4 Reasons Why Prayer Empowers the Church on Missions!
“What we need in China is more workers. The harvest is very great, the laborers, oh! so few. Why does the Southern Baptist church lag behind in this great work?” – Lottie Moon, November 1, 1873, Tungchow
One of the greatest resources the church has for advancing the gospel is the ability to come before God in prayer and plead for what is already on His heart, the growth of His kingdom in the world. As we learn from scripture, in James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” When we wonder if prayer accomplishes anything, the book James encourages us not only is prayer powerful, but it is effective. James reminds us that prayer is not a waste of time, and that it pleases God to use the prayers of His people to accomplish his will!
Lottie Moon was not only a missionary, but also a revolutionary for global missions. As a teacher called to share the Gospel in China, Lottie Moon’s life offers believers a compelling narrative with powerful lessons. Her story of conviction, persistence, and courage to spread the Gospel throughout late nineteenth-century Northern China helped shape Southern Baptists’ global work for the Kingdom of God. Lottie understood the power and purpose of prayer, and the vital role it plays in every church’s call to fulfill the Great Commission.
Lottie Moon, November 11, 1878, Pingtu
“Oh! That my words could be as a trumpet call, stirring the hearts of my brethren and sisters to pray, to labor, to give themselves to this people. … We are now, a very, very few feeble workers, scattering the grain broadcast according as time and strength permit. God will give the harvest; doubt it not. But the laborers are so few. Where we have four, we should have not less than one hundred. Are these wild words? They would not seem so were the church of God awake to her high privilege and her weighty responsibilities.”
With that in view, here are four reasons why churches must pray for missions.
1. Jesus taught his disciples to how pray for missions and modeled it as he trained them.
Early in his training of the disciples, Jesus taught them how to pray (Matt. 6:9-13). Then, after facing the challenges of ministry, the disciples came back to Jesus and asked him to teach them how to pray. He brought them back to the same prayer in which the petitioner first cries out, “Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2).
Later, Jesus would model how spiritual battles, to accomplish the Father’s mission, would only be won by faith through prayer as he cried out “not my will, but yours, be done” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).
Before Jesus sent out the seventy-two, he pointed their faces toward heaven and said, “Pray earnestly for the Lord of the harvest to send our laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). Therefore, as we go to share Christ and fulfill the Great Commission, before community engagement even occurs, we must begin with prayer, and it must be an integral part of our daily lives! The church must never lose sight of the fact that training disciples to pray is the first step in bringing the gospel to the mission field.
2. Prayer moves the heart of the church toward the heart of God for his mission.
After Jesus sent the disciples to the places he planned to visit and told them to pray that God would send workers into the harvest field (Luke 10:1-2), he said “Go! I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3). They became part of the answer to their own prayer!
As IMB missionaries in Africa, my wife and I were blessed to lead a church planting team that saw the Lord do a mighty work, and prayer was an intentional part of the foundation. The Ugandan believers would gather weekly for early morning prayer and all-night prayer gatherings were not uncommon. In these times, God did something extraordinary, more powerful than any small group meeting or corporate worship experience. It was through prayer and fasting that God unified our hearts for lostness and gave us a church planting vision to reach Kampala for Christ. Out of these churches, missionaries were sent, church planters birthed, and a church’s heart was shaped for the kingdom.
During those days, God thought us how he uses prayer to shape the hearts of his people. Church, in order for us to have the boldness of Acts 4 and the clear direction of Acts 16, we must be on our knees asking God to open a door for His word! Through prayer, God reminds us of the powerful truth that He did not create us to live for Him, but instead, He created us to live with Him! Prayer requires us to totally submit to God’s sovereign plan for both the nations and our neighbors. Missions in the New Normal is Missions in the New Testament (Acts 4:12, 23-37). God will change our hearts, and he will open a door for His Word.
3. Prayer opens the doors in the world for the gospel to advance.
In Colossians 4:3-4, Paul asks the church, “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ”. Prayer opens opportunities for the gospel to be shared that previously seemed closed, even in the midst of a pandemic!
In prayer, the impossible becomes practical. Like when Peter was imprisoned in Acts 12, the church was praying and God released Peter, opening the iron gate leading into the city (Acts 12:10). In that experience, Peter realized that nothing would hold back the kingdom of God from advancing as the church prayed.
It is prayer that helps us connect with people who are open to the gospel. It is prayer that leads us to the right place at the right time to take the steps that only God could orchestrate. Prayer connects the church to the activity of God who is empowering his people to advance the message of his kingdom.
4. Prayer empowers the message of those going to share the gospel clearly and without fear.
Without prayer, fear will rule the hearts of those sharing the gospel. Paul knew his own need for courage to proclaim the gospel. In Ephesians 6:19-20, Paul asked the church, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. . .Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Paul faced his own timidity and overcame his fears through the prayers of the church. Through corporate prayer we realize no one is alone, and we strive together through the power of the Holy Spirit. When the church prays, the Holy Spirit increases the spiritual fervor of the body that affects all its parts.
It is imperative that a church prays and engages in the spiritual work of kingdom advancement. When the church prays, Christians begin to get a clearer glimpse of the mission. It is by prayer that God’s people move closer toward the heart of God for the world. It is by prayer that fears about sharing the gospel are defeated.
The mission and vision of God has not changed. It is by God’s marvelous design and for his magnificent Glory, that he calls his bride to fervently pray for missions. In these uncertain times, the church is being tempted to lose her first love, turn against one another, and vision-drift away from Christ’s Great Commission. Pastors, church leaders, missionaries, and members, we must be a people who are quick to repent and fervent in our prayers, lest the Lord may come and remove our lampstand!
The mission mobilization team is here to serve you and your church, as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission! Please feel free to contact me, John Barnett (KBC Missions Strategist), by email [email protected] or text/call 502-654-3385. I will be happy to serve you or connect you to someone who can. The Lord is Good.
“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”-Andrew Murray