Missionaries are like spiritual miners. They dive deep into spiritual darkness, armed with the tools of the Gospel, and unearth those who are ready to believe in Jesus Christ. Their job is made a little easier when they have partners back home holding the ropes for them in prayer.
The first step is choosing who to pray for. Pick one or two families to start out with. Write down their names and where they’re serving. Get their prayer card from your church, or print off a newsletter from their website, and keep it with your Bible as a reminder to pray for them.
The harder step is knowing what to pray for. Of course, missionaries are no different than anyone else in their basic needs, desires, and struggles. So at the very least, we can make general requests on their behalf (strength, provision, compassion, wisdom, etc). The important thing is that we pray for them, even when we don’t know the particulars of their needs.
But there are specific requests we can remember too — challenges that every missionary faces — that are common to all mission fields and all types of missionaries (medical missionaries, church planters, mission teams, etc).
Here are 9 things to pray about for any missionary:
1. Pray that obstacles to the field would be removed or resolved. This could include things like entry visas, financial difficulties, injury or illness, family emergencies, civil unrest in their chosen field, or weather-related events at home. Of course, God is sovereign over all these things. And sometimes He allows them to happen in order to direct the missionaries’ steps — other times they are simply challenges that He direct missionaries through instead of around. Regardless, we don’t need to determine the difference. What is important is that we pray for resolution, for the missionaries to be strengthened during the time of waiting, and for the Gospel to be preached among the lost.
2. Pray for traveling mercies. Consider especially those who live far from any cities, which contain things like necessary medical care and supplies they cannot get in their own villages, as well as those who traveling on furlough. Cars can break down when there’s no money for repairs, delays can take place on public transportation, and of course accidents can happen anywhere — not to mention the challenges of long-distance traveling such as eating well, sleeping enough, and dealing with long hours cooped up inside. Any of those things can stress a normal healthy adult, but can easily overwhelm a missionary who’s ill, pregnant, or caring for young children.
3. Pray for continued physical well-being. Not all missionaries are in perfect health (most aren’t), although we don’t often see great physical disabilities. But even a minor injury can have far-reaching effects, and a low-grade chronic illness can flare up at the most frustrating moments. Also consider those who are pregnant or have young children, and those headed to countries with limited or poor medical care.
4. Pray for protection from evil. This could include everything from terrorism to civil unrest to common thieves. Foreign missionaries often present a unique target for break-ins, stolen vehicles, and abduction — especially when the devil is trying to hinder their work. Additionally, they are sometimes caught in the middle of regional or national unrest. When that happens, they must choose between risking their lives to stay and minister, or leaving while they can — a problem to which there is never an easy answer.
5. Pray for continued spiritual well-being. Missionaries can struggle with depression or discontentment, just like you do. They can struggle to read their Bibles daily, have continued soul-deep conversations with God, or faithfully love their neighbors. They have the same sinful nature you do, and live in the same sin-filled world of temptation. But they also have the same Holy Spirit to convict, encourage, and comfort! Pray that they would stay tender to His leading, and stay faithful to fellowshipping with God. Pray for encouragement, spiritual strength, discernment, and spiritual discipline.
6. Pray for inroads into the community. Missionaries cannot share the Gospel if nobody will talk to them! They needs ways to reach into the community and build relationships with the locals — whether that’s through community activities, paid or volunteer jobs, neighborly conversations, or even regularly shopping at the same stores. In some (all?) places, it can require serious creativity to get around the distrust of outsiders, whether from other countries or other religions. In all cases, it certainly requires a supernatural work by the Holy Spirit, both directing the missionaries as well as making the locals more receptive to their friendship.
7. Pray for hearts to be softened toward the Gospel. This is something only God can do! The most eloquent or most passionate speaker cannot turn a man’s heart toward God. The most servant-hearted missionary cannot save anyone. Missionaries can plant the seeds of the Gospel, but only He can touch their hearts and call them to Himself.
8. Pray for converts who are ostracized or persecuted for their faith. New believers often face the challenge of turning their backs on whatever their families have believed and practiced for generations. They are often shunned, physically abused, or mercilessly mocked for their decision — things that could weaken even the strongest believer, yet they are newborns in the faith. Pray for them to have courage, strength, discernment, and even love toward those who harm them (physically or otherwise). Also pray for the missionaries or pastors who may be discipling them, to have wisdom and foresight regarding any challenging situations that may arise.
9. Pray for growth and stability of national churches and pastors. In foreign countries, especially, raising up national leaders within the church is crucial for continuing the work! Missionaries are not immortal and most cannot stay on the field permanently — and someone needs to continue the work after they leave. But it’s not always easy to train a replacement, especially when you’re dealing with cultural differences and lack of educational and financial resources. Not only do men need the desire to lead and learn, but the churches also need to become financially self-supporting. They need to begin supporting their own missionaries, and working on their own evangelistic efforts!
Of course, the more you pray for missionaries, the more you’ll learn how to pray for them. And the easier it will be to talk with them when they make the rounds on furlough — you’ll have specific things to ask them about, and you’ll grow much more aware of the issues unique to their ministries or fields.
What missionary can you pray for today? Share their name & field in the comments, so I can pray for them too!