Prayer, the Primary Role

Guest Post from New Bluffton North Workers, Heading to South Asia

For those of us who think a lot about the Great Commission, it is easy to forget about the importance of prayer in missions. This is because the emphasis is on going, giving and, sending and not necessarily on prayer. Consequently, we think a lot about financial needs and personnel needs and we think a lot about whether our time and recourses are being used effectively. This is especially true for those, like myself, who are involved in ministries that are supplemental to evangelism. I’m speaking of ministries like; Bible translation, medical relief, and compassion ministries.

We are so active in the physical arena that we forget how much of missions takes place in the spiritual arena.

Often, it is not until we meet road blocks in this physical arena that we begin to operate in the role that God has given us in the spiritual arena. I used to be involved with a ministry to Muslims teenagers. Personally, I liken evangelism to Muslim teenage boys to hunting squirrels with a bow and arrow. They’re kind of hard to nail down. As evangelists, we put forth a lot of effort and often saw very little fruit. There were a lot of distractions and much of what we would say didn’t seem to land in their hearts. The frustration that we felt from this drove us to our knees. Only then did we begin to see fruit. It was then that circumstances for presenting the gospel seemed to naturally open up before us. We became aware of a supernatural timing to our interactions. The boys we were evangelizing really seemed to be affected by the weight of the Gospel. For this reason, we began to feel like our primary job was to pray for God to work among our Muslim friends and evangelism was sort of the clean-up job.

So, this blog post is a reminder for myself and anyone connected to ministry that prayer is the primary activity in missions.

In order to return to this proper stance, we must acknowledge two vivid truths. First, we must remember that the human problem is spiritual death and all other dysfunctions in our society are a byproduct of this death. We must realize that unless the Holy Spirit does a work in the hearts of lost persons, all of our efforts to serve them will not result in their salvation. We cannot bring their spirits to life with Bible translation. We cannot charm them into salvation with acts of mercy. We cannot convert their souls with fine words. We must go to the Father on their behalf. We must plead the blood of Jesus Christ over them and ask God to quicken them. We cannot expect that our efforts in the physical world are sufficient to fix a problem that is rooted in the spiritual world.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,” -Colossians 2:13

Secondly, we must realize that God intends to bring salvation to the nations primarily for the sake of his glory.

He is not interested in seeing our ministry succeed without the element of his supreme power. Secular humanism has affected much of our mission mentality. We think that the planting of churches and the saving of souls is an end unto itself. We are motivated by pride when we think to alleviate human suffering via the application of manpower and money. Consequently, we are surprised when God refuses to bless our plans. We must realize that the salvation of mankind is a problem that only God can handle and he intends to glorify himself in the handling. Therefore, we ought to realize that our greatest participation in this work is to pray. We must begin and end all efforts with prayer. We should expect that God will give supernatural effectiveness to our labors if we bathe them in prayer and perform them for the purpose of giving him glory.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” –Psalm 46:10

I think that there exists a lot of disunity in missions that might be mitigated if parties involved would retreat from the notion that we as Christians are the means by which the nations shall be saved. By this I mean that we as Christians should realize that we’re in a spiritual arena and God is the champion instead of us. If we recognize that it is the power of God that is driving cause of salvation to all nations, we could become unified in the purpose of praying for God’s glory in our work.

I also think that an elevation of the role of prayer in the work of missions would serve to illuminate the segregation of missionaries from the rest of the church.

Sometimes missionaries are seen as super Christians. People think that there exists this rare and super spiritual calling that is missions. They think that there are the missionaries and then there are the rest of us who, thankfully, are not called to sell everything and live in a different culture. There is a lot that could be said on this subject but let it suffice that if prayer was recognized by the church as the primary role in reaching the nations we all would have a stake in the work of missions.

My favorite analogy for prayer in missions is that of an airstrike. Think of the task of the Great Commission in terms of warfare. If the missionaries are the infantry, then the ministry of prayer is the heavy artillery or a cruise missile. Against a fortified enemy, infantry cannot be successful without the help of heavy firepower. In the same way, missionaries will not be successful unless the power of God is unleashed in response to the prayers of the church.

May God bless us with an appetite for prayer in this time of global communication and travel. May we all be motivated to fulfill the Great Commission by going, giving, and sending. But… may we realize that this is a spiritual task that must be accomplished through spiritual means. May we realize that no matter who we are in the church, we all have a stake in this great work. And may we realize that this is God’s show. He wants to glorify himself among the nations. May we see his glory and in response, give him worship.

But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” –Revelations 5:3-4