The Builders and the Warriors- Praying for Missions

Before we moved overseas, my husband and I were in full-time ministry in the U.S. for over 12 years. During that time we attended conferences, trainings, and read many books to equip us for the work we were doing. We had a decent grasp on effective, strategic ministry. Honestly, we’d gained enough knowledge that we sometimes did ministry in our own effort, relying too little on the Holy Spirit. 

We left all that behind in 2015 and moved to a communist, never-reached, developing country where we didn’t know the language or culture and suddenly all our strategy and knowledge meant very little. It was glaringly obvious that we wouldn’t accomplish any good, eternal thing here without the miraculous power of the Spirit at work in us. When laboring to bring the gospel to a place and people who have never had access to it in the 2,000 years since Jesus walked this earth, there are deep spiritual strongholds that must be broken. All the knowledge in the world can’t save an unreached people group, only the power of the Spirit can do that.

Prayer became our anchor and lifeline. Recognizing that making disciples of every tribe, tongue, and nation is impossible when we try to achieve it by our own efforts was actually freeing. We embraced humility admitted readily that we didn’t know how to break through the spiritual darkness we were surrounded by in this foreign land.

During our second year overseas I wrestled with burnout, wondering if it even mattered that we were here, struggling to see any fruit from our labor. As we walked through family challenges and spiritual attacks, many days felt like we were trudging through a desert, desperately looking for signs of life and relief. The prayers of our supporters and words of encouragement we received from them (many times without them knowing how badly we needed it) was a sort of manna that sustained us another day. I am truly grateful for how the Lord carries us through the love and prayers of His people.

It’s a common story among missionaries- arriving with hopeful optimism that is quickly tempered by culture shock and the realization that the way we’ve always done things won’t work anymore. We find ourselves in a foreign country, empty-handed and bent-kneed, confessing our weakness and crying out for help. And from that posture of prayerful surrender, something miraculous happens- we find freedom in realizing God didn’t call us to this distant land because we knew how to change it, He called us here because He’s already at work and is inviting us to join Him in it. When we walk in Spirit-led humility, we are able to see that even in vast spiritual darkness, Light is shining. So we move toward the Light and pray it would be reflected in us.

The invitation to partner in the work God is doing in the world isn’t only for those with “boots on the ground,” but for all of us who are part of the global Body. Because we serve an omnipresent God who is both with us and with all His people, we have the privilege to take part in His message going forth in lands we will never step foot in. The primary way we accomplish this is through prayer.

During those first years overseas, the Lord led me to the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah courageously took on the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem that had been torn down and sitting in shambles for years. The enemies of Israel were not happy about the building project, and they conspired against the laborers. In chapter 4, Nehemiah recounts that when they learned of the enemy’s plan to attack their efforts, they had half the people work on the wall while the other half stood guard, weapons ready. The laborers could continue to work knowing that there were people standing with them prepared to fight. 

As I read this story the Lord spoke to me very clearly that this is how we must approach missions. As missionaries go to lands where sin has caused brokenness and destruction, they will inevitably face the threat of enemy attack. We will not rebuild what the enemy has torn down without opposition. Those of us on the ground actively laboring to bring restoration to brokenness are left exposed to the enemy unless we have people standing guard ready to fight for us and the people we have come to reach. We need an army of people who are willing, weapons ready, to wage war through intercession. Restoring lost people to their Creator cannot happen without the builders and the warriors.

“Restoring lost people to their Creator cannot happen without the builders and the warriors.”

You are those warriors, dear friends. Your prayers and petitions on behalf of unreached people are powerful. Your intercession for missionaries may be the difference between them staying on the field and leaving. Doing your part in missions means waging spiritual warfare for the kingdom. I want to leave you with a few practical ideas to take your prayer for missions and missionaries to a new level. As you commit to pray, I believe that our efforts to win the lost will be increased as we take up our weapons and let the enemy know we aren’t afraid to fight.

Ways to Pray for Missions:

  • When a missionary comes to your church, take a prayer card and commit to praying for them on a specific day each week. Pray Psalm 90-91 over them and their family.
  • Sign up for missionary newsletters, then actually read them and respond with prayer and encouragement.
  • Take one day a week to pray for an unreached people group. Use a website like Joshua Project, Change the Map, or Live Dead to find info on how to pray for UPG’s.
  • Ask your church for a list of the missionaries they support. Start a missions prayer group to contact those missionaries and find out how to pray for them. Meet once a month to pray together. 
  • Fast one meal a week and one day a month for unreached people groups. 
  • Check out Liturgies for a Life Abroad– prayers written for people serving overseas that will give you insight on how to pray for them and the unique challenges they face.
  • Pay attention to where products you purchase come from and pray for the people in that country.

“And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” Matt. 24:14

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