Partnering through prayerThe electronic age allows this generation to pray for missions as never before. There was a day when missionaries’ prayer requests were outdated by the time they reached the churches. Supporters faithfully prayed for general needs, unaware of the challenges of a specific day. Praying saints sometimes heard weeks later how God wonderfully delivered the missionary through some crisis on the very day of their burdened intercession. The lag time of “snail mail” sometimes left people wondering how God had answered their prayers. Internet-based communication now provides instant access to the most remote corners of God’s harvest fields, enabling missionaries to communicate needs in real time. Does this mean that missionaries benefit more from intercessory prayer today than they did in the past?

Improved communication between missionary and supporters doesn’t compensate for the sin of prayerlessness among Christians. God’s people must be convinced and committed to pray for world missions. We must believe that our prayer makes a difference! We must believe God when He says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” We must heed His command, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” We must be moved by those on the frontlines of spiritual battle who plead, “Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course.”[1]

Christians participate in missions through prayer. They partner with missionaries and are directly engaged with God’s work in foreign lands. The experience should be life-transforming, helping believers internalize God’s perspective on the world and their role in it. Prayer often leads to even greater involvement in missions. Today’s praying child may become tomorrow’s foreign missionary. One of BWM’s present missionaries began by praying for his church’s missionaries. Little did he know that years later he would be working with one of those missionaries as part of a church-planting team. Prayer for missions benefits more than the missionary.

Missionaries have persistent and circumstantial needs. Persistent needs include everything necessary for successful daily life and ministry. This is the missionary’s spiritual battleground. Although he may not always specify these concerns, they pose the greatest threat to him. Anyone who questions the reality of overt spiritual warfare need only speak to a veteran missionary. Satan removes the gloves when missionaries wage war on his turf. His tools include disillusionment, discouragement, temptations, interpersonal conflicts, and wedges in the missionary’s marriage and home life. Prayer for personal victory in these persistent threats plays a role in your missionary’s ultimate success or failure on the mission field.

Personal safety is another constant need. Foreign missionaries have never faced a greater threat to their persons than in the post-9/11 world. The risk of abduction or violent attack is very real in many countries. There can be no doubt that prayer has saved the lives of many missionaries.

Some of the greatest blessings arise from prayer for circumstantial needs. Specific answers to prayer glorify the Savior and build faith for both the prayer warrior and the missionary. Whether it is the salvation of a particular individual, an evangelistic thrust into a new village, or a visa approval, acts of God in response to specific prayer greatly encourage God’s people. A prayer is too general if it is impossible to discern God’s answer to it. Supporters should ask for specific requests from missionaries, who should also follow up on those requests with specific answers to prayer.

Missionaries cannot succeed without intercessors. Many would testify of God’s sustaining grace, deliverance, or empowerment during times of great personal weakness. Surely, many of these victories arise from intercessory prayer. Instant information allows churches to mobilize prayer as never before. Like cookies fresh from the oven, the information age empowers missionaries to place “hot” needs before God’s people. The question is, “Will God’s people come to the table while the cookies are hot?”

Guide to Prayer for Missionaries:

  • The Missionary Calling. God commands every Christian to pray that God will send new missionaries throughout the world. Ask God to reach into your local church and motivate believers to present themselves for full-time missionary service (Matt. 9:38).
  • Spiritual Needs. Missionaries are real people who need God’s daily grace over sin and circumstances. This need supersedes anything physical or financial (Col. 1:10-12).
  • Family Life. Deputation lifestyle and the cultural challenges of a foreign field can place tremendous strain on a marriage and family. The husband needs wisdom to perceive and address these needs (Eph. 6:4; 1 Pet. 3:7).
  • Adaptation. Missionaries need a Holy Spirit-driven attitude toward their new culture. They need victory over pride, bias, and prejudice if they are to compassionately reach lost souls for Christ (1 Cor. 6:11; 9:19-23).
  • Fruitfulness in Ministry. Faithful labor is not enough to reach souls and establish churches. Ask God to keep the missionary a vessel fit for the Master’s use. Pray for God’s power upon his life and ministry (Jn. 15:5; 2 Thess. 3:1).
  • Prayer Requests. Don’t fail to pray for specific requests. Each missionary has his own set of needs at any given time. These generally fall into the categories of health, finances, family, and ministry activities (Col. 1:9).

[1] James 5:16; Matt. 9:38; 2 Thess. 3:1