and let them try to copy or trace the letters. They may enjoy trying to write their names in Dari. Teach them a few basic phrases, like “Selam,” which means “peace” and is used in greetings. Lead them in a discussion about the way God’s Word is not available to most people in Afghanistan. Pray for the translation of the Scriptures into Afghan languages.