How to Pray for Missionaries


DON’T STOP PRAYING (1 Sam 12:23)

Prayer for others is not an option. Jesus instructed us to do so (Luke 18:1). So did Paul (Eph 6:18). And James (Jas 5:16). And the Psalmist (Ps 122:6). And Solomon (2 Chron 6:21). 

The great Old Testament prophet Samuel once said: ‘As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you’ (1 Sam 12:23).  As a Judge of Israel, he was responsible to pray for them. 

There are people for whom we are responsible to pray, too. We can’t pray for everyone, of course, but neither should we pray for no one. We all have people we need to uphold in prayer. Obviously, this includes family, close friends, leaders, and so on. It may also include missionaries. And, disturbing as it may sound, as Samuel rightly said, not to pray for them is actually to commit sin.

Some people just pray for others when they think of it or when they ‘feel led’. This sounds fine but in practice, it actually doesn’t work. The most unpopular word to do with prayer is ‘discipline’. It takes discipline to pray responsibly. One way to do this is to use a prayer diary, where people’s names are listed in writing to remind us of our need to pray for them. 

In this Bible Plan, while there are many matters for prayer that we might think of, we shall focus only on Scripture passages that specifically instruct us as to how we should pray for missionaries. May I suggest you familiarize yourself with these texts and meditate on them frequently when you pray. 

In 1793, the great Baptist missionary William Carey said that he was like someone descending a deep, dark, well and he could not do it without others to hold the rope. Challenged by this, a couple of years ago, I wrote this short poem conveying what missionaries might say to us today:

Rope Holders 

Our mission has placed us in lands faraway

for people who live without hope.

You may not be physically with us today—

but never let go of the rope.

The language is different, the culture is new,

at times it’s a challenge to cope;

some people around us don’t like what we do—

so never let go of the rope!

We preach the good news where it’s rarely been heard

with people who stumble and grope;

we trust in your prayers and the power of God’s Word—

Please, never let go of the rope.

(Barry Chant © 2017)

What Next?

• Memorize 1 Sam 12:23. And if you can, try memorizing the poem as well. 

• Instead of rope-holding, what contemporary analogies can you think of to describe praying for missionaries today?

• How can you decide which missionaries you should personally pray for? List several possible criteria.