In July 2017, I participated in a Serve Asia trip to East Asia. I had previously participated in short term mission trips to four other countries in East Asia but this was the first time I joined a trip focused on prayer. The people group to which we were going was (and still is) unreached. There was no existing church, and the number of believers was small. The objective of our trip was to engage in prayer over the people and the province we were in.
Over ten days, our team visited various counties in the area. In the process we visited villages and small cities, encouraged new believers, played with children and prayed. Prayer was constant. We prayed in the churches we visited, with the workers serving in the field, in the villages we entered. And we prayed on the road. Here are some lessons I took away from the trip:
Spiritual battle: the power of prayer
“Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:11-13
I have often heard this spoken about in my home church back in Singapore. But it became apparent throughout our trip. Knowing that we were here to pray and to do battle against forces of darkness, Satan was probably fearful and there were several ways in which he tried to discourage the team (particularly our missionary host) day after day.
- One team member’s flight was delayed and another’s luggage was lost.
- Our car battery died late one evening after a long day of discipleship training and service, right when we had to drive to the airport (again) to pick up the lost luggage.
- Upon arriving home that night, the missionary host discovered that her kitchen was flooded.
- There was a rat in the missionary host’s room when we were spending the night in a village.
Despite these challenges, we were always reminded to pray and to remain cognizant of the spiritual battle we were involved in. In prayer, we were encouraged and pushed through, trusting that God was doing a work among this unreached people group. In prayer the team remained united through the challenges and discouragement.
Despite having come from four different countries with different cultures, I found in the team a spiritual unity that far exceeded anything I had expected. There was no awkwardness or misunderstanding; in prayer we came together and fought together. I learned that the power of prayer was not only in formalized times of prayer, but also in prayers made “on the go”. Prayer is powerful not because of its form but because the God we pray to is powerful.
There was one incident I particularly remember. We climbed a hill overlooking a town intending to pray over the town and the people in the surrounding areas. That day, many firecrackers started to be set off as a way of scaring away the spirits.
After we had prayed and worshiped on the hill for a while, the noise of the firecrackers increasingly got louder. The more we prayed, the more the firecrackers went off. But we persisted in prayer and praise, lifting the name of God and declaring His lordship over the town. When we finally felt that there was a breakthrough, we stopped praying. And the firecrackers stopped at that very moment, leaving us to walk down the hill in silence. It was as though the physical reflected the spiritual reality.
The value of an individual
One of the villages we visited had no road leading into it. We took a two-hour trek up the mountains to reach the village and another hour and a half to get back out before the sunset. There was only one believer – an elderly lady, who was home alone taking care of young children as their parents were in other counties and provinces working.
Most of the team were unable to converse and spent time playing with the children. This gave our missionary host time and space to speak to the elderly lady, encourage her and pray with her. Our missionary host also showed the old lady a gospel video produced in her own language.
The time taken for the journey far exceeded the time we spent in the village. But in the process, I was reminded of the value of an individual. The journey was worth taking not because there were many people, but because that single lady mattered.
When Christ died, He did not die only for those who live in areas easily accessible. He died also for those in remote villages and inaccessible areas. Today, as I write this, I am reminded of how God loves us and knows each one of us. He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). I am reminded that God loved us and gave Himself for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).
Reflecting on prayer
Needless to say, a trip in which prayer is the main objective is different from trips where there are programs to run or certain objectives to hit.
In undertaking a prayer trip, our team was challenged to be in constant communion with God and be utterly dependent on Him. Having interacted with and prayed for an unreached people group, we also saw that much of the “work” was spiritual in nature, declaring God’s lordship over the nation, claiming His promises, battling spiritual forces at work.
We pray not just because it is the right thing to do; we pray because:
“unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it…” (Psalm 127:1)
May God continue to work in the hearts of this people group, too:
“… destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.” (Isaiah 25:7)