A campaign was launched by a pair of Christian groups, soliciting for prayers to reach more people with the Gospel of Christ in Japan during the Olympic season.

 Through the "Japan 1 Million," the Japan International Sports Partnership (JiSP) and Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA) have collaborated, requesting for a million hours of prayers from believers around the world to ask God for spiritual awakening among the nation's citizens, Christian Today reported.

The campaign aims to increase the number of Christians to 10 million by 2024 through sports engagement.

Pastor Keishi Ikeda, leader of JiSP, hopes that the growth will bring change, not just for Japan but also the world.

"Imagine ten million Christians in Japan...This would change Japan. And not just Japan, we could send teams from Japan into other countries that many can't get into as our passport is the strongest in the world," he said.

The JiSP leader added that the movement has initially planned to reach out a million citizens this year but was hampered by the pandemic.

"Working towards that vision, we had hoped to reach a million Japanese people during our Olympic outreach year. Covid closed those doors, but one door remained open; the door to prayer. When things were difficult, the early Church would move into a season of prayer. We believe this is what God is saying to the Church in Japan. We can't do the mission we had planned, but we can pray," Pastor Keishi revealed.

He believes that prayer is the "most strategic and effective" way to petition for "unity of the Church and the softening of Japanese hearts".

"Imagine the impact of hundreds of thousands of Jesus followers around the world praying with one accord for just one nation? What would God do?" he also stated.

In a statement captured by the Baptist News, the pastor further pointed out the relevance of prayer.

"Committed prayer is needed for a significant spiritual breakthrough in Japan. We believe Alfred Tennyson's words, 'more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.'"

In partnership with the movement, the YouVersion Bible app has launched a 17-day prayer plan called "Pray4Japan."

Moreover, Eternity News shared that the International Prayer Connect also assisted in the campaign by endorsing the program to over 4,000 prayer networks worldwide.

JiSP's Marty Woods said that Japan's "spiritual need" is "desperate." Woods disclosed that they are already seeing "the fruit" of the prayers for the country and are hoping to have more.

According to a Statista report published last February, the number of Japanese Christians in 2018 amounted to just 1.92 million, out of the country's 126.5 million total population that year.

Christianity was introduced to the nation in 1549 which led to the conversion of some daimyo (regional lords), who protected the Christian missionaries, in the Island of Kyusyu. However, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi rose to power in 1587, he banned the faith through an edict which was strengthened by the Edo shogunate in 1612. Also known as Tokugawa shogunate, the feudal military government ruled Japan for 264 years since 1603.

Christianity found another path of entry when the Japan-US Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed in 1858, opening the door for American protestant missionaries into the country. This is also the time when Japanese "hidden Christians" were able to openly profess their faith. These believers were able to hand down their faith through generations despite the harsh repression of Christianity in the country.