Since Adoniram Judson, America’s first Baptist missionary, multitudes of faithful servants have carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, with the prayers and support of churches back home being critical to their ministry.
How can we pray for missionaries?
1. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel.
Tamara Whitenton, IMB partner in Brazil:
“It is not easy to get to the lost. Some are living in difficult and extremely remote physical locations, a day’s walk or boat ride from the nearest doctor/ grocery store/city.
“Others are in difficult to reach places spiritually. So many false teachings about Jesus and who He is. Forces of evil are blocking the eyes, ears and hearts of the lost from hearing and understanding the gospel message. In cities, people are isolated in cars or headphones and in high-rise apartments, afraid of being robbed when they are not sequestered behind locked doors.”
Eric Allen, Missions Mobilization team leader at the KBC:
“If you have difficulty witnessing (in your life in America), remember the rationalization and procrastination are as real on the mission field as they are at home
Lance Capshaw*, IMB partner in Central Asia:
“I strive for real and deep relationships, the ability to love my neighbor well, and fluency in the good news in their language. This is an ongoing process. I’ve been around for five years, and I still feel that I have so much to learn in this regard. We are aiming to share the good news, always looking for new people, new ways and new contexts in which we can sow the seed.
Despite the distractions and cultural and lingual setbacks, missionaries press on to share the gospel every day. They see firsthand how God is working in the hearts of people across the globe. “The word clearly teaches us that this work does not belong to us. Some plant, some water, but it is the Father who gives the growth.”
Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board:
“Pray for fruit. Our missionaries have answered God’s call to the nations with a desperate longing to see the lost saved. They recognize their total dependence on the Spirit of God for any fruit from their labors and are grateful for any who join them in asking God to supply that fruit.”
John Barnett, missions strategist at the KBC and former IMB partner:
“We don’t know who’s seeking, so we’re praying that God would lead us to those opportunities — shop owner, neighbor, whoever it is — to share and then that we would follow through with the boldness to witness.”
2. Pray for unity.
Chitwood: “Working with other IMB team members, national partners, Southern Baptist church partners and volunteers from states places missionaries in the position of managing a large number of relationships that are critical for the work. Pray God will give a strong sense of unity to all of the team members, both on the field and the larger Southern Baptist team of support.”
Barnett: “Jesus prayed in the garden that we would have unity and you see the enemy attack unity
Allen: “If you have difficulty witnessing, remember the rationalization and procrastination are as real on the mission field as they are at home. Pray about relationships between missionaries as sometimes there are personality conflicts between spouses or team members. Pray that they will
experience refreshment as they discover effective ways to recharge in the midst of ministry.”
3. Pray for strength.
Chitwood: “Pray for strength in the spiritual battle. Our missionaries are pounding on the gates of hell, demanding that those for whom Christ has died be set free. This work puts them in the trenches with the enemy. Prayers for strength in the battle will bless the missionaries, their children and their
partners in the work.”
Barnett: “Pray that (missionaries) will have endurance. The stories that you’ll read a lot are great and fun, but it’s not as romantic as people say.”
Whitenton: “We live in a fish bowl and a pressure cooker — we are on display every day as we experience the highest highs (when those we love take steps toward Jesus) and the lowest lows (when we face disciples falling into sin, cultural stress, physical threats, family issues) — all in clear view of those we are trying to tell that Jesus is sufficient to meet every need.
“The pressure and stress are incredible — it never goes away. (Missionaries) are particularly susceptible to stress related illness (heart disease, autoimmune disorders, cancers, depression, anxiety disorders).
“Please pray for our physical health and endurance. Please pray that we can rest well and drink deeply from God’s Word to find supernatural refreshment and be faithful and worthy of the task that we have been called to.”
4. Pray for families.
Whitenton: “We all have families — those back in the states and/or here on the field with us. We all carry guilt for not being present for family events in the U.S. (births, deaths, holidays, graduations). We all have parent(s) and responsibilities to them. Most have siblings who are asked to assume our part of caring for aging parents. Many have adult children or grandchildren who we must learn to parent from far away.
“Our children did not choose to follow God’s call to the field. The sacrifice of our families is significant, and they did not get to choose to obey — we made that choice for them.
“Please pray for our parents, siblings and children to hear the call and choose to embrace their part in sacrificing for the kingdom call. Please pray for the local church to embrace our families there in the U.S. and ‘hold the ropes’ by supporting and encouraging those missionaries’ extended families.”
Barnett: “Am I doing the right thing — taking my child to raise them in another country? When we first went to the mission field, our daughter was only 18 months old, so there’s the prayer side for mom and dad — to put your family and kids on the altar.”
Allen: “Missionaries’ children require regular prayer support. Their parents need constant prayer to create a balanced, positive, supportive home life in an unusual setting. Pray that despite their hardships and the challenges facing them, they’ll not lose their sense of humor.”
5. Pray with intentionality.
Allen: “It’s simply impossible to pray for every missionary. So choose one or two individuals or families as the ones you will get to know and personally pray for. Imagine the impact if an entire congregation would ‘adopt’ a missionary and become a daily prayer warrior for them?”
Capshaw: “The tagline for our newsletters is ‘Inform Your Intercession.’ That is at the heart of what we do as we try to get others strategically and intentionally engaging with us in lifting up needs to the Father. We don’t see Paul just saying, ‘And Father, please bless all the (missionaries) everywhere. Amen.’ No, we see him mentioning people by name and referring to specific situations.
“We aim to get people on board with our strategic and intentional intercession by having them join our monthly newsletter lists. The KBC is developing a partnership with our regional team, and so I think there could be a smooth means by which Kentucky folks could get in touch for our newsletters.
“More generally, there are some sweet old grannies that my wife and I know, ladies who have played a role in our lives growing up as our Sunday school teachers or family friends, and they tell us that they lift us up every day. I’m tearing up right now writing that, and I’m not an emotional guy. Every day. For years. These dear saints have probably lifted up my work more than I have. That’s so humbling. I long for more like that. Our world needs more of those people.”
Justin Compton, pastor of Redemption Hill Baptist Church in Spencer County: “We are committed to being a sending church and sending is an integral part of our identity. We intentionally strive to protect and grow that identity through prayer, leadership development and financial giving. We believe in the Cooperative Program.
“We currently support four families who are serving overseas. When God called them to go, we sent them out joyfully. Because they were members of our church, we know them well and love them and we strive to maintain constant contact with them and continue a close relationship with them as they are serving on the field. That ongoing relationship helps us pray for them because we know their needs, struggles and joys. That relationship helps our giving because we love them and are still closely connected with them and their work.
“At Redemption Hill we intentionally pray for our missionaries in our community groups, Sunday morning worship services and our members’ meetings.”
6. Pray without ceasing — there’s much work still left to do.
Allen: “Consistent prayer is powerful and unbeatable. Remember Daniel. One idea is to pray at a certain time of the day. Focus two-minutes as a minimum during which time you address a specific need or specific missionary.
“Another approach is to choose a landmark you pass often and pray each time you go by it. When you cross a bridge on the way to work, pray for one missionary. On the way home, as you cross the same bridge, pray for a second missionary.”
Jeremy Pellum, lead pastor at Louisville’s Hurstbourne Baptist Church: “I believe praying for our missionaries is mission-critical work. Part of what it means to be a faithful sending church is to be a faithful praying church. At HBC, we want our missionaries to know that we love them, we value them, we support them. And a big part of that commitment is that we pray for them each and every week.”
Compton: “Prayer is a vital part of our support. The gospel work is a spiritual battle. The devil and all the forces of evil are battling against it. Our missionaries serving on the field consistently battle with discouragement, loneliness, frustration, fear, and unavoidable obstacles. Our prayers do what our money, people, effort, and planning are too weak to do, and our prayers help us focus our money, people, effort, and planning toward God’s desired goal.”
Whitenton: “While the sacrifice is real, the opportunity to serve in kingdom work and to know God’s presence so close. To see the Holy Spirit transform lives and hearts is the greatest joy — the highest high imaginable this side of heaven. We all have (multiple) testimonies of God’s goodness and faithfulness that blows our mind.”
Capshaw: “There’s so much work to be done. There is so much darkness. The lostness is intense. And we are powerless against it apart from the moving of the Spirit. So let’s ask Him to move. Let’s ask Him to surprise us as He has time and again by sending light to the darkness. Let’s get as many people as we can in on that, truly partnering with us through these petitions.”
*Lance Capshaw is not the actual name. It is withheld for security reasons.
Marina Shelton reports for the Western Recorder. She is associate for web and social media communications for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.