Why Pray for Mission? | Sam Boog
Sam Boog examines the importance of taking time out to pray for missionaries.
“Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously, let this be made known in all the earth.” Isaiah 12:4-5
God’s love for the nations and his desire to save them–to bring them into a relationship with himself –is apparent throughout the Bible. Paul’s letter to the Romans paints a clear picture of the perilous spiritual state we are all in: all people are lost without the Lord and his divine intervention (Romans 3:10).
As a parent, I’ve never had to teach my children to be selfish, rude or inconsiderate, although my example probably reminds them often. But it is always a great joy to then tell them of the God who has worked to save us from ourselves through the death of his Son, the Lord Jesus (Romans 3:21).
The great truth of the gospel is that the Lord Jesus steps into our place and speaks to God as our intermediary (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). People cannot independently choose God; they cannot save themselves. God must intervene.
"God has willed that his miraculous work of harvesting be preceded by prayer. He loves to bless the world. But even more, he loves to bless the world in answer to prayer."
But we don’t just stand by while it happens around us; God graciously gives us a part to play too. God has chosen to sovereignly accomplish this work through our prayers. “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles (nations) to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5). That’s why my girls are also learning how to pray for their friends who don’t know him, because God saves us so that we may be instruments of his love.
John 15:16-17 makes the case for prayer emphatically: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit; …so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
John Piper believes the logic is critical: “The reason the Father gives the disciples the gift of prayer is because Jesus has given them a mission. In fact, the grammar implies that the reason Jesus gives them their mission is so that they will be able to enjoy the power of prayer. ‘I send you to bear fruit so that, whatever you ask the Father, he may give you.’”¹
It’s no surprise then that the mission of Acts is full of answered prayer. Peter, imprisoned by Herod, was miraculously released after “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5). In chapter 4, the believers stop to pray for courage in the face of fierce persecution. The Lord answered their prayer in vs 31, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”
Paul also constantly exhorts the Corinthians to pray: “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Cor 1:11). And with his usual candour, the apostle James simply declared, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
Missionaries and ministers throughout history have also recognised the importance of prayer. John Wesley said, “God will do nothing but in answer to prayer,”² and Charles Spurgeon once observed, “like it or not, asking is the rule of the Kingdom.”³ A. B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, asserted, “prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work.”⁴
But perhaps again, it is Piper who explains it most clearly: “God has willed that his miraculous work of harvesting be preceded by prayer. He loves to bless the world. But even more, he loves to bless the world in answer to prayer.”
Carolynn Webb, ECM missionary in Spain, says it is always encouraging to see the Lord answer prayer on the field:
“We invited a local family to come join us on the fourth anniversary of our church plant. They declined to come for the ‘church part’, but came for lunch afterwards, which marked the first time in four years a local Basque family (non Christian) had set foot in our church. Even though progress seems slow, God was quietly encouraging us that he is at work. After lunch, they shared some major mental and health struggles and we were able to pray and lay hands on them. We knew the Holy Spirit was at work as their tears flowed while we prayed. A few weeks later, the dad asked James if we were still praying, because something lifted that day and he had been a lot better since. This was a huge answer to prayer and we were reminded that God’s power is at work in people to bring them to Himself. He changes lives and people. Prayer is powerful.”
Andrew Blackwell, ECM missionary in Bulgaria, says the support raising process was a joy for them because the Lord made it clear that it was really about mobilising God’s people. He says it was a great reminder that, while supporters gave financially, their greatest gift was their prayers.
“We’ve realised that we need prayer support behind us and our supporters are a huge part of that. Their intercession is what enables and empowers our ministry. The financial side is important, and it’s a real blessing that God has that under control, but when I realised that the support raising process was mostly about raising prayer support it changed the way I viewed it, and it became a joy to ask God’s people to be a part of it.”
"Prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work."
A. B. Simpson, Founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance
What to Pray for Mission?
Having spent 25 years as a missionary in India, Wesley L. Duewel knew the power of prayer in mission. He said, “we can reach the world if we will. The greatest lack today is not people or funds. The greatest need is prayer.”⁵
And if you’re not sure what specifically to pray, all missionaries always need support from those at home, whether it be administration, language training, content creators… all apart from the obvious need of more people preaching and teaching the gospel alongside them.
It may be hard to believe, but some ECM missionaries have recently been prevented from entering their nominated country as ‘missionaries’. In fact, opposition and hostility from authorities towards Christians generally is becoming more common across Europe. ECM missionaries, Emily and Samuel Loa-Ferreira noted the opposition they were experiencing from university authorities in their recent newsletter:
“One year in and we have witnessed a growing restriction of expressions of faith in universities. Recently, the GBU group in Aveiro (a city in central Portugal) was refused permission by the administration to advertise an upcoming Mission Week (put up posters, distribute flyers, have a stall etc). This GBU group has historically had a good standing with the administration, but the university claimed that such advertising doesn’t fit within their ‘new guidelines’ which are yet to be disclosed.”
Praying that missionaries would find favour with local and international officials is vital; prayer for visas to be granted and extended without question or delay, for churches to be able to hold outreach activities and share the gospel freely in the local community. These fundamental freedoms can and should never be taken for granted.
“I urge then that requests, prayers and intercessions be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim 2:1-2).
Pray for opportunities for our missionaries to preach the gospel, and for boldness and courage when they do come their way! Pray for divine connections to be made with people in their local communities, for relationships to be built where the gospel can be shared, for new partnerships and strategies and for good relationships with local believers.
“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).
Pray for the clear communication of the gospel, especially since ECM missionaries usually seek to do that in another language. Cross-cultural evangelism also requires an understanding of the nuances of culture and the various unwritten rules of social interaction.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains” (Colossians 4:2–3).
Pray for refreshment in prayer and God’s word for ECM missionaries themselves, so they might be strengthened and empowered for service. Ali in Germany exhorts us to, “pray that the work of the cross would be appropriated in our hearts and in our relationships and communities…and that we would tell the gospel to ourselves every day. All fruitful mission work springs from that.” Pray also for deep and rewarding fellowship with other believers as most missionaries live in countries—and even ministry contexts—where there are very few mature Christians.
Finally, pray for more workers to be raised up to serve the Lord alongside missionaries. Pray also for a long term vision of God’s ministry and mission; that churches would be planted and the gospel proclaimed in places it has not been heard…
“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).
1. Piper, J, “Prayer - The Work of Missions”, ACMC Annual meeting, July 1988
2. Wesley, J ‘The Means of Grace’ sermon 16, Wesley Centre Online, posted 1999
3. Spurgeon, C. H. ‘Ask and Have’ sermon vol 26, 1882, posted by the Spurgeon Centre
4. Simpson, A.B. ‘The Life of Prayer’, Christian Alliance Publishing, 1890
5. Wesley L. Duewel (1986). “Touch the World Through Prayer”, p.13, Zondervan
Sam Boog is communications and media trained and has a particular passion for the gospel needs of Europe. She lives in western NSW with her husband and four daughters.
- That Christians in Australia would appreciate the power of prayer undergirding all missionary work.
- That the Lord would answer the prayers of his people and bless the harvest with much fruit for his glory.
- That the Lord would be honoured and glorified as we depend on him in prayer.
This article appears in ECM NEWS Summer 23/24
- 28/11/2023 28/11/2023, 00:39 - Christian or Kingdom?
- 20/11/2023 20/11/2023, 04:20 - Why Pray for Mission? | Sam Boog