Prayer and Missions in the Bible
First, let’s take a look at Paul. We consider Paul to be one of, if not the, greatest missionaries and apostles of Christ. Our New Testament is filled with his letters to churches, like Ephesus, Colossae, and Corinth. In most of Paul’s letters, there is a theme of prayer. Every time Paul asks for prayer from the church he is addressing, the prayer had to do with the advancement of the gospel.
In Ephesians 6, Paul writes of the armor of God. He concludes this passage with this:
“…and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, 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 6:17-20
In this passage, Paul makes a clear link between the spiritual battle and praying for Christians to boldly proclaim the gospel.
Next, let’s look at Jesus and the way that he modeled prayer. Luke 6:12 says this:
“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.”
This verse follows a passage describing persecution from the Jews for healing a man on the Sabbath, and precedes the day that he chose the twelve disciples, at which point they begin ministry together, preaching, healing the sick, and raising the dead. Jesus showed the importance of prayer in ministry.
Again, at the end of Jesus’ ministry, he showed the importance of prayer when he spent the night praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He needed the strength from the Father in order to do the Father’s will. Spending His last moments before being taken up praying for the Father’s will to be done is the backbone behind Him being able to endure and ultimately bring the good news of the gospel to all of creation. (Matthew 26:36-46)
Jesus prays for the saved and the lost
The entire chapter of John 17 writes a full prayer of Jesus before he was taken up to be crucified. I encourage you to read all of it, but for now we will take a look at verse 9 where Jesus intercedes on behalf of His disciples:
“…and they believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”
Verse 20 continues with Jesus interceding for the lost:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.”
Throughout Jesus’ time on earth, he continued to model the link between prayer and missions. Although we won’t discuss them all, I encourage you to look these verses up on you own time and see what the Lord shows you! (Heb 5:17, Luke 3:21, Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:46, Luke 6:12, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 9:18, Luke 11:1)
Finally, when Jesus was hanging on the cross and about to die, he cried out to the Father on behalf of the lost:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Why is Intercession in Missions so important?
Throughout the scriptures, we see that there is a clear link between intercession and missions, but why is this?
It gets our focus in what is on God’s heart.
You may hear the prayer “break our hearts for what breaks yours, God.” This is done through prayer for others, when we ask God what is on His heart to pray for and we partner with His will!
It puts our dependence on God.
Intercession in missions is also vital because it puts our dependence on God first, not ourselves. Prayer sets up our ministry by focusing our attention on the one who deserves all the glory. A heart posture of humility and dependence on God empowers us to walk in His authority!
God uses us through our prayers.
Another reason we should value prayer is because it involves us in God’s plan to touch people.
Loren Cunningham, the founder of YWAM, shares an incredible story of the impact of intercession in a teaching he gave many many years ago. In that story, he and his wife, Darlene, were travelling together across a desert, and crashed the car terribly. Both of them were thrown from the car, and Darlene stopped breathing. God spoke to Loren in that time, and he began to pray for Darlene. At the same time in a different country, a group of women paused what they were doing because they felt an impression from the Holy Spirit that they needed to pray for Darlene and Loren. Soon, Darlene started breathing again and they were able to get help. It was later confirmed that the prayer of those ladies was happening at the exact same time they had gotten into this accident.
(Watch the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wM82OrUb40)
Could God have just healed Darlene without the prayer of those ladies? Of course he could; He’s God! But God’s heart is for us to pray with faith according to His promises, and he wants us to be involved in the process. It is an honor to be able to partner with God through prayer!
The Lord speaks when we intercede.
The last reason intercession in missions is important (that I will touch on) is that it allows the Lord to direct our paths. It is in times of prayer that God speaks to us. He shows us things we could not have known on our own, because He sees the bigger picture when we can only see one puzzle piece. When we give room for God to speak and are prepared to step out in faith, things will always fall into place according to His will.
How to engage in intercession
We can see that intercession in missions is important and biblical, but we must also know how to do it! There are many prayer methods, strategies, and thoughts on how to pray effectively. However, right now let’s look at the very model that Jesus gave the disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray, in what many call “the Lord’s Prayer”. The words of Jesus is a great place to learn, right?
“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”
Here in this simple verse, we see key principles we can pull out.
Let’s take it piece by piece:
- “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
We praise God and lift His name high. Spend time giving Him His rightful place in your life and glorifying His name.
- “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Partner with the kingdom of heaven! What is bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven, so pray that the will of God would happen on the earth! This includes praying for the lost to be saved, workers to be sent out, and the sick to be healed. If you ever question the will of God, just look at the life of Jesus. Everything Jesus did and said was according the will of the Father!
“Give us this day our daily bread”
Allow the Lord to refresh you and fill you up so you can overflow to the world around you. His water never runs dry and continuously satisfies.
“And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.”
Repent before the Lord and acknowledge the forgiveness he has offered you. Choose to forgive those who have wronged you also. It is a command from God!
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Engage in spiritual warfare. The enemy comes to bring destruction, but we have been equipped with armor of God. Take it up, and take your stand as a son or daughter of God who cannot be overcome by the evil one!
Some things to remember as you pray:
Be willing to listen to God and do what he says! Prayer often moves us to action, not a life of isolation and passivity. Prayer is the launching pad to the advancement of the gospel. Ask the Lord to prepare your heart to say “yes” to what he speaks to you.
Keep in mind that as you pray, God may be calling you to be the answer to your own prayer.
So, we have looked at where prayer and missions is found in the Bible, why it is important, and how we do it. Now that we know these things, what is stopping you? Are you ready to let God invade your prayer life and set your heart on fire for what He is passionate about? Take the first step. Ask Him what to pray for, and just step out and do it!
If you are interested in learning more about the way intercession is fit in to missions, join our community! As a base, we intercede together multiple times throughout our week. We invite you to come learn in a missions minded community by joining our Discipleship Training School!
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