Romans 15:30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
This verse has doubtless been used countless times since Paul wrote it by other missionaries in “prayer letters.” Foreign missions can be lonely work for a number of reasons, but such missionaries are as much a part of the Body of Christ as anyone else, and are certainly in need of the support of that Body. Many mission agencies do a great deal in terms of logistical support and the like, but the spiritual and emotional support is actually more important. Paul himself used the strongest terms possible here, making his request in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. That’s not something to be done lightly! The Japanese also makes it clear that he asked for prayer “to the limit of your strength.” In other words, give it all you’ve got. Probably very little prayer is that way, which might explain the limited results we often experience. With modern technology, particularly the Internet, it’s easy and very helpful to give missionaries a word of encouragement, but such communication without prayer to back it up is simply humanistic and of no lasting benefit. We all need to remember that apart from Christ we can do nothing! (John 15:5) Both missionaries and those who pray for them need to be focused first on connection with Christ. Missionaries get busy too, and devotional life can suffer. As “point people” they are often under constant attack of all sorts, so they need the “air cover” of people praying for them. In my experience, the “heavy lifting” of missions work is often accomplished more by the people praying than by the people on the field.
I have painful experience to back this up. When Cathy and I came to Omura in 1981 we had no “sending agency,” but we had a church with faithful prayer warriors who backed us up spiritually. However, that church folded because of the sins of the pastor, and we were left without prayer cover. I didn’t realize what was going on, but my focus blurred, and the church here became more like a hobby instead of the real reason for my being here. I received a fairly strong rebuke from a brother to whom my words made that attitude obvious, but I didn’t know how to repent. The Lord arranged that we needed to go to the US for four months to get our younger daughter established in college (since she didn’t really remember living in the US) and He used that time to get us implanted spiritually in a home group of a particular church. During that time He also kept the church here from dissolving in our absence, and He renewed my focus on His plans for me. The years after our return to Omura were good, but we had been the youngest people in that home group, and those faithful prayer warriors started dying off. Right now we are again without organized prayer support, though we do have various individuals in various locations who pray for us. We need people agreeing in prayer for us!
Father, thank You for this reminder, and for the medium of my blog to communicate our need. I pray that those You are calling to do so would indeed labor with us in prayer so that the spiritual barriers may be overcome and many people be brought into Your kingdom, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!