The second of Chuck Lawless’ ten New Year’s Resolutions, all of which relate to cross-cultural mission, says: “I will pray for missionaries by name at least one day per week. Maybe you already know a number of missionaries. If not, ask your pastor to help you connect with some for whom you can pray.”
To define why we should pray for missionaries and for cross-cultural mission work, we need to establish one fact. Simply put, the New Testament states that cross-cultural mission and prayer are inseparable. Cross-cultural mission is fuelled by prayer!
Consider this: The first full-blooded cross-cultural mission outreach was that of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13. It happened because some of the leaders of the church in Antioch set aside time to fast and pray - “as they ministered to the Lord and fasted” (Acts 13:2). It was during that time of prayer that “the Holy Spirit said, ‘now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:3). As the church prayed the Holy Spirit instructed them to release Paul into the calling that he had been given long before when the Lord said. “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles” (Acts 9:15). Prayer hit the mission ‘start’ button.
I have discussed elsewhere the reasons that it took a whole decade for the church to release Paul. From the time of His call, at least ten years passed before He was set free to ‘go’ in the Name of Jesus. It was prayer and fasting and waiting on the Lord that cut him loose to do what the Lord had earlier called him to do.
Then note the reaction of the church to the Holy Spirit’s command – they prayed and fasted some more for the success of this Holy Spirit defined missionary endeavour. “Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on Paul and Barnabas, they sent them away” (Acts 13:3).
Prayer runs right through every aspect of mission. In Paul’s writings there are repeated exhortations to pray that the gospel message will be proclaimed successfully. The apostle Paul knew his ministry urgently required the prayers of the churches. “Pray for us,” Paul pleaded…
• “[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).
• “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3).
• “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honoured, as happened among you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
• “So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for Him, as I should” (Ephesians 6:20, NLT).
• “Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should” (Colossians 4:4, NLT).
If prayer is so central to the work of mission, how then should we pray? Crossworld.org gives 7 suggestions for daily prayer for cross-cultural workers:
“Sunday: Pray for their relationship with God. Pray for spiritual rest, maturity in faith, and overflow of the Holy Spirit as they abide in Christ.
Monday: Pray for their physical well-being. Pray for health, safety, finances, and stamina in stressful conditions.
Tuesday: Pray for their emotional well-being. Pray for peace in being away from family and friends, joy in community, and hope that abounds.
Wednesday: Pray for their ministry. Pray for courage, obedience to the Spirit, the advancement of the gospel and perseverance in the work.
Thursday: Pray for their team and family. Pray for mutual encouragement, unity, holistic care, and balance in important relationships.
Friday: Pray for the local people. Pray for open hearts to hear, and for those who have heard the truth to believe and trust in Jesus.
Saturday: Pray for their host country. Pray for God’s blessing on the government and the city where your missionary lives.”
In December, 2023 I shared a powerful example of prayer for the work of missionaries entitled “We Need Mrs K, Mrs W and Mrs J Today.” These three ladies prevailed in prayer for their missionaries in China. So can we. It is God who gives the increase, and this increase can be brought down from heaven by believing prayer, whether offered in China or in England - or anywhere else. Is there a missionary that you know whose work would be “pushed over the wall" if you and others in your church joined in this kind of prayer for them?
A final comment. If you are still not clear, look up on-line about J.O. Fraser and his work amongst the Lisu in China. Read how prayer from those at home totally changed his work to bring life in Jesus to many, many Lisu people.