Missional Prayer

We can reach our world, if we will. The greatest lack today is not people or funds. The greatest need is prayer. -Wesley Duewel

The believers at Philippi partnered with the Apostle Paul in what may be termed “missional prayer.” This relates directly to getting Jesus’ Great Commission done. It’s missional insofar as it is supplication for those “sent” to share God’s saving message (the Gospel) to those who haven’t yet heard it. The Philippians prayed for Paul, their missionary, who had been imprisoned explicitly for contending for the Gospel—the good news about Jesus that is God’s power to save all who believe. Through such prayers, the Philippians developed intimacy with each other and enhanced their mutual outreach.

We never know how God will answer prayers, but we can expect that he will get us involved in his plan for the answer. If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf of the people for whom we pray. -Corrie Ten Boom

There are some unique features about this letter that Paul wrote to this church at Philippi. This was the 1st church he had planted in Europe on his 2nd Missionary Journey, and he had cultivated a special relationship with them (Acts 16). Unlike his other letters, this is the only one filled with rejoicing that has no major doctrinal issue to set right! Paul didn’t need to prove his apostleship to these beloved friends, so he presents himself as their “servant.” Of all the churches he started, this was the only one who put their money where their mouths were when it came to missions!

We will only advance in our evangelistic work as fast as and as far as we advance on our knees. Prayer opens the channel between the soul and God; prayerlessness closes it. Prayer releases the grip of Satan’s power; prayerlessness increases it. That is why prayer is so exhausting and vital. -Alan Redpath

Missional prayer goes beyond “God bless and help our missionaries.” It acutely focuses on the progress or advancement of the Gospel (underline Paul’s many references to “the Gospel” in Philippians 1). Such prayer offers to God the beautiful feet of an evangelist or “apostle” to God, as they are the ones “sent” to bear glad tidings of so great a salvation to the lost, at any cost (Rom. 10:15-17). We must consider such missionaries as an extension of our local church’s pastoral, “paid” staff. They can’t “go” unless we “send” and our only other option is to disobey! True missionaries care enough to leave comfort zones, crossing boundaries and penetrating barriers in order to go the ends of the earth. They represent us where Christ is not known. Consequently, like Paul, they suffer and are persecuted for proclaiming Christ. They desperately need our prayers.

As Christians who are not under such persecution, we must find any way that we can help our persecuted brothers and sisters. They need us more than ever—our presence, our encouragement, our support, our teaching, our fellowship, and perhaps more than anything else, our prayers. Our prayers are crucial because our best praying will move us into our best action. -Brother Andrew

It is worth noting what missional prayer does. Jesus pointed his followers to people without the Gospel and called them “fields ripe unto harvest.” Then, as the solution to the shortage of missionaries, he commanded them to pray (Matt. 9:35-38)! The first and best way a believer can engage in evangelism and missions is through prayer. Our intercession is directly proportionate to the Lord’s sending. Missional prayer is divinely mandated—not as an option to the few burdened for the lost, but as operational and an obligation of all Jesus’ true disciples. Prayer is not preparation for the work, it is the work. When we work, we work; when we pray, God works—and He always does a better job! A.B. Simpson called prayer “the mighty engine that moves missionary work.”

Having considered the “what” and “why,” let us consider “how,” as a local church, each of us can meaningfully engage with our missionaries. Paul’s relationship with the Philippians can inspire and instruct us. Notice that they saw themselves as co-workers or partners and how they had each other:

  1. On their minds (Phil. 1:3). We get so preoccupied with the urgent or what we want for the moment that we neglect what is important or what we desire most. Our busy lifestyles consume our attention and eventually rob us of making missional prayer a priority!
  2. In their prayers (1:4). Note how readily thoughts turn into prayers. They understood their struggles “from the first day until now,” and so daily offered one other to God in prayer.
  3. Upon their hearts (1:7; 2 Cor. 7:3). This was natural because they treasured one another within and sacrificial expressed love through selfless service (cf. Timothy, Epaphroditus; 2:19-30).
  4. Through their pens (Phil. 1:1, 8). They proved their care in a practical way by sending financial support. Paul then puts everything aside to make the time to write them a letter, which we still read today!

Missional prayer connects people with the God of all resources who supplies all our needs (4:19). This is particularly true when we partner in taking the Gospel to the lost within a hostile society. Such supplication drew Paul and the Philippians to God’s throne of grace. It removed anxiety and created a peace that made them thankful and joyful, even amidst trials (4:6-7)!