Consistent, specific prayer is hard work. But it’s hard work that blesses missionaries, the nations, those who pray, and invokes the Lord himself for his power to complete his redemptive purposes.
Arguably, the responsibility of praying for missionaries begins long before they go away to live in a distant land. It starts before any formal training is completed, and even before travel plans are announced to a congregation. Churches with a passion to reach the nations for Jesus Christ intercede for those who have never heard by asking “the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:38 NKJV).
Faithful Prayer Encourages Missionaries on the Field
A former missionary once recalled to me that, one day while kneeling with teammates to pray in his small apartment, emotion overwhelmed him. They lived in a location where Christian fellowship and support was limited. The team had been faithfully sending out prayer requests, and he kept a spreadsheet of how God answered those needs month after month. That day, while looking at the spreadsheet, tears came to his eyes as he realized that right there in that apartment, they were not kneeling alone. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Christians “crowded” into that space as they joined in prayer.
Faithful Prayer Encourages Those Being Sent
A group of women surprised a single woman in their class on her last Sunday in town. The class had learned that hospitality and tea time would important cultural experiences in their friend’s new country, so they placed a tablecloth on the floor and filled every inch with fruit and sweets.
The women who were able sat on the floor, just as their friend would do in her new home. They spent the hour learning how different her life would be and what concerns were on her heart. Then they prayed. They prayed for her family members to be confident of God’s guidance in her life. They prayed for her to conquer any fear of the unknown. They prayed for her to remain pure in service.
Similarly, the great American preacher Adrian Rogers once said, “Prayer is not just getting ready for Christian service. Prayer is Christian service.” The church in prayer becomes a vital participant in a missionary’s work as individuals at home serve as effective intercessors and passionate advocates.
Prayer is not just getting ready
for Christian service.
Prayer is Christian service.
Tips for Praying Effectively
- Pray informed.
An effective intercessor is well-informed about the world and attuned to the Lord’s will. A passionate advocate is committed to sharing a missionary’s prayer concerns with others. For indeed, “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16b NKJV).
- Pray as a church.
The commitment to pray is a partnership. The missionary and the church can work together by asking God to provide wisdom and fruitfulness. Find a prayer advocate within the congregation who will intentionally stay connected to the missionary and learn about their country, the people, and the work. They can regularly pass along that information to the entire church in a way that involves all ages—children, youth, adults, and seniors. Don’t automatically assume that person should be the pastor or a missions committee member.
- Pray creatively.
A poster prayer walk is a creative way to involve everyone. Children can be tasked with creating posters to hang in the hallways of the church. Have them select photos of the missionaries, their new country or people group, and perhaps a map or flag, and apply these visuals to the poster board. Then, the kids can add prayer requests. During a focused prayer time, divide those in attendance—whether adults, youth, or children—into small groups (no larger than six persons) and send them into the hallways to pray at each poster. Each group starts at a different point and goes in a circle to pray through every poster. The buzz of voices rising through the hallways will be a blessing to any who hears, and certainly to the Lord as he hears and answers.
- Pray and go.
As a church prays, the Lord is likely to prompt its members to take a volunteer trip to more fully experience the missionary’s life. What a wonderful time to prayer walk in the country, walking the same streets and asking God to open doors of opportunity. Once again, the entire congregation can participate whether they are able to travel. Ask the missionary to send a daily plan and specific requests for the trip. Enlist someone with technical skills—or a student needing to improve theirs—to create a slide presentation starting with the day of departure through the end of the trip. The congregation can join together corporately to pray through these slides, or individual slides can be texted during the trip to intercessors daily.
Offering a prayer room, hosting a prayer vigil, or any of the ideas above are creative ways to help church members stay engaged and sustain their ongoing role of caring for missionaries through prayer.
Consistent, specific prayer is hard work. But it is hard work that blesses missionaries, the nations, and those who pray.
Whether a church has sent out one of its members, develops a partnership after meeting a missionary at a missions conference, or has yet to meet a believer with an international assignment, every Christian can pray that God will send out and uphold laborers and open the hearts of those who haven’t heard the gospel.
To find specific requests from missionary teams around the world:
- Download the IMB Pray app for iOS and Android
- Subscribe to regular email newsletters at imb.org/pray
- Visit peoplegroups.org to locate an unreached people group
Eleanor Witcher earned a master’s of missiology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. After living seventeen years in Germany and nearly five in Central Asia, she now serves as prayer team leader for the International Mission Board.