March 5, 2013

Three ways to pray for missionaries

by d p

Missionaries need your prayers. Right now, there are people laboring for the Lord in difficult parts of the world, trying to advance their gospel. The outcome of their effort is connected to the work of prayer on their behalf, by those left behind. God is of course sovereign over the advance of the gospel; but God plans the ends as well as the means, and he has chosen to see the gospel advance through the power of prayer.

Prayer Banner

This is why Paul, perhaps the most rugged missionary ever to live, repeatedly asked those who sent him to pray for him (Rom15:30; 2 Cor 1:11; 1 Thess 5:25; 2 Thess 3:1; Heb 13:18). If the pioneer of all pioneer missionaries (Acts 9:15) needed prayer, how much more do missionaries today need our prayers?

But it can be difficult to know exactly how to pray for missionaries. What are ways you can effectively intercede for those who bring the gospel to distant lands? Scripture gives us several specific items to be praying for on behalf of missionaries:  

1) Gospel Opportunities & Advancement

The great task of missions is impossible. No matter how skilled the missionary is, he is unable to bring new life out of dead and hardened hearts. Since this is only a work that God’s Spirit can do, prayers must be made for missionaries to have opportunities to share the gospel and that the Spirit will give new life through the hearing of their message.

Here is how Paul asked for prayers for his evangelism opportunities:

“[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Eph 6:19).

“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Col 4:3-4).

“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored” (2 Thess 3:1 ).

Please pray that God would grant many open doors for the gospel and that missionaries will be bold in proclaiming the love of Christ in words of wisdom to those around them. Pray that the gospel will be so compelling that it spreads like California wildfires in these dry and barren lands.

globe-map2) Protection & Deliverance

Missionaries not only need prayer for opportunities in advancing the gospel, but they also need prayer for sovereign protection. The enemies of Christ and his church are always warring against the advancement of the gospel. So if a missionary plans to proclaim Christ among the unreached, he will certainly be attacked by Satan’s forces. There is not an area more attacked by Satan than where the gospel is preached to those who have for so long been held by his grip. So the church must fervently pray for protection and deliverance from enemies.

Paul understood this, and asked for prayer for protection from the devil’s attempts to disrupt missions:

“[Pray] that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men” (2 Thess 3:2 ).

“[Pray] that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea” (Rom 15:31).

Paul was even confident that the prayers of his supporting churches would be the means the Lord would use to rescue him from his afflictions (2 Cor 1:10-11). He also knew that it was through the church’s prayers that he would be able to escape his trials and be refreshed by his time the saints (Phile 22).

Pray that missionaries will be protected against the schemes of Satan. Pray that antagonistic governments will be held at bay. Pray for protection against sickness, accidents, tragedies, discouragement, depression, and persecution.

3) Personal Holiness & Refreshment

Missionaries are human, which is to say that they are weak and frail vessels (2 Cor 4:7). And missionaries are particularly tempted to fall into sin. The difficulties of different languages and cultures, the loneliness due to lack of fellowship, and the distance between loved ones, can all turn into opportunities for sin and discouragement. So missionaries need prayer to stay strong and faithful for the gospel, even during the most difficult times.

Again:

“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things” (Heb 13:18 ).

Pray that missionaries will not fall into the allures of temptation. Pray that their service to others will be honorable in the sight of God. Pray that missionaries will have opportunities for refreshment, through times of encouragement with church bodies, through times of vacation with families, and through time spent alone with the Lord.

If you never have envisioned yourself as going overseas to proclaim the gospel, you still have a critical role to play in frontier missions work. Missionaries depend upon the faithful prayers of the saints back home. So may you be burdened for the gospel to be preached on every part of the globe, and may you be interceding specifically for the great needs of missionaries who are on the frontlines.

d p

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DP is a graduate of The Master's Seminary, and is currently translating the Bible for an unreached people group.