Encircling the world in prayer is the fall 2017 goal for Southwestern Seminary’s World Missions Center as it conducts One Magnificent Obsession, a series of evenings of prayer for the nations. On Friday nights throughout the semester, participants will take time to pray for specific needs worldwide—political turmoil in Senegal, armed conflict in Syria, poverty in Romania, religious suppression in Kazakhstan, and a host of other concerns that engulf the world. Most important, they pray for the lost in these countries, the unreached people groups who have never heard the Gospel, and for the missionaries there who are tasked with sharing the good news in dark and difficult places around the world.

At each session, students lead worship and prayers focusing on a selected nation, fulfilling “one magnificent obsession” to intercede in prayer, based on the directive of Matthew 28:19-20 to “make disciples of all nations.” The student leaders speak about the circumstances of each nation and how to pray more specifically for its people.

Nirintsoa Mamitiana, a Madagascar native and Master of Divinity student at Southwestern, has been active in OMO for three years, and he believes in its power of prayer. “OMO is opening people’s hearts to the world,” he says. “I try to teach my children to learn to love the nations, to have a heart for the nations. If you attend OMO, you will learn to have a heart for them, too. It will help you as a minister or student to know what is going on in other nations. Many people are very limited in what is going on in their lives. OMO teaches them to pray for other peoples.

“Some people pray these prayers, and God breaks their hearts,” he says. “They find a calling to a nation for a mission trip, or for a long-term vision of going there.”

Mamitiana adds that there is a focus on spirituality beyond politics. “These prayers are not focused on the war there, but on what God is doing [in these places],” he says. “The talk about Syria was eye-opening for me.”

Jonathan Roman, an M.Div. student with a focus in missions, was also touched by the prayers for the people of Syria. “It wasn’t the first time I had heard of this suffering,” he says. “It was, however, the first time that I got to hear the testimony of a local. What stuck with me was not the despair that they are facing but the hope that Christians have in Syria. Even though they are in the middle of true persecution, Syrian Christians have been able to find strength in Christ. It was a powerful night.”

Roman believes that every student should take at least one Friday night during the semester to hear the prayers of OMO. “I think that students might take for granted the access technology has given us to global news,” he says. “However, OMO is not just someone reading off information that they aren’t connected to. We actually get to listen to testimonies from people who are from the countries that we are praying for, and when we don’t get to hear from locals, we get to hear from missionaries who have served the country we are praying for. It’s a great way to remind ourselves that God is working not only here but around the world.”

The World Missions Center strives to enhance Southwesterners’ understanding of the biblical basis for missions and increase their awareness of God’s work among all peoples. The OMO prayer sessions help participants to find their way through a maze of inner feelings and remind people that these nations are not alone in their struggles and hopes.

“OMO touches the heart,” Mamitiana says. “Be prepared to meet your God when you go there. God will see it. It may very well make you speechless.”

“It is a way to reach out and ‘reach the world’ as we prepare to preach the Word,” he says. “I can’t be with these people physically, but I know when I spread my hands and pray I can reach there.”