Prayer For Ministries That Support Orphans
10 things that will kill your orphan care ministry: Part 4
This is last part of a series (read parts 1, 2, and 3) born several years of consulting with and observing many churches across America develop orphan care ministries.
Over time, I have noticed some common mistakes that cause these ministries to struggle and even fail. I want to share those observations with you in an effort to help and to stir a discussion about the good things being done to minister well in orphan care.
8. Lack of pastoral support
One sure thing that will kill your church’s orphan care ministry is a lack of pastoral support.
I have repeatedly heard this as a chief frustration of orphan ministry leaders who are struggling to keep going or by those struggling to begin a ministry in their church.
Many times, it’s not that pastors outright oppose it as much they marginalize it by their lack of enthusiasm or weak support. The question is why?I have found three reasons that many pastors fail to give their enthusiastic support for orphan ministry:
One sure thing that will kill your church’s orphan care ministry is a lack of pastoral support.
- They think it will take away from the “more important” ministries of the church. Examples of these ministries include evangelism and discipleship. Recent research from the Barna Research Group indicates that just the opposite is true, at least for young adult Christians, when it comes to evangelism. They found that engaging in justice ministry tends to increase evangelism in born-again young adults.
- They don’t understand the gospel significance of caring for orphans. Too often, pastors see orphan care as a little something extra.They fail to see orphan care and other mercy ministries as natural good work that should flow a person who has been changed by the gospel (Matt. 25:31-46).
- They fear distraction from the church’s mission and dwindling of critical resources. Just the opposite is often the case, especially among younger Christians. Younger believers see giving and connection to mission differently than previous generations. They are less ly to give blindly to general church funds and pooled mission funds. They want to be part of the mission. They give to and work toward what they have a connection with. Orphans are people that the church can reach with purpose. It can give younger believers a way to be involved in the church’s mission financially and in presence. This involvement can translate to connection to the rest of the work of the church. The result is more connection and more passion for the gospel and the church’s work, not less.
I would caution you about two things at this point. Don’t expect your pastor to have the same passion for orphan ministry that you do. Secondly, don’t become a clanging symbol. You won’t nag your pastor into a greater vision for orphan care. Give him good facts and resources that will help inform about orphans, but most of all, pray for him. Trust God to give him a vision.
9. Poor connection to the church’s mission
For orphan ministry to be effective, it has to be connected to the overall mission and vision of the church. There are two important reasons why:
- The mission of the church isn’t alterable or debatable. Ultimately, the church’s mission is defined by Jesus, the head of the church. What we do in and through the church, we do under the rule and authority of Jesus because the church is his. The church’s mission is to make disciples, and orphan care is part of that mission. We can’t lose sight of either priority.
- Each church is set into a specific context. The time and place of its existence is part of what God uses to shape its unique vision. No two local churches will work to accomplish the mission of the universal church the same way. That means that no two churches can accomplish orphan ministry the same way. Not being sensitive to the culture inside and outside your church and accounting for the uniqueness will kill your church’s orphan ministry.
One final thing that will kill your orphan ministry is prayerlessness. The world’s orphan crisis is epic. According to UNICEF’s estimates, there are approximately 153 million orphans around the globe, but the number really fails to represent the crisis accurately.
This number represents children who have lost one parent to death, but it does not account for the scores of children abandoned by living parents, those living on the streets, those enslaved and trafficked, and those in countries (particularly Islamic) who fail to report orphan statistics.
In truth, the UNICEF number is a statistic that is meant to underscore the vulnerability of children to the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic, not to account for what we would consider orphaned children.
God has given the responsibility of orphan care to his people in order to display his character and salvation to the nations, but we have to acknowledge that the task is beyond us. We need something more than the resources at our disposal to address the problem.
Unfortunately, many churches make the mistake of focusing too intently on the tangible over the intangible. Instead of taking sufficient time to pray, they are drawn into the easy trap of working hard at solving problems for orphans without seeking God’s power, direction, and provision.
We can’t afford not to take time to pray.
Being prayerless in orphan care is “taking a knife to a gunfight.” It is a powerless, losing proposition. It aims too low. We will find ourselves meeting mere temporal needs with no lasting significance and no gospel impact if we fail to pray for God’s direction and provision constantly.
Prioritizing prayer seems oxymoronic to many, but it makes perfect sense. In elevating prayer, we acknowledge our helplessness and utter dependence upon God. Prayer is something tangible. It is communion with the Most High God. It is the most important work.
This Lifeline originally appeared here.
He Fed Ten Thousand Orphans with Prayer: George Müller (1805–1898)
George Müller built five large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his lifetime. When he started in 1834, there were accommodations for 3,600 orphans in all of England, and twice that many children under 8 were in prison.
One of the great effects of Müller’s ministry was to inspire others so that, according to biographer A.T. Pierson, “fifty years after Mr.
Müller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone” (George Müller of Bristol, 274).
He prayed in millions of dollars (in today’s currency) for the orphans, and never asked anyone directly for money. He never took a salary in the last 68 years of his ministry, but trusted God to put in people’s hearts to send him what he needed. He never took out a loan or went into debt. And neither he nor the orphans were ever hungry.
Active till the End
He did all this while he was preaching three times a week from 1830 to 1898, at least ten thousand times. And when he turned 70, he fulfilled a lifelong dream of missionary work for the next seventeen years, until he was 87. He traveled to 42 countries, preaching an average of once a day and addressing some three million people.
From the end of his travels in 1892 (when he was 87) until his death in March 1898, he preached in his church and worked for the Scripture Knowledge Institution.
He led a prayer meeting at his church on the evening of Wednesday, March 9, 1898. The next day, a cup of tea was taken to him at seven in the morning, but no answer came to the knock on the door.
He was found dead on the floor beside his bed.The funeral was held the following Monday in Bristol, where he had served for 66 years.
“Tens of thousands of people reverently stood along the route of the simple procession; men left their workshops and offices, women left their elegant homes or humble kitchens, all seeking to pay a last token of respect.
” A thousand children gathered for a service at the Orphan House No. 3. They had now “for a second time lost a ‘father’” (George Müller of Bristol, 285–86).
Mary and Susannah
Müller had been married twice: to Mary Groves when he was 25 and to Susannah Sangar when he was 66. Mary bore him four children. Two were stillborn. One son, Elijah, died when he was a year old.
Müller’s daughter Lydia married James Wright, who succeeded him as the head of the Institution. But Lydia died in 1890 at 57 years of age. Five years later, Müller lost his second wife, just three years before he died.
And so he outlived his family and was left alone with his Savior, his church, and two thousand children.
When Müller received Mary’s diagnosis of rheumatic fever, his “heart was nigh to be broken on account of the depth of my affection” (A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings with George Müller, 2:398). The one who had seen God answer ten thousand prayers for the support of the orphan did not get what he asked this time. Or did he?
“I Was Satisfied”
Twenty minutes after four on the Lord’s Day, February 6, 1870, Mary died. “I fell on my knees and thanked God for her release, and for having taken her to Himself, and asked the Lord to help and support us” (A Narrative, 2:400).
He recalled later how he strengthened himself during these hours with Psalm 84:11: “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
” And here we see the key to his life:
I am in myself a poor worthless sinner, but I have been saved by the blood of Christ; and I do not live in sin; I walk uprightly before God. Therefore, if it is really good for me, my darling wife will be raised up again, sick as she is.God will restore her again. But if she is not restored again, then it would not be a good thing for me. And so my heart was at rest. I was satisfied with God. And all this springs, as I have often said before, from taking God at his word, believing what he says.
(A Narrative, 2:745)
Here is the cluster of unshakable convictions and experiences that are the key to Müller’s remarkable life.
- “I am in myself a poor worthless sinner.”
- “I have been saved by the blood of Christ.”
- “I do not live in sin.”
- “God is sovereign over life and death. If it is good for her and for me, she will be restored again. If it is not, she won’t.”
- “My heart is at rest.”
- “I am satisfied with God.”
All this comes from taking God at his word. There you see the innermost being of George Müller and the key to his life — the word of God, revealing his sin, revealing his Savior, revealing God’s sovereignty, revealing God’s goodness, revealing God’s promise, awakening his faith, satisfying his soul. “I was satisfied with God.”
Faith: Gift or Grace?
So, were his prayers for Mary answered? To understand how Müller himself would answer this question, we have to see the way he distinguished between the extraordinary gift of faith and the more ordinary grace of faith. He constantly insisted, when people put him on a pedestal, that he did not have the gift of faith just because he would pray for his own needs and the needs of the orphans, and the money would arrive in remarkable ways.
The reason he is so adamant about this is that his whole life — especially in the way he supported the orphans by faith and prayer without asking anyone but God for money — was consciously planned to encourage Christians that God could really be trusted to meet their needs. We will never understand Müller’s passion for the orphan ministry if we don’t see that the good of the orphans was second to this.
The three chief reasons for establishing an Orphan-House are: 1) That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened. 2) The spiritual welfare of fatherless and motherless children. 3) Their temporal welfare. (A Narrative, 1:103)
That was the chief passion and unifying aim of Müller’s ministry: to live a life and lead a ministry in a way that proves God is real, God is trustworthy, and God answers prayer. He built orphanages the way he did to help Christians trust God. He says it over and over again.
Taking God at His Word
Now we see why he was so adamant that his faith was not the gift of faith mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:9, which only some people have, but was the grace of faith that all Christians should have.
If Christians simply say, “Müller is in a class by himself; he has the gift of faith,” then we are all off the hook and he is no longer a prod and proof and inspiration for how we ought to live.
Here is what he says:
The difference between the gift and the grace of faith seems to me this.
According to the gift of faith I am able to do a thing, or believe that a thing will come to pass, the not doing of which, or the not believing of which would not be sin; according to the grace of faith I am able to do a thing, or believe that a thing will come to pass, respecting which I have the word of God as the ground to rest upon, and, therefore, the not doing it, or the not believing it would be sin.For instance, the gift of faith would be needed, to believe that a sick person should be restored again though there is no human probability: for there is no promise to that effect; the grace of faith is needed to believe that the Lord will give me the necessaries of life, if I first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness: for there is a promise to that effect (Matthew 6:33). (A Narrative, 1:65)
Müller did not think he had any biblical ground for being certain that God would spare his wife Mary.
He admits that a few times in his life he was given “something the gift (not grace) of faith so that unconditionally I could ask and look for an answer,” but he did not have that rare gift in Mary’s case (A Narrative, 1:65). And so he prayed for her healing conditionally — namely, if it would be good for them and for God’s glory.
But most deeply he prayed that they would be satisfied in God, whatever God did. And God did answer that prayer by helping Müller believe Psalm 84:11: “No good thing does he withhold.” God withheld no good thing from him, and he was satisfied with God’s sovereign will. All this, he says, “springs . . . from taking God at his word, believing what he says” (A Narrative, 2:745).
Oh, How He Loves
The aim of George Müller’s life was to glorify God by helping people take God at his word. To that end, he saturated his soul with the word of God.
At one point, he said that he read the Bible five or ten times more than he read any other books. His aim was to see God in Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead in order that he might maintain the happiness of his soul in God.
By this deep satisfaction in God, Müller was set free from the fears and lusts of the world.
And in this freedom of love, he chose a strategy of ministry and style of life that put the reality and trustworthiness and beauty of God on display. To use his own words, his life became a “visible proof to the unchangeable faithfulness of the Lord” (A Narrative, 1:105).
Müller was sustained in this extraordinary life by his deep convictions that God is sovereign over the human heart and can turn it where he wills in answer to prayer; that God is sovereign over life and death; and that God is good in his sovereignty and withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly. He strengthened himself continually in his wife’s final illness with the words of a hymn:
Best of blessings He’ll provide us,Nought but good shall e’er betide us,Safe to glory He will guide us,
Oh, how He loves! (A Narrative, 2:399)
Will You Not Try This Way?
I will let Müller have the closing word of exhortation and pleading for us to join him in the path of radical, joyful faith:
My dear Christian reader, will you not try this way? Will you not know for yourself . . . the preciousness and the happiness of this way of casting all your cares and burdens and necessities upon God? This way is as open to you as to me. . . .
Every one is invited and commanded to trust in the Lord, to trust in Him with all his heart, and to cast his burden upon Him, and to call upon Him in the day of trouble. Will you not do this, my dear brethren in Christ? I long that you may do so.I desire that you may taste the sweetness of that state of heart, in which, while surrounded by difficulties and necessities, you can yet be at peace, because you know that the living God, your Father in heaven, cares for you. (A Narrative, 1:521)
7 Ways to Pray for Ministries that Train Church Leaders [August Prayer Focus]
Change is only lasting if it outlives us. That’s why so many TEAM missionaries invest in ministries that train church leaders and national missionaries.
By teaching at Bible colleges, sending students on internships and coaching them on how to disciple others, missionaries around the world ensure that local believers have the skills to make more disciples. And in that way, this vital work ensures that Christ’s kingdom will continue to grow on this earth until His return.
This August, will you pray with us for ministries around the world that train leaders and national missionaries?
Click here to get a printable version of these requests, and sign up here to get the new prayer focus in your inbox each month.
1. Pray for impactful teaching.
Translation discrepancies and cultural relevance are two major hurdles that cross-cultural teachers face when developing new church leaders. Photo by TEAM
Cross-cultural communication in a learning environment creates a unique set of challenges. Sometimes teachers pay so much attention to their translation capabilities that the strength of their message is diluted. Other times, they struggle with making their classes culturally applicable.
TEAM missionaries Brian and Joyce Flickner teach many South African students who come from churches where prosperity theology is openly taught. The Flickners and other teachers at Durban Bible College need wisdom to build up their students in the truth while tearing down the false teachings they were raised with, prosperity theology.
Pray that teachers will understand the cultural differences they face and know how to communicate effectively. Ask God to make each lesson clear to the students who hear it.
2. Pray for tuition funds for students.
Poverty and rural living often make it difficult for individuals to receive a quality, biblical education. Photo by TEAM
When it comes to ministries that train leaders and national missionaries, this is the most common prayer request we receive from the field.
Many of these ministries are in areas with a high concentration of unreached people groups, which is why they are so crucial to kingdom advancement. However, this means poverty and rural living are often daily realities for many of the students.
“Many students come to SAIACS [South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies] in faith that God will supply the approximate $1,500 USD for the year’s fees, which covers study, room and board,” says one TEAM worker.
Pray for students who have stepped out in faith to follow God’s call. Ask God to give them courage, and pray that He will meet all their needs.
3. Pray for unity and renewal among teachers and staff.
From the teachers to the behind-the-scenes staff members, running a school requires unity of vision and purpose. Photo by TEAM
Faculty and staff members work long hours, day in and day out, in order to keep ministry schools alive and thriving. They recruit new students; organize classes and records; keep the books, and teach classes while also tending to their students’ souls.
Much of this work goes largely unnoticed, so pray for seasons of renewal when the work seems thankless and draining.
Pray also for unity among teachers and staff as they seek to fulfill a common goal: to train church leaders and evangelists. Pray that their lessons and work will reflect this aim and unify them as a team.
4. Pray for resources and facilities.
Advances in technology can enhance any student’s learning experience, but some schools struggle to obtain even everyday resources. Photo by TEAM
Anyone who has worked in education can attest that physical resources are a must, from computer monitors to pencil sharpeners and everything in between.
Take library supplies, for example. TEAM missionary Lynda Collison says one of Swaziland Evangelical Bible College’s immediate needs is getting bar codes on their library books so they can create a computer-based checkout system. Many students currently use the library for research, so acquiring resources that could make the checkout process easier is among the school’s top priorities.
Please pray that each school will have all the resources it needs. Pray also for patience and discernment as staff members await the provision of these much-needed materials.
5. Pray that graduates will put what they’ve learned into practice.
Pray that students will have the courage to lead where they are now and continue to use what they’ve learned after they graduate. Photo by TEAM
The ultimate aim of any leadership training program is to see students use what they learn to share the Gospel with others.
“Our hope and prayer is that the students finish the three-year program and go back to serve in their village churches as pastors and shepherds,” says Dan Hubert, who serves at Merauke Bible School in Papua.
Pray for wisdom as graduates of these programs seek God’s purpose for their lives. Pray they will know how to apply their newfound skills in the real world, and that they lead many people to Jesus.
6. Pray for growth and awareness of the schools.
Attending Bible school is a wonderful opportunity — but one that many potential students don’t realize is available to them. Photo by TEAM
A school can’t enroll the right students unless those students are aware of the school in the first place. However, getting the word out is a challenge for small institutions running on tight budgets. And once students are accepted, they still face obstacles, such as having to move or take care of family members.
Pray that staff members will find effective ways to spread the word about their programs. Pray also for wisdom to accept the right applicants and steer others in a healthy direction. Ask God to make the way clear for each student He wants at these schools.
7. Pray for spiritual protection of staff and students.
With an Enemy right on the doorsteps of schools disciplining new leaders, prayer is essential for students and faculty to stay focused on the truth. Photo by TEAM
Of course, the Evil One hates what these schools stand for. He will not miss an opportunity to attack on any and every level.
For two students at Union Bible Institute in South Africa, this reality is all too palpable. “One of our female students was in a severe car accident some years ago and has had several surgeries since then,” said TEAM missionary Eric Binion. “She has continuing problems with eyesight, depression and other health issues.”
Eric went on to request prayers for another student who is struggling financially. His family’s only source of income while he attended UBI was his wife’s preschool business, which has now fallen on hard times.
wise, faculty and staff members struggle with weariness from spiritual warfare.
“We pray God’s protection for our teachers and staff,” says TEAM missionary Brett Miller, who serves as a teacher at Zion Bible College in Swaziland. “They are constantly under attack.”
Join us in praying not only for the protection of staff and students of these schools, but also for divine refreshment and zeal even in the face of trials.
Thank you for partnering with us in prayer! Click the image below to get a printable version of these requests to remember how to pray all month long.
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