One of the secrets of successful mission trips is prayer because it puts our hearts in a posture of dependence on God. Ultimately, God is the only One who changes hearts; we simply get to be a part of His work on mission. Here are some practical ideas of ways to put prayer ministry onto your mission when doing foreign, domestic or local mission activities.
1. Pray for unity in the Church body and local churches
One of my favorite things to do in my travels is to pray for any local congregations in the area. If possible, I will typically enter the sanctuary and find a quiet place to talk to our Lord. I pray for the congregation’s leaders, the congregation itself and for those who don’t know Jesus yet in the surrounding neighborhood.
Once, when I was visiting Philadelphia, I visited one of the local churches to pray. While praying, a woman who attended that particular church approached me and asked about my visit. I simply told her that I was there to pray and she proceeded to ask for prayer for a local ministry that she had just begun serving inner-city single mothers. Without knowing it ahead of time, God had orchestrated our meeting and gave me the opportunity to pray directly for a member of the local church in a time of need. It was incredible!
The reason that praying for local churches is a great prayer mission activity is because God has established His Church body to be a light in the darkness of the world. In John 17, Jesus prays that all future believers (members of the Church body) would be unified so that the world would know that the Father sent the Son. Ultimately, unity within the Church body brings glory to God because it puts His perfect unity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit on display for the world to see. It shows that God sacrificed Himself in the form of Jesus on our behalf and that we are all unified around the same saving grace that is found in Christ. With this said, so that the world may know of the Father’s love in Christ, I encourage you to pray for unity in the Church body, the local congregations of your community and along your travels often.
2. Pray silently as you walk the streets
I spent some time on mission in India this past summer. Much of my time was spent serving in a children’s home, however, during the day when the children were in school, my team and I prayer walked. It was a humbling and incredible experience. It was humbling because India is a place with much practical need that only God is capable of bringing healing to. It was difficult to feel so helpless. However, our prayer walks were incredible because it put us in a place of having to rely on God. As Saint Paul instructed the Philippians to do, we presented our requests to God in prayer.
When we asked for opportunities to serve people in the street, the Lord sent children running to us asking for food and water. When we asked for the Lord to bring us to a person of peace who was willing to hear the gospel, people approached us immediately curious as to why foreigners were walking through undesirable city slums. When we prayed for a sense of peace in the midst of witnessing some of the most disturbing levels of poverty and oppression any of us had ever seen, the Lord overwhelmed us with His grace and love and encouraged us into deeper, more intentionally focused prayer for the people of India.
While we were there, we even got to share the gospel with a Muslim man in the largest Mosque in India during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. This was only possible because the Lord was hearing and answering our prayers as we walked through the streets of India. For God’s glory and so that many people the Lord surrounds you with every day may hear of the freedom that is offered in Christ, I encourage you to silently pray as you walk the streets. (See Philippians 4:6-7)
3. Pray for the unreached (Matthew 28:18-20)
In preparation for my time in India, my team and I spent much time researching the particular people we would be serving amongst. As a whole, there are thousands of different people groups in India, many of which are unreached with the gospel. However, one particular caste of people is universal among all people groups in India due to the oppressive cultural and religious belief systems present there. The Dalits, or untouchables, are a particular group of people who have been defined by their low, poverty stricken placement in the caste system. They are told that they deserve the poor hand of cards that they have been dealt and that they are sub-human, unloved, and devalued objects. They are often the victims of terrible abuse and human sex trafficking at the hands of those who have the ability to help them.
One of our team’s goals and prayers was to show the Dalit people that, contrary to what they have been told, they are actually loved by a perfect God, have great value in His eyes and have not earned their placement in life as a result of the performance in a previous one. We had numerous opportunities to pray for and with the Dalit people of India. As we prayed for them, many confused glares from upper caste Indians looked over us as we shared the love of Christ with people who have never been shown love. We learned enough Hindi before our trip to pray and communicate that Jesus loves them and that He offers freedom from the darkness of this world.
After Christ’s resurrection and before He ascended to be with the Father, He very graciously left us with the greatest purpose any of us could ever have, The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Instead of leaving us twiddling our thumbs wondering what to do next, Jesus tells us to go make disciples of all nations. He welcomes us into His story and plan for the world by sending us to share the beautiful message of the gospel with those who don’t know it. In The Great Commission, the word “nations” comes from the Greek word “ethni”, which means races or people groups. So, in a nut shell, Jesus reveals His desire and love for all people groups of the world and tasks us with the awesome responsibility of going to them and welcoming them into God’s family.
There are approximately two billion “unreached” people in the world, which means that there are two billion people who have never heard or don’t have access to the gospel. I pray that God uses our prayers for the Dalit people of India to bring them into a loving relationship with Jesus. For God’s glory and the benefit of those searching for hope, I encourage you to pray for the unreached people of the world, that they may be received into God’s family through faith in Jesus.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer
Just this year, through much prayer, I have felt God calling me full time into the mission field. I am now taking steps to join a team abroad with the sole purpose of sharing the love of Christ and welcoming all into God’s family. Through prayer, the Lord has brought me a tremendous amount of peace and has guided me every step of the way on this significant life transition and journey.
Prayer is something that is often underestimated by the Church body (the body of followers of Christ). However, in scripture, we see Jesus Himself turning to His heavenly Father in prayer often. In Psalms, David very emotionally pleads in prayer with the Lord and in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, Saint Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. In short, God’s Word is laced with prayer and encouragements to participate in it often. This must mean it’s important! If we could fully comprehend Who we are speaking with when in prayer, I don’t think any of us would ever stop praying! When we pray, God listens and responds for His glory and our good.
As you plan and engage in joining God on mission, don’t underestimate the power of prayer and what it can open up for you and your mission team as you bring God’s loving presence to a world greatly in need of knowing Him. For God’s glory and the joy it is to be a part of His plan for the nations, I encourage you all to pray. God bless! May God receive all the glory!
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