What is the best way to support a missionary? That is a question I often get asked by people who love and want to see their missionaries succeed. It is also an extremely loaded question with many avenues of conversation. This week we are starting a four-part series that will answer this question. Of course, our minds tend to jump right to financial support, which will be one of the topics, but my goal is to elevate our thinking beyond just money. I will be answering this question with four focuses in mind – Prayer, Financial, Promotions, and Practical.
It is often cliché to say, “the best thing you can do for a missionary is to pray.” This is usually the sentence missionaries put in their update letters right before they ask for financial support. But that does not negate the truth of the comment. Prayer is the battleground where you can wage a good warfare on behalf of your missionary. Remember what Paul said, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12 NKJV). We often forget that the ministry is not only a physical task but a spiritual affair. The battle is won or lost in prayer.
So how do you effectively pray for a missionary? In Paul’s letters, he requests prayer multiple times from individuals and churches as he serves as a missionary. These passages present a good Biblical perspective. First, I am reminded of what Paul said to the church in
Colossae, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 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” (Col. 4:2-4 NIV). First, notice the idea of devoting yourself to the task of prayer. Here’s how Pastor John MacArthur explains this idea, “The Greek word for ‘devote’ means ‘to be courageously persistent’ or ‘to hold fast and not let go’ and refers here to persistent prayer.” The first question or application when we think about praying for missionaries is: Are we “courageously persistent” and are we “holding fast and not letting go?” This level of commitment requires a real conviction to pray. Next, Paul calls them to a discipline of being watchful, to keep a lookout for the various prayer needs and requests. I think this carries a weight of intentionality. Are you disciplined to seek out how to target your prayers? An image of soldiers calling in a targeted airstrike comes to my mind. Instead of shelling a whole city block, you send in the guided smart missile. Finally, notice Paul’s specific prayer, “… that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ…” (vs. 3). Pray for opportunities for your missionaries to be bold witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Next, In Ephesians 6:19 Paul says, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19 NIV). Paul’s perspective here is radically convicting. When you think about it, it is astounding that while Paul is in prison, his prayer request is for boldness to “make known the mystery of the gospel.” I think that helps elevate our focus and our prayers to what is truly important. Instead of praying for comfort and protection (which, by the way, are not bad things to pray for), Paul was more concerned with the advancement of the Gospel and that the Lord would use his situation to bring salvation to lost people.
Lastly, we should pray for the safety of our missionaries. A lot of them are serving in dangerous locations and ministering to people that would happily take advantage of, steal from, and persecute them. In his second letter to the Thessalonian church Paul once again asks for prayer: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith” (2 Thes. 3:1-2 NKJV). First, notice once again that Paul starts with a prayer request focused on the furtherance of the Gospel and then he transitions to a practical request for safety. Furthermore, there are a plethora of other practical topics we should be continually praying for on behalf of our missionaries. Pray for their marriage, children, finances, personal spiritual health, and that God would send times of refreshment.
Prayer should never be underestimated. It is the lifeline.
Practical Steps for Senders
Now that we have covered some theology of prayer, I want to give you a few practical steps that you can apply to your prayer life today.
- Sign up for SGWM’s monthly prayer request e-mail. This is a fantastic and extremely effective way to stay current on all of our missionaries’ prayer needs.
- Sign up for as many missionaries’ newsletter lists as you can handle. Missionaries should be faithful to send out a monthly update letter that will communicate a lot of information that will help equip you for your prayer time. To sign up for a missionary’s newsletter simply go to their website on sgwm.com and you will find a sign-up form.
- Schedule a phone or Skype call with your missionary. A lot of times senders are nervous and do not want to stack another task on top of their missionaries. But this is an important task! Missionaries need fellowship, and they need to connect with their family and friends back home. Speaking with them on this personal level will give you a chance to add more specific requests to your arsenal in terms of prayer.
Pastor Mike Thiemann
Train4Missions.com is a ministry Pastor Mike Thiemann runs to help equip and train missionaries and senders on all topics of long-term overseas service. Pastor Mike and his wife Erin serve State-side as full-time missionaries through Saving Grace World Missions and raise their own missionary support. If you would like to partner with Pastor Mike and Erin to help them further the ministry of Missions Training, please click the “ways to give” image below. Also, you can access their website by going to sgwm.com/thiemann.
 John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Col 4:2.