Jesus first asked Peter, “Do you love me?” and then said to him, “Feed my sheep”. Missionaries leave home, family, friends and comfort, not because the sheep are lovely, or even because they are in need, but rather because they love the Shepherd.
But following the Shepherd in his mission involves both personal risk and sacrifice. A decision to serve in some locations means sending children away to boarding school. In others, it means living with some risk to personal safety.
How do we pray for missionaries in these situations? They are not there for their own health or safety, so that should not be our over-riding concern either. Rather, they want God’s will to be done, and so we should pray in conformity with their own priorities.
Pray firstly for the salvation of those they are sent to, and then for their safety. Listen to Paul’s priorities in his prayer requests:
Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:19-20
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Colossians 4:3-4
Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2
Paul’s first concern is the Gospel of Jesus. Is that our first concern? Paul is not unaware of his own hardships, however, and also wants us to pray about them too.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 2 Corinthians 1:8
It often seems that Pakistan is descending into chaos; that the sun is setting on that land. In Peshawar, 139 Christians were killed in a double suicide attack on a church. But, in the same week that the Marriott Hotel was blown up in Islamabad, and embassies and airlines started evacuating, a new family with small children arrived at the school. God hadn’t given up on Pakistan. We need to pray like Joshua that the sun will stay up, so that more people can be won for Jesus.
Let us also seek God’s heart for our own part in this work. Indeed, the needs can seem so overwhelming that we might wonder if we can make a difference. Jesus says, “Lift up your eyes, for the fields are white to harvest, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers”. When we offer ourselves, Jesus gives thanks to the Lord of the harvest, blesses what we give, and breaks it and hands it out to feed others. So, worship Jesus in every choice you make every day, pray to the lord of the harvest to send out workers, and in love for Jesus say “Here am I, send me”.
The author is an Interserve Partner who served in Pakistan at a boarding school for missionary children.