By Dr. Gene Burge
The Apostle Paul says, ”Ye also helping together by prayer for us…” II Cor. 1:11. As I preach mission conferences, one of the questions I am often asked is ”How can I effectively pray for missionaries?” I have heard all kinds of things people do to remind themselves to pray. For example someone wrote the following using your fingers as a reminder of how to pray.
Want to know how to pray for those working to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission among those yet unreached? You can use your fingers as prayer memory aids. Here’s how:
1. Thumb – Since your thumb is nearest to you, begin by praying for those missionaries closest to you. They are the easiest ones to remember. C.S. Lewis said that praying for those we love is a ”sweet duty.”
2. Index or pointing finger – Let your ”pointing finger” remind you to pray for missionaries who teach, instruct, and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and evangelists. They need support and wisdom for pointing others in the right direction.
3. Middle finger – Our tallest finger reminds us of our church leaders. We can never pray too much for them. Pray for those who supervise and direct missionary outreach.
4. Ring finger – Surprisingly, the ring finger is our weakest finger (as any piano teacher will testify). This weak finger reminds us to pray for those missionaries who are discouraged, in trouble, or in pain.
5. Little finger – Our little finger is the smallest finger of all, which is where we should place our individual wants and desires in relation to world evangelism needs. The Bible says, ”The least shall be the greatest among you.” Your pinkie should remind you to pray for the people of the world who have the greatest need to find Jesus. Pray that they will open their eyes and see Him.” – Author Unknown
Using that formula would certainly help some, but let me give you suggestions, from personal experience and observations, on ”How To Pray For YOUR Missionaries.”
1. Pray For The Missionary By Name. Get to know them and their family personally. Use their prayer card and make a family profile on them. Learn the names of the husband, wife and children. Write to them and ask for their birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Read their prayer letters and make note of any specific needs. Make a card on each family and pray for them.
2. Pray Regularly For Them. Come up with a system where you will pray for them on a regular basis. If you use a card system, you can pray for a missionary at mealtime, during your devotions, etc. The key is making it a part of your daily life. Of course if the Lord puts a special burden on your heart for them, pray for them then and there.
3. Pray Specifically For Them. Here are ”a few” specifics that you can consider as you pray for them.
Pray For Their Family: They are invading the devil’s territory and he will do everything he can to attack and destroy their family. Remember to pray for the husband and wife’s relationship. Pray their love will grow stronger towards each other. Pray for their children, their spiritual growth, education, etc. Pray that the Lord will use them as a family unit in the work of the Lord.
Pray For The Single Missionary: They face a whole set of different problems on the field. As a single missionary, they are alone and will constantly do battle against the flesh and the powers of darkness. Pray that they will not anguish over difficulties and opposition. Pray for their faith to be strong.
Pray For Their Finances: Money problems have always been one of the top reasons why missionaries become discouraged and quit. The average missionary will lose a good deal of their needed support during a four year term on the field. Many missionaries go to the mission field with ”just enough support to make it.” So when churches drop their support, inflation hits, or currency devaluates, the devil will use these things to cause them great hardship. We should also pray for the churches that support our missionaries.
Pray For Their Cultural Adjustment: Culture shock is very real. Many missionaries have a difficult time adjusting to new foods, life styles, value systems, and ways of doing things. To reach the people in their own culture is a hard lesson for some missionaries to learn. Some missionaries react wrongly on the field and encumber their fellowship and witness for the Lord. Pray that the missionary family will be able to adjust in order to be happy and have an effective ministry.
Pray For Strength For Their Daily Tasks: Everyday living on the mission field can often consume much of their time. A preacher, who served for almost forty years as a pastor then became a missionary overseas, told me how surprised he was at the amount of time it took everyday just to do the daily routines of life in another country. And he lives in a modern country!
Multiply that frustration many times over with life in a third world country. Think of the everyday frustrations like open markets for ”daily” shopping, long lines in small, under stocked stores, lack of cars or appliances, problems with cooking, banking, mail, lack of electricity, no air conditioning or hot water, etc. In this modern day that we live, some have problems with the lack of fast food restaurants – McDonald’s withdrawal!
Pray For Their Ability To Learn The Language: The missionaries must not only adapt culturally, but they must also be able to share the love of Christ with the people they are seeking to reach. To communicate the Gospel is the reason they are on the mission field. If they are going to reach the people, they must learn the language. Learning the language is the key to everything the missionary does. Many languages are complicated to learn. A superficial knowledge of the language makes it very difficult to communicate the Gospel message.
Pray For Their Health: Among the main reasons why missionaries leave the mission field is for health problems. Many missionaries live and work in harsh climates where various diseases are wide-spread. Numerous times, they have little or no medical help available. To get good medical help, frequently they must leave that country to find it elsewhere.
Pray For Their Spiritual Growth And Walk With The Lord: They need to be feeding on God’s Word, have a strong prayer life, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and grow in grace in order to have an effective life and ministry.
Pray For Their Pressures, Discouragement, Loneliness And Fears: They are in the thick of the spiritual battle. They face emotional struggles with little or no help. Many times when missionaries have problems, they feel they can’t share it with anyone. The devil can really use this fear to cause them to hold everything inside until they react wrongly or quit.
Pray For Godly Wisdom For Them: James 1:5 says, ”If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Certainly they will need this in order to raise a godly family and to do a work for the Lord.
Pray for Their Relationship With The Government Of The Country They Are Ministering: Passports, visas, taxes, education of their children, etc. have become real problems for missionaries as they deal with government officials.
Pray The Lord Will Give Them Broken Hearts For The People They Minister: ”They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Psalms 126:5
Pray For Their Ministry And Converts: Pray that the Lord will give open doors and hearts to be receptive to the Gospel. As people are reached with the Gospel, pray that the converts will become strong in the Lord, as well as the ministries and churches that are established.
Pray For The Power Of God On Them: It is easy to labor in the flesh by depending on one’s own strength, wisdom, and ability to accomplish a ministry, but how fruitless this would be. Only missionaries with God’s power will be seeing souls saved and a ministry that will stand the test of time.
Pray – Pray – Pray that the missionaries might be continually filled with the power.