The nineteenth century saw, not only a growth in foreign missions, but also a growth in women’s organizations supporting missions. From cent societies to denominational auxiliaries, women collected funds and supported missions both at home and in foreign lands. The women’s boards were especially concerned with evangelization and Christian nurture of women and children. The women encouraged one another in prayer for the various areas of missions. Individual boards often held special days and weeks of prayer. In 1887, Presbyterians called for prayer for Home Missions, while Methodist women called for a week of prayer and self–denial for foreign missions. Baptist women began a day of prayer for foreign missions in 1891. Anglican women in Canada also began organized prayers for missions. By 1897 women’s organizations from six denominations had some form of prayer emphasis for missions.
When Helen Montgomery and Lucy Peabody made their tour of the world studying missions in 1914, repeatedly the women in the various countries of the Middle East or the Orient asked for prayer for their work and for the women and children. When Helen and Lucy returned to the United States, the Federation of the Woman’s Boards of Foreign Missions adopted a resolution for a ‘Day of Prayer for the Women of the World’.
World War I broke out soon thereafter. Faced with the horrors of war, many believed Christian missions and prayer were vital to the establishment of peace. For the first time, on 20 February, 1920, the first Friday in Lent, a joint, interdenominational women’s day of prayer for missions was established in the United States. In 1922, women’s groups in Canada and the United States cooperated in a common day of prayer. In 1926, the North American women distributed a prayer worship service to women and missions groups in many countries.
The World Day of Prayer has grown to a worldwide, inter denominational movement of
Christian women in 170 countries, with the first Friday in March being the annual day of
celebration. National committees are established in these countries, and each year Christian women of a particular nation prepare the prayer service to be used for the Day of Prayer.
In prayer, women affirm their faith in Jesus Christ, are enriched by the faith of Christians
in other countries, and share the burdens of fellow Christians around the globe. Informed
prayer also leads the women to prayerful action, reaching out to the needs of women and
children around the globe.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.