Prayer for faithful gospel witness around the globe is both a labour of love and essential for spiritual power in the urgent and unfinished task Christ gives his church. It is also a community responsibility, says Steve Smith, Serving In Mission UK director.
By prayer we depend on God for the provision of our needs.
This was brought home afresh to me during a visit to a local church that wanted to play a greater part in global mission.
We heard from God in John 20, how the risen Jesus sent his joy-filled disciples with his message of forgiveness and empowered them by his Spirit.
UK churches need help to respond to the multi-cultural mission needs on our doorstep and overseas: ‘Give us people who are equipped and qualified to build bridges across the barriers that exist’ and ‘Help us identify, train, support and send greater numbers of people in pioneering gospel witness’.
Prayer for mission that flows from the gospel will want to give feet to those prayers, but renewal of the church in mission will come only by the Spirit of God.
Here are seven practical tips grown out of biblical convictions, which I pray will help you on your way.
1: Get others to join you in prayer
Romans 15:30–33 — Gathering to pray with fellow believers is a simple thing to do, yet essential for breathing new life into global mission.
Paul called on Christians and whole churches to assist in the work of preaching the gospel where Christ is not known — by prayer. He invited others to join with him in their prayers for God to give him safe passage and that his service was well-received.
Who can you invite to pray together for mission with courage and conviction? If people who have never been told about Jesus are ever to see the riches of the gospel, this can only be a work of God. Knowing this, will make us invite, beg and implore others to join in by prayer any way they can.
2: Build foundations with families
Ephesians 5:22-6:4 — Partnering with parents in youth and children’s ministry is essential to building faith in the church, as well as in the home.
Paul explains in Ephesians how families are called through the gospel to reflect the Father’s love for us in his Son. It is really hard to do this consistently. Place a high value on encouraging and resourcing parents to join in praying for mission in families, as well as with the wider church.
Getting parents together will help them to be well informed alongside the church about details of the youth ministry focus on mission. It will also give them ideas and peer-support for growing young disciples at home and nurturing faith in young people to reach out locally and pray globally.
3: Ask Jesus to fill his church
John 17:20–26 — Jesus’ top prayer to his Father is to dwell fully in his church just as his Father dwells fully in him. He prays this way because he knew that the work of mission depends on God bringing us to complete unity.
We find unity in obeying gospel truth and not in particular church practice of sacraments or governance. When the church is full of Jesus’ truth and love, the world will know that God has sent Jesus and loved them even as he has loved his Son. (John 17:23)
Is this what you pray for? This is how Jesus asks his Father to work in his future followers in extraordinary ways. Ask this of God and you should expect great things of what he will do through the church in mission.
4: Pray out of compassion for the lost
Luke 13:31-–35; Romans 9:1–2; 10:1–4 — It is estimated that more than 3 billion people will likely go through their lives without ever hearing the gospel in their own language. Without faith in Christ, they are without hope of God’s forgiveness into eternity.
In Luke, Jesus wept over Jerusalem’s refusal to repent and Paul was filled with great sorrow and unceasing anguish over the hardness of heart of his own people. People’s need to hear and understand the gospel drives us to ask Jesus to send out more workers by his Spirit.
Praying this way will change us. It will make us want to act in ways that cross barriers to proclaim Christ and love people in his name. God will make us generous for salvation of others — not keeping our resources and energy for ourselves.
5: Bolster prayer in small groups
1 Thessalonians 2:1–10; Colossians 4:2–4 — A truly church-centred approach to missions — both in upfront teaching and in small group Bible study — will foster relationships between small groups in the church and global mission realities.
Paul did not stop praying for churches, he also asked them to keep praying for the extension of the gospel to more and more people.
Make the choice to pray in small groups for global mission and plan to do so. Use the SIM Prayer Guide, which gives information on communities across every continent without faithful gospel witness, to help you focus.
6: Pray for mission as you get on with mission
Romans 1–4; Acts 16 — Churches will not only pray for the lost, they will plan to identify and send short-term and long-term workers into God’s global harvest field.
God’s ultimate sovereignty led Paul to press on in pioneer mission and recognise God’s leading to go into new areas. Today, increased migration leads to the breakdown of geographical boundaries and greater opportunity to spread the word about Christ.
Make the most of up-to-date information and resources to keep your prayers relevant. How can your church take action together in the primary task of presenting the gospel to those who need to hear it?
7: Expect opposition and pray for persecuted Christians
John 15:16–16:2; Philippians 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:8,12 — The New Testament emphasises the reality of suffering for the sake of Christ and the gospel. Those who take God’s missionary commands seriously may be sure of accompanying difficulty and suffering in a world that rejected Christ and in which Satan is active.
Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. In his mission, Jesus leads us on the way of sacrifice that took him supremely to the cross. We are called to stand together by prayer with believers around the globe who suffer opposition to the gospel.
What can you pray for Christians when you read about the suffering of the growing global church? Introducing prayer needs through regular news will be a great encouragement to local churches to remain true to Christ where we live and serve. It may also lead people to go and serve oversees.