Prayer For Missions Grant
To Send Missionaries is to Pray
This post is the second in a three-part series exploring the role of the sending church in missions. Read Part I or Part III.
The following is an excerpt from The Sending Church Defined, written by Upstream Collective. It can be purchased in print.
While at a secret meeting with house church leaders in an intensely persecuted region of China, missiologist Nik Ripken was asked a peculiar question: “Are the believers [in other countries] persecuted we are?”
Ripken answered yes, describing the kind of persecution taking place in two Middle Eastern countries. The group became eerily silent.
Early the next morning Ripken was jarred awake to shouts and screams. It wasn’t secret police, but the Chinese Christians praying in anguish for their Middle Eastern brothers and sisters. Ripken comments, “In that instant, I could see why the number of Chinese believers had gone from a few hundred thousand to perhaps hundreds of millions!”
Prayer Moves Missions
Prayer is the church’s fuel for mission. E.M. Bounds said that without prayer “the church is lifeless and powerless.
’ Yet it’s not a stretch to say that when she does pray, the earth shakes—just look at the examples strewn throughout the book of Acts! The first church devoted themselves to prayer, which was followed by awe upon everyone, many wonders and signs, having all things in common, and the daily addition of new believers (2:42-47).
Later, in response to persecution, the church prayed together for boldness, which led to a mini earthquake, the filling of the Holy Spirit, and continued daring witness (4:23-31).
The leaders of the church at Antioch fasted and prayed together, and the Holy Spirit told them to send out Barnabas and Saul, sparking a massive gospel movement (13:1-3).
As Donald Whitney puts it, “united prayer is always linked with the effectiveness of the gospel and the church.“
The Sending Church Moves in Prayer
Sending churches recognize that the neighborhoods and the nations are theirs for the asking.
This is because the neighborhoods and nations belong to the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), who rules over them with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9), and who is obliged to share the throne with his own people (2 Timothy 2:12).
Prayer is “a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church”. As the church battles on the front lines against the powers of darkness and unbelief, she is maneuvered, provisioned, and made victorious by God through prayer.
Thankfully, Jesus knows well our busy ambitions, and he is fit to remind us constantly of our need. He remarks in Luke 10:2 that the “harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” There, seventy-two eager young disciples are lining up a fifth grade 100-yard dash, ready to impress the Messiah with their skills. Yet notice that Jesus’ first command isn’t go. Instead he says pray—
“Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
The implication wasn’t that praying was more pious than going, but that they needed Jesus every step of the way. He would later warn them, “When you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty,’” (17:10).The call to be prayerful is not an obligation to rote activity as though we’re spinning Buddhist prayer wheels, but a call to know Christ.
Said Dallas Willard, “An obsession merely with doing what God commands may be the very thing that rules out being the kind of person that he calls us to be.”
Prayer Moves in Power
When viewed in light of who God is, the command to pray becomes both a powerful weapon and a warm invitation. In a sending church it is every person’s entry point into the mission. The old adage is true, every Christian can change the world through prayer. But what an individualistic perspective!
Medal of Honor recipients may turn battles, but armies win wars. The unified prayer of a church is a force few of us have ever witnessed outside the Scriptures. The church will rally to causes, campaigns, and cantatas, but just try to get everyone together to pray for an hour. Insert cricket sounds.
Mission leaders, especially pastors, can lead the way in shaping a culture of prayerfulness. D.A.
Carson notes that Charles Spurgeon surprisingly was willing to share his pulpit, but not his “pastoral prayer,” which was intended to “not only intercede with God but also instruct and edify and encourage the saints.
” Here the church will learn how to cry out for the neighborhoods and the nations rather than simply asking God to ‘bless the missionaries’.
But prayer is not merely the entry point of missions in a sending church. It’s the foundation for every element of sending. What will be the church’s strategy? Who will lead in its formation? How will the church develop missionaries? Where will missionaries be sent? Who will the church partner with? What will ongoing support look ? Looks we’ve got a lot to be praying about.
What ways have your seen your church engage with missions through prayer? How has God moved in response to those prayers? Engage in the comments below.
Bible Verses for Missions
Sometimes Christians feel called to be a missionary and these Bible verses for missions can be helpful when answering that call.
Some times, we may feel moved by the Spirit to provide financial support or assistance to missionaries. Whatever our involvement, missions are an important part of spreading the good news about Jesus Christ.
These scriptures for missions will hopefully provide you with insight about missions and how they are an act of obedience to the great commission of Jesus Christ, calling on us to share the message of salvation with all people and all nations. Missions are a crucial part of church function.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[English Standard Version, Acts 1:8]
“And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”[Mark 16:15]
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”[Matthew 28:19]
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”[Romans 10:13-15]
“For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”[Acts 13:47]
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”[1 Chronicles 16:24]
“And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”[Luke 24:47]
“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”[Acts 14:15]
“Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off.”[Nahum 1:15]
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”[Matthew 24:14]
“Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!””[Isaiah 40:9]
“As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),”[Acts 10:36]
“Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.”[Revelation 14:6]
“but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”[1 Thessalonians 2:4]
“But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”[Acts 8:12]
“For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”[1 Thessalonians 2:9]
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.””[Isaiah 52:7]
“And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers,”[Acts 13:32]
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”[Psalm 96:3]
“And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. And I said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles”to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”[Acts 26:14-18]
Mission Work in the Bible
Probably the most important biblical passage among these Bible verses for missions is the great commission found in Matthew 28:19, where Jesus commands his followers to preach the truth to all nations.
In Bible college, I had to go on a mission trip to Mexico where people lived in clay houses on squatted land. I spoke to the crowd there and gave my testimony while it was translated into Spanish. I still find it as one of the most rewarding times in my life.
Several places in the Bible, there are scriptures about missions that mention the blessedness of those who spread the good news.It is a necessary part of the plan of salvation and requires the power of the Holy Spirit to not only first call the missionary, but to empower him to fulfill that calling. In one passage, Jesus declares that when the gospel has been preached throughout the whole world, that then the end of the world will come.
Share these Bible verses about Missions with anyone considering becoming a missionary.
Add a Bible Verse or Comment
10 Prayers for Missions or Mission Trips
We always pray before we take a trip. We ask God to protect us in our journey and to bless our time away from home.
It is also a good thing to pray for others as they leave for a mission trip, whether it be short-term or a longer commitment.
Often times we have been blessed to have the deacons and pastors of the Church pray over us as we have gone onto new ministries. Perhaps you want to pray but do now know how to pray. Here are 10 prayers for missions or mission trips.
Pray for their families
Many times men, women and young people leave their families for an extended period of time to go to the mission field. Ask God to provide for the family while the loved one is away.
Also, those that go to the mission field as a family often times leave other extended family and friends behind. Pray for strong relationships as they adjust to new cultures, climates and schedules.
Try something this:
Dear Lord, as this family goes to serve you, whether it be in a foreign land or even just to another area of their own country, please keep their relationship strong.
I ask that you remind them that they are very special to one another, especially while they are serving you in this manner. Please also protect and provide for the family and friends that they have left behind.
Help them to look forward to the next time they are able to see one another. Remind them to pray too because You love to hear from Your children. In Jesus name I pray. Amen
Pray for good health
Health in the field is of the utmost concern. Missionaries work with people and people carry disease with them. Pray that they are protected from germs and disease that will make it impossible for them to serve. Here is a model right from the Bible, I have personalized it a bit:
Dear Lord I pray this prayer of health for these dear servants of Yours. Help them to always know what Your word says “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. “(Psalms 91:1-6 KJV). You are the Great Physician and I place their health in Your hands.
Pray for time of personal devotion
Every Christian needs to spend time in the word with the Lord on a daily basis, Pray this prayer for personal devotions:
Dear Lord during this time when our dear brother and sister are away from us I pray that you grant them the time that they need to spend with You.
Give them just a few minutes of quiet time each day to meditate upon Your word so that their relationship with You continually grows.
I pray that as they study they will hide Your word in their heart and as they need it to be recalled to their memory that Holy Spirit prompts them at just the right time. Dear Lord, I pray this prayer in the precious name of your Son and my Savior, Jesus.
Pray for physical needs
Perhaps one of the heaviest burdens that a missionary carries is the burden of financial support. This support is necessary not only for their own physical well-being, but also for the work that they do. Running a ministry takes money and every missionary needs prayer for that. Try praying the words that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to the Church at Corinth (2 Cor 9:5-7):
Dear Lord I pray that I may be able to financially support these people that You have sent to do Your work. I pray that I can do it with a cheerful heart and that I may be able to be generous.Lord I also pray that you touch other’s hearts to give to the support of these missionaries. I pray that every man may give as he purposed in his heart to give.
God we know all things come from You and trust that as we give we can also trust that You will continually provide for us as well. Lord we love You and pray in the name of Jesus
Pray that good work relationships form in the mission
New work relationships should always be a matter of prayer. Pray that folks remember to edify one another. Philippians has a great prayer for this, let’s personalize it:
Dear Heavenly Father I pray that you fulfil the joy of these dear brothers and sisters, help them to be minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in them, which was also in Christ Jesus: ( Philippians 2:2-5). I pray in Jesus name, Amen
Pray for clarity and boldness of speech
Missionaries are often presented with opportunity to share a clear gospel message with the people in the field. Just as Paul asked the Churches to pray for him in this regard, remember to pray for the missionaries, that they might have clear words and boldness of speech. Again, the Bible has a great guideline for such a prayer in Colossians.
Dear God, I pray for these people whom you have sent that they will have open doors and that when they open their mouth that the Holy Spirit will speak the words with great clarity.I pray that they can explain in no uncertain terms that Jesus is the Savior of the world and that He willing gave His life to pay their sin debt. I pray that they will understand that Jesus also proved victory over death by rising from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures.
I pray that this truth will convert souls and change lives. I pray in the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen.
Pray that loneliness is kept at bay
Being away from home and sometimes in a very remote place often brings loneliness with it. Pray that your missionaries do not despair as they miss their loved ones. Send some prayers up to our Heavenly Father that He will help these brothers know that they are not alone, the Lord is with them.
Dear Precious God of our fathers, comfort our dear friends as they are homesick. Remind them that they are in Your loving care and that You are always with them even when they are not able to spend time with the loved ones that they left behind. Help them to remember the words of Your Son when he said “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.
You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
” (John 16:20-22)
Pray that they can relax at times
The field can be a very busy place. Some missionaries work from sun up until sun down. They often go on little or no sleep. Don’t forget to ask the Lord to grant them some R & R as needed.
Dear Lord Your servants are hard workers and I ask that You prompt them to take time to rest and relax because their body needs it.
Lord I pray that they will follow Your example for You worked 6 days and rested on the 7th. Help them to know that relaxing is a good thing.
Help us to remember that it is a natural and needed thing for our missionaries to take a break. I pray through Jesus, Amen.
Pray that they are protected from the wiles of the Devil
Missionaries are some of the best targets for Satan. He uses everything that he can to take them down and stop them from proclaiming the precious gospel of Jesus. Pray that your missionaries remember to put on the full armour of God to protect them from spiritual warfare. Pray from Ephesians 6:10-17 (personalized)
Lord I pray that my brethren are strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. I pray that they put on the whole armour of God, that they may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. I also pray that they take on the whole armour of God, that they may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.Stand therefore, having their loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith they shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. This is my prayer for these precious servants, in Jesus name, Amen
Pray that God will use you
We must not forget to pray that God will use us in whatever way He wills. Our prayer should be that we are open to God’s call because we may be the next one He sends.
We must not dwell on whether or not we are able to do what God calls us to do, because God does not always call the equipped, but He always equips the called. God will make a way and raise you up on eagles wings when necessary.
We can pray the humble prayer of His servant, Mary of Nazareth, she submitted to God’s will and He used her to deliver her Deliverer.
My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. (Luke 1:46-55 KJV)
From the Heart of a Missionary Wife
Our family has been in ministry for 12 years but prayers for missionaries never meant so much as they do to me today as we serve in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.
I understand first-hand what it is to be far from home and to walk every day by faith, knowing that Jehovah Jireh will provide as He always does.
Won’t you take some time right now to raise up some missionaries in prayer? They will be blessed by you and you will be blessed to know that God loves to hear the intercessory prayers of His children. Don’t forget to listen to the song in the upper right of this page, it is a personal favorite of mine.
The Holy Bible, King James Version
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
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Daily prayer for mission workers
Thursday, May 30
Pray for Philippe and Merri Teresa in Lebanon as they seek to open the Chef Training School there. Pray for the assistant chef, a refugee who is a follower of Jesus, and for someone else who can manage the ministry when they travel back to the U.S. periodically.
Friday, May 31
Pray for Lynn (Near Frontiers) who is preparing for 14 German summer sports ministry camps, and who recently participated in the 30th anniversary celebration of the European Christian Sports Union.
Saturday, June 1
Praise God with Sara (Europe) for her recent purchase of a cherry orchard to provide work for local pastors who have been trained in discipleship and community development efforts. Pray that the harvest would be fruitful and generate income, and that on-going training would further equip the pastors to better reach and teach their community.
Sunday, June 2
Pray for perseverance for Steve(USMC) as he finishes writing a book on the LIFEWORKX ministry. Pray also for Bill (SEPAL) who has written a book on mentoring. May the Lord use bothbooks to encourage and inspire many.
Monday, June 3
Pray for Frank and Karren who are relocating back to SE Asia after spending two years in the Middle East, studying language and serving at a school for refugeestudents. Pray for their transitionand lasting impact from their time in the lives of Syrian children.
Tuesday, June 4
This summer pray for OC ‘s TCKs (Third Culture Kids) who areleaving their adopted homes and countries and beginning new lives in college orthe working world in the U.S. Praytoo for the Personnel Enrichment Program(PEP) in July, to be held again near Woodland Park, for furloughing OC’ers.
Wednesday, June 5
Pray for Mihai & Tammy (Italy)who are in the midst of a house-buying process which is going slower thanexpected. Pray for patience andGod’s provision of the necessary approvals. May the Lord bless their new homeand make it a place of His love and peace for neighbors and visitors.
Thursday, June 6
Pray for God’s fruitfulness in the lives and ministries of OC workers in their region (North Africa Middle East).
Pray that they will be “positioned”well for bearing spiritual fruit: showing Christness through love, activein a spiritually healthy community, thriving in a culture of prayer, andengaged in godly collaboration.
Friday, June 7
Pray for Angela (Central Asia) as she leaves her school ministry to begin adoctorate program in the U.S. Pray for sweet goodbyes and a smooth transitionto her new life and studies.
Saturday, June 8
Pray with Alex and Kristi (Taiwan) for the Bamboo Village Church, a newpartner church experiencing spiritual attacks, as they seek to grow and reachout to non-believing neighbors. Praytoo for summer English/sports camps assisted by a visiting U.S. short-term teamfrom a supporting church.
Sunday, June 9
Pray for Dave and Sondra (USMC)as they prepare a marriage seminar for the Vladimir Ministry Center in Russia.
Monday, June 10
Praise God for OC’s ongoing China Radio ministry, begun by DickHillis in 1982, targeting pastors needing biblical training. Pray for the lives and ministries of 16,000church leaders who have completed the biblical study program or who arecurrently enrolled.
Tuesday, June 11
Thank the Lord with Alex (US-MC) for her special friend, Najiba, and her growing relationships with many refugee women who have come to Colorado with their families. She rejoices in the transformation of her friend from a fearful person to a confident, independent one. Pray for Christ’s work in her life.
Wednesday, June 12
Pray for David and Debbie (Asia) as they travel to the U.S. to visit Michigan supporters, as well as spend time with their family. Please pray for the development of new partnerships in Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam to be advanced during their time in the U.S.
Thursday, June 13
Thank God for Craig (OC Canada) being named the next Moderator for the Global Alliance Guidance Team. Pray for him as he balances these duties, his ministry work, and his dissertation for his doctorate.
From its inception, OC has been all about leader development. We ensure our mission workers continue growing and developing as leaders through the annual summer Leadership Development Program (LDP). This workshop brings together furloughing mission workers and leaders from our U.S. Mobilization Center.
Become a Mission Worker
Become a Mission Worker… Initial Contact Form
One Challenge is an international mission sending agency empowering local church ministry in more than 100 countries around the world. We seek to empower the whole body of Christ to bring a transforming love and hope to all people.
When invited by local leaders, OC facilitates local bodies of believers to identify, train, and send global workers toward realizing a “from everywhere to everywhere” vision. For more information, please email OC Mobilization at email@example.com.
Or go to our Mobilization blog called “Prepare for Impact” at https://prepareforimpact.life/blog/.
We’ve been blessed to have mission pastor Ralph Anderson, and his wife Joyce, at OC International for over 20 years. They tend to our souls through the Word, prayer, counsel, and encouragement. Click here to view the archive of Ralph’s articles.
Prayer: The Work of Missions
July 01, 2014 by John Piper
Very few people think that we are now in a war greater than World War II, and greater than any imaginable nuclear World War III. Or that Satan is a much worse enemy than Communism or militant Islam.
Or that the conflict is not restricted to any one global theater, but is in every town and city in the world. Or that the casualties do not merely lose an arm or an eye or an earthly life, but lose everything, even their own soul and enter a hell of everlasting torment.
(Rev 14:9-11) Until people believe this, they will not pray as they ought. They will not even know what prayer is.
In Ephesians 6:17-18 Paul makes the connection for us:
Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance. (ESV)
Prayer is the communication by which the weapons of warfare are deployed according to the will of God. Prayer is for war.
Let me show you this more specifically from John 15:16-17: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”(ESV)
The logic is crucial. Why is the Father going to give the disciples what they ask in Jesus’ name? Answer: Because they have been sent to bear fruit.
The reason the Father gives the disciples the gift of prayer is because Jesus has given them a mission.
In fact, the grammar of John 15:16 implies that the reason Jesus gives them their mission is so that they will be able to enjoy the power of prayer. “I send you to bear fruit so that whatever you ask the Father…he may give you.”
So I do not tire of saying to our church, “The number one reason why prayer malfunctions in the hands of a believer is that they try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom.”
Until you believe that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for. Prayer is for the accomplishment of a wartime mission.It is as though the field commander (Jesus) called in the troops, gave them a crucial mission (“Go and bear fruit”), handed each of them a personal transmitter coded to the frequency of the general’s headquarters, and said, “Comrades, the general has a mission for you. He aims to see it accomplished.
And to that end he has authorized me to give each of you personal access to him through these transmitters. If you stay true to his mission and seek his victory first, he will always be as close as your transmitter, to give tactical advice and to send in air cover when you or your comrades need it.”
But what have millions of Christians done? They have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance, no strategic planning. Just easy peacetime and prosperity.
And what did they do with the walkie-talkie? They tried to rig it up as an intercom in their cushy houses and cabins and boats and cars—not to call in fire power for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask the maid to bring another pillow to the den.
God’s Sovereignty in Prayer
Until we embrace the sovereignty of God, we cannot pray consistently that God would actually save lost sinners.
We can’t do what Paul does so passionately in Romans 10:1, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they might be saved.” (ESV)
Paul’s heart’s desire is for the salvation of his fellow Jews. When our hearts ache for something, we pray for it. And so he says that his prayer to God is that they be saved.
He wants something accomplished in his mission—the salvation of Jews—as he preaches in the synagogues. So he prays to God that this would happen. He asks God to save them.
“O God, that they might be saved! Do it God! Do what you need to do!”
Now my point is this: that kind of praying is inconsistent if you do not believe in the sovereignty of God. And what I mean by the sovereignty of God here is that he has the right and the power to save unbelieving, unrepentant, hardened sinners. Now there are a lot of people who do not believe God has that right.
They do not believe that God has the right to intrude upon a person’s rebellion, and overcome it, and draw that person effectually to faith and salvation. They do not believe that God dare exert himself so powerfully in grace as to overcome all the resistance of a hardened sinner.
Instead they believe that man himself has the sole right of final determination in the choices and affections of his heart toward God. Every person, they say, has the final self-determination in whether they will overcome the hardness of their hearts and come to Christ.And so it is finally in the hands of man, not God, who will be saved and how many will inhabit the Kingdom.
The effects on prayer for such people are devastating if they try to pray in a manner consistent with this rejection of the sovereignty of God.
They can’t ask God to actually save anybody.
They can’t pray, “God, take out their heart of stone and give them a new heart of flesh.” (Eze 11:19)
They can’t pray, “Lord, circumcise their heart so that they love you.” (Deu 30:6)
They can’t pray, “Father, put your Spirit within them
and cause them to walk in your statutes.” (Eze 36:27)
They can’t pray, “Lord, grant them repentance and a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 2:25-26)
They can’t pray, “Open their eyes so that they believe in the gospel.” (Acts 16:14)
The reason they can’t is that all these prayers give God a right that they have reserved for man—namely the ultimate, decisive determination of his destiny. If they ask God to do any of these things, He would be the one who actually saves.
How then do you pray, if you really believe that man and not God must make the ultimate decisions about salvation in the universe?I take an example from a well-known book on prayer that does reject God’s sovereignty in the salvation of sinners. This writer says that the way to pray is to “Ask God to cause a specific person to begin questioning whom they can really trust in life.
” But my question then is: Why is it right for God to cause a person to think a question and wrong for God to cause that person to think an answer? Why is it legitimate for God to take control of a person to the degree that He cause the person to ask a question he would not have otherwise asked, but it is not legitimate for God to exert that same influence to cause the person to give an answer that he would not otherwise have given—namely that Jesus should be trusted?
Here is another example of how this writer thinks we should pray for unbelievers: “Pray that God will plant in the hearts of these people… an inner unrest, together with a longing to know the ‘Truth.’” Now my question is, if it is legitimate for God to “plant a longing” in a person’s heart, how strong can the longing be that God chooses to plant?
There are two kinds of longings God could plant in an unbeliever’s heart. One is so strong that it leads the person to pursue and embrace Christ. The other is not strong enough to lead a person to embrace Christ.
Which do you pray for? If you pray for the strong longing, then you are praying that the Lord work effectually and get that person saved.
If you pray for the weak longing, then you are praying for an ineffectual longing that leaves the person in sin (but preserves his self-determination).
Do you see where this leads? People who really believe that man must have the ultimate power of self-determination can’t consistently pray that God would convert unbelieving sinners.
Why? Because if they pray for divine influence in a sinner’s life, they are either praying for a successful influence (which takes away the sinner’s ultimate self-determination), or they are praying for an unsuccessful influence, (which is not praying for conversion).
So either you give up praying for conversion or you give up ultimate human self-determination.Paul leaves no doubt where he stands on that issue in Romans 9:16, “It depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.” So he prays that God would convert Israel! He prays for her salvation! He does not pray for ineffectual influences, but for effectual influences. And that is how we should pray, too.
We should take the new covenant promises of God and plead with God to bring them to pass in our children and our neighbors and on all the mission fields of the world.
The Place of Prayer in God’s Purpose for the World
The role of prayer is so unspeakably significant in God’s design that we are prone to overstate its role, especially in relation to the Word of God and the preaching of the gospel.
So let me say, loud and clear, that I believe the proclamation of the gospel in word and deed is the work of missions.
And prayer is the power that wields the weapon of the Word, and the Word is the weapon by which the nations will be brought to faith and obedience.
Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how are they to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard, and how are they to hear without a preacher?… Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom 10:13-17)
Not only has God made the accomplishment of his global purposes of salvation hang on the preaching of the Word, he has also made the success of the preaching of the Word hang on prayer.
God’s goal to be glorified in a world full of white-hot worshippers from every people and tongue and tribe and nation will not succeed without the powerful proclamation of the gospel by people you and me.
And that gospel will not be proclaimed in power to all the nations without the persevering, earnest, global, faith-filled prayers of God’s people. This is the awesome place of prayer in the purposes of God for the world. They won’t happen without prayer.
How do we know this?We know it by the way the apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus make prayer the servant and power of the ministry of the Word.
Pray also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of
the gospel. (ESV)
Pray for us also, that God may open to us a door for the Word, to declare the mystery of Christ. (ESV)
2 Thessalonians 3:1:
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified. (ESV)
Prayer is the walkie-talkie on the battlefield of the world. It calls in for the accurate location of the target of the Word. It calls in to ask for the protection of air cover.
It calls in to ask for fire power to blast open a way for the tanks of the Word of God. It calls in the miracle of healing for the wounded soldiers. It calls in supplies for the forces.
And it calls in the needed reinforcements.
This is the meaning of the amazing Word of the Lord in Matthew 9:38: “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
” (ESV) Reinforcements come into the missionary enterprise when the churches know they are in a war, and when they bow down in their trenches with bullets flying overhead and get on their walkie-talkies and cry out for more troops.
This is the place of prayer—on the battlefield of the world. It is a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom to increase the comforts of the saints.This article was edited and used with permission from Desiring God Ministries. For the full article, please go to http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/prayer-the-work-of-missions