Prayer is more than simply offering my list of needs before God. Now, make no mistake, we are told by God to ask what we need of Him. But too many believers stop there and never consider the rest of the world. Nor do they understand that prayer is an action we can take to work out the mission of God in the world. Consider the following passage on the spiritual discipline of prayer from my book Habits for Our Holiness.
Prayer should bring about a sense of God’s mission. It is because of the world’s spiritually lost condition that we pray for God’s intervention. As we pray, we should do so for our needs yet subjugate those personal needs below the global need for redemption.
Your prayers can turn missional when you seek for God’s kingdom to reign in the hearts of those living in your community. We should intercede for the physical needs of others. Asking God to provide food, shelter, and safety to widows, orphans, and immigrants is a noble and missionary request. Let- ting go of your own wish list of needs and putting someone else’s first will better shape your heart to love people as Jesus loves them. It is this building of faith that will further propel us into the world. In lifting up a need for a fellow human being and then being silent long enough to understand the Spirit’s guidance, it is likely that He will send you into the work of filling that need. Prayer is not a separate spiritual discipline from God’s mission. Prayer informs us of our role in His mission.
By bearing down in prayer, we learn to persevere in faith. All of us have experienced the waiting necessary for an answer to a request made before the Father. He is not unreliable or ignoring us when we do not receive provisions immediately. Circumstances are provided in such a way to give room for faith and love to grow. It is by this same faith and love that we will be propelled into the mission field of God’s choosing. As individuals and congregations learn to persevere in prayer, persevering in ministry will become more natural for us.
Here’s one very practical way that prayer works in the mission of God. As you interact with people in your community— or on a foreign mission trip—you will have the opportunity to pray with those you meet. Notice that I wrote “with” and not “for.” In the moments of ministry to the poor and needy or wealthy and well-supplied, we often are tempted to say, “I’ll pray for you about [fill in the blank of their need and/or wish list before God].” A more effective route is to ask the person if you can pray with them at that moment. With billions of people on the planet who are not believers, praying with them is a missionary activity. You likely have people in your own neighborhood or apartment complex for whom you will be the first person to ever pray with them. It is a privilege to not take lightly. It is a gospel moment to seize.
Philip serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida and frequently speak at churches and conferences. A graduate of Beeson Divinity School (MDiv) and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin), Philip has served as a pastor, minister of education, and a church planter.