“…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18-20)
What instructions does the Bible give about how we are to pray for missionaries? When Paul says, “with thanksgiving”, he doesn’t mean merely saying thank you when God answers, important as that is, but rather thanking God for the answer even as we ask. In other words, faith-filled prayer. That’s the powerful kind. In fact, that’s the only kind that prevails in heaven.
Paul gives instruction not only on how we’re to pray, but also on what we’re to pray about. Paul told the Colossians to pray that doors of opportunity would open up and that the missionary team would have the ability to make the mysterious gospel understandable. That’s Spirit-energized ministry, because without the Spirit’s intervention, heart doors will remain closed and the gospel will sound like gibberish to those who hear.
But your missionary needs not only the gifts to accomplish ministry, he or she must have the fruit of the Spirit or nothing of eternal significance will be done.
Pray for the missionary’s spiritual life. You can see this in Paul’s instruction to believers in that same passage: “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (4:5, 6). Why, we could hardly do better than pray those very words for our missionary!
Furthermore, Paul tells the Ephesians in a similar passage (Ephesians 6:19, 20) to plead with God that he might have courage. Paul, the warrior who faced down lions in the arena, asked prayer for courage? Indeed! He wrote of “fightings without and fears within.” The most intrepid missionary needs prayer for faith, for courage, for all the fruit of the Spirit, because, though he may have the most glorious good news, if his life doesn’t demonstrate the beauty and strength of Christ, his proclamation will be bad news, not good news.
These, then, are the themes of missionary prayer warfare: the ministry and the life. Another way to put it, pray daily for the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit in the life of your missionary.
There’s one more thing, however. We need to make it our business to find out the specific needs of the missionary.
On returning from service overseas, I had just completed my report on Japan and stood at the door of the meeting place to greet the people when I felt a tug on my jacket. Looking around I saw a tiny retired school teacher who said, “Robertson, I know you’re busy, but please don’t leave till I have a chance to talk with you for a minute.”
“Why, Miss Ethelyn,” I responded, “I’m not busy; let’s talk right now.” She was one I knew prayed for me continually and fervently, one who was combat-ready and fighting my spiritual wars with me. She had first claim on my attention! We went over to a nearby stone wall and no sooner had we sat than she began to pepper me with questions about my work. I soon realized she knew more about my work than my fellow missionaries. When she began to ask about the conference I had left in Japan just 48 hours earlier, I said, “Miss Ethelyn, how do you know all this stuff?”
“Why, Robertson,” she remonstrated, “you’re my missionary! I’ve been praying for you for 12 years. I ought to know something, shouldn’t I?”
Are there missionaries about whom you could say, “He’s my missionary, she’s my responsibility for daily prayer warfare”? If you don’t have such a prayer partnership already, perhaps it’s time to link up with someone out on the frontiers, someone who faces daily hot spiritual combat. Not only do you provide “cover” for your missionary, you become a full partner in the war- what a high privilege!
If you’re not already a co-combatant, how could you get linked up? Many ways, but primarily through your church. When missionaries visit the church, invite them home for dinner. And don’t spend the time re-working the Super Bowl! Pull their story out of them, learn what their prayer needs are. Then pray! Most missionaries send out regular reports with prayer requests. Ask the missionary you choose to put you on their mailing or email list. If you don’t have a missionary you could call “my missionary,” why not make a telephone call to the church office or write a letter right now? Get started! Because the most important part of the missionary enterprise is prayer.