Seven things to pray for missionaries
There are numerous ways a church can pray in order to bless their missionaries. Because the church might not always know those immediate, pressing issues in the missionary’s life, praying from God’s Word is always valuable and applicable in every season and place. Here are seven simple ways to pray for missionaries from Paul’s charge to Timothy (see 2 Timothy 2:1-7):
- To Be Strengthened in Christ (v1): Pray that the missionaries would be strengthened by the grace of Christ; pray that they would stand on the promises of God and derive their confidence from the past, present, and future triumph of Christ.
- To Make Disciples (v2): Pray that the missionaries would be actively making disciples. There are many good, helpful services that can be done on the mission field, but a missionary fails to obey Christ if disciples are not being made. Making disciples does not happen passively; it requires actively pursuing people, planning what to teach, and raising up nationals to lead and serve the local church. Essentially, a missionary should always be looking for ways to work himself out of a job.
- To Suffer Well (v3): Pray for missionaries as they suffer with Christ. There is a heightened level of adversity and affliction that missionaries experience due to many things: spiritual darkness of the host culture; overall stress of living cross-culturally and its physiological effects; mental exhaustion of learning to operate in foreign language; emotional challenges from feeling isolated; strained relationships; and overall discouragement. And, there are many other unique factors that contribute to the suffering of missionaries. The missionary needs prayer for Spirit-filled perseverance and heavenly-minded perspective.
- To Stay Focussed on the Mission (v4): Pray for missionaries to not fall into legitimate distractions. In our globalized culture, there are many ways to stay connected. For some missionaries, the host culture can be so difficult and daunting that they slip into anesthetizing habits and seek to escape to their friends in America through social media. Much time is unduly wasted simply trying to stay connected to everyone and stay up-to-date on the latest entertainment, news, and trends of American society. Too little time is spent in prayer, intercession, and meditation, which can result in disheartened evangelistic efforts, undisciplined language learning, indifference to disciple-making, and overall spiritual anaemia.
- To Keep the Word (v5): Pray for missionaries to carefully keep the Word of God. There are many pragmatic ways to create a platform, fund a project, or start a church that are not prescribed in Scripture. There is a temptation to call every good activity “preaching the gospel” or “missions,” when in fact the gospel is not being preached at all. There are many good deeds done only in the name of love, hope, and peace; just as words that have no works are empty, so are good works without good news.
- To Work Hard (v6): Pray for missionaries to work hard. As in any ministry where there is sometimes little accountability, idleness and slothfulness can become big temptations for missionaries. Because of the stress and exhaustion of living cross-culturally and in hostile countries, unconscious discouragement can lead to resignation and apathy. Sometimes the hardest thing is to just survive living a normal day. So, any effort given to making disciples, evangelism, and prayer can become weak. Because of the daily sacrifices and the relentless spiritual battle, the gospel labour of a missionary is indeed by the power of Christ alone working effectively through the missionary. No one has the strength in himself to proclaim the gospel, let alone in a foreign language and hostile culture.
- To Meditate on the Word (v7): Pray for illumination from the Word. Pray that missionaries would do the work of Bible memory and meditation. One of the greatest ways to fall into despondency, to slacken in evangelistic zeal, to neglect prayer, and to abandon Bible-driven ministry for other more tolerable and socially acceptable ventures is to lose confidence in the supremacy and sufficiency of the Word of God. This happens when the mind is not regularly immersed in and recalibrated by the Scriptures. Missionaries will lose perspective and hope if they only read the Bible briefly and occasionally but do not take time to absorb it and think hard about the Spirit-intended meaning.
Evan Burns, Asst. Professor of Spirituality & Missiology & Director of Online Education at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, Chiang Mai
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