Praying for Missionaries: Stand in the Gap
by Marti Pieper
Mike and Janice Lee understand the importance of people who will “stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30) in prayer. They’ve served nomadic tribes in East Africa for nearly 30 years. But even they were confused when an American woman called to say she’d arrived in a nearby town to pray for them and the people they served.
Nonetheless, the two welcomed their unexpected intercessor and took her to visit a clan they knew well. En route, they held a special time of prayer for Mike, Janice and their work. The next day, they looked for the clan leader and learned he had gone to a nearby town. When they found him, he said, “I knew you would come.”
“How did you know?” asked Mike.
“My people are starving. Grain has been donated, but I have no money to hire a truck to transport the bags,” he explained. “Some say to sell it, but my people need food, not money. I prayed all night that you would come to help me.”
Mike and Janice told their tribal friend that God cared about him and his people. He had heard not only his prayers but those of their surprise guest. They gave him the small sum he needed to hire a truck. They all left that day, amazed at the power of prayer.
But maybe you don’t plan a spontaneous visit to another country anytime soon. Can you still pray for missionaries? The answer, of course, is yes. Our refrigerator resembles a bulletin board because it holds the prayer cards (postal-size cards with a family picture, names and country) of the many missionary families we know. The cards serve as a visual reminder of these families and their prayer needs.
And what if you don’t have any prayer cards? Start with the missionary relationships you already have. Think about your church and your close friends or family members. Are there missionary connections in that group? Many churches adopt mission workers or people groups in various countries and share online or printed materials listing their names and prayer needs. Do you remember hearing a missionary speaker? You can be sure that individual has a prayer team. Contact the worker through the host venue and ask to receive specific requests and updates.
As you pray, remember short-term missionaries, too. Many churches, community groups, or nonprofits send out teams for brief periods to do construction, hold medical clinics, or meet other needs as a vehicle for the gospel. And thousands of high school and college students also use their holiday or summer breaks for mission work. “Praying without ceasing is of the utmost importance to missions,” says Ruth, 19, veteran of eight short-term trips. “We need prayers for the people, the work and the ministry that is to occur.” When you hear about a short-term missionary or mission team, remember: donations of prayer matter even more than financial support.
Continuing in Prayer
Now that you have one or more missionaries, mission teams, or countries to pray for, how should you pray? God’s Word reminds us of four prayers all missionaries need.
Provision: Even as He sent out some of the first missionaries, Jesus urged them to pray for more workers: “And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Luke 10:2 ESV). As we pray for missionaries, let’s also ask God to provide future workers in the field.
Preparation: Missionaries may spend months and years working with a particular group before seeing fruit. As prayer partners, we have the opportunity to join in their work by asking God to prepare the way. We can ask God for available translations of the Bible, key “people of peace” (cf. Luke 10:6) within the people group and receptivity to the gospel message. As Paul reminded Timothy about their opponents, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
Power: Today’s missionaries have the same need as the early believers who waited for God to send the Holy Spirit: power to proclaim the gospel. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Protection: As believers, we have the obligation to pray for these soldiers who fight for the advance of the gospel. Missionaries, no matter where they serve, can face harsh physical conditions, language difficulties, medical problems and a host of other concerns. Without adequate spiritual protection, the enemy can use these normal mission challenges to destroy families and detract from the power and influence of their work.
Those who work in countries closed to the gospel may face threats of expulsion or other dangers. Nathan, who serves in a closed country, explains: “We ask for an intense prayer covering over us and our work. Foreign friends in a nearby city were told that there is a foreign [missionary] family living in our city. We are the only foreigners in our city. The people who told them are not followers of Christ.”
As you pray, ask for God’s protection in the midst of warfare. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:17).
“May this place [the country where she serves] not be like Israel where there was found no one faithful to stand in the gap between the land and God’s judgment,” says Kaye, missionary to an unreached people group. May the Master find us faithful to stand in the gap for those who serve to advance His kingdom across the globe.
Marti Pieper’s passion to read, write and pray makes her life an adventure. An author, collaborative writer and editor, she also serves as Director of Prayer and Publication for Awe Star Ministries, a student mission-sending organization. Her most recent book, Out of the Dust: Story of an Unlikely Missionary, received AWSA’s Golden Scroll Nonfiction Merit Award.
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