“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
What do we mean when we ask God to bless the missionaries? Jesus did not pray that God would rescue the disciples from the hardships of the world. He asked the father to “keep them from the evil one” (Jn. 17:15). After Saul’s Damascus Road experience, Christ said He would show Paul “how many things he must suffer” for Jesus’ name (Acts 9:16). God’s call upon the life of a missionary (or any believer for that matter) does not remove the reality of pain, suffering, sickness, and persecution. This theme of serving Christ through persecution and suffering is both a biblical and historical reality.
How many of us have heard the testimonies and requests of persecuted house church leaders in China. They plead with us not to pray for the suffering and persecution to end, but rather for God to be glorified through the persecution. With persecution comes kingdom growth. It has always been so. Tertullian said the blood of the Christians is holy seed.1 Christ said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt. 16:24).
So, perhaps we should pray less for the “success,” happiness, and comfort of the missionaries and more for their endurance and character as crosscultural disciplers. In their book, Called to Reach: Equipping Cross-cultural Disciplers, Yount and Barnett identify eight characteristics of effective missionaries. When we pray for the missionaries (expatriates and locals), perhaps we should pray that they would:
1. Depend on the Holy Spirit in all they do (spiritual character).
2. Live according to the teachings of the Bible (biblical character).
3. Be good thinkers and teachers across cultural barriers (rational character).
4. Be willing to suffer with those they witness to (compassionate character).
5. Endure as they suffer for the sake of the gospel (impassioned character).
6. Build lasting, witnessing relationships (relational character).
7. Stay focused on God’s mission, not their own (maturational character).
–Adapted from Chapter 66 of Giving Ourselves to Prayer (Strategic Prayer for God’s Mission and Missionaries by Mike Barnett).
Lord God, as I lift up those who have answered Your call to the mission field, I ask that You would place in them Your godly character and that each one would live according to Your word. May they have clarity of mind, a willingness to suffer with others and for Your sake! Help them to develop lasting relationships with those they serve, and to keep their focus upon Your holy face.
Praise God, whose “every word . . . is flawless.” Thank God for being “a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov. 30:5). Confess times of not believing or listening to his Word. Commit yourself to hearing God speak to you today. Ask him to truly be your refuge.
Pray for God’s flawless Word to be clearly and practically preached throughout the world. Ask God’s Spirit to open hearts so that his kingdom and righteousness may grow.
–Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend (Click on the blue title for more information about this resource)