“Lord, bless the missionaries” is the closest many of us get to praying for missionaries. But I can imagine God scratching his head and wondering – “Which ones? How? I have a lot of different blessings; which missionaries need which blessings?”
I have been guilty of just that type of prayer in the past – too many times! I knew missionaries, or knew of them, but seldom prayed effectively for them. And often, because I didn’t know how to pray, I just didn’t pray at all. Sad truth – I left God’s frontline warriors to fend for themselves.
What is most ironic about that is this: I wanted, at one point, to be a missionary. My husband and I even discussed it in depth. But we had too many debts and not enough faith. Nonetheless, I enjoyed hearing from missionaries and reading about them and seeing how God was moving in various places around the world. I was interested; I wasn’t committed.
So, now I have a created a list of 20 Ways to Pray for Missionaries – for myself as much as for anyone else. I pray that this list will be a blessing to you and the missionaries you know and for whom you pray.
- Pray for spiritual protection. Missionaries – whether local, national, or international – are storming the gates of hell to rescue all that they can. More than anything, this riles the enemy and puts them in his crosshairs. Pray that they will be protected spiritually, and be able to minister effectively despite spiritual attacks. Psalm 91:9-10
- Pray for a strong family, including a common commitment to God first, family second, and ministry third. Ministry needs can often be so great that family needs are shunted aside; pray that family – relationships with spouse and children – will be protected from the pressures that missionary life can exert. Pray that their families will be strong. Also, for single missionaries, pray that they will be ‘adopted’ into families that can help meet their needs for relationship and connection. Psalm 27:1; Colossians 3:18-21
- Pray for a vision for what their ministry should be. Pray for sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit as plans are made and prayed over. Acts 16:9-10
- Pray for sensitivity to other cultures. Cultural sensitivity is the critical first step in building relationships that will bear fruit for the kingdom. Acts 17:16-23
- Pray for necessary financial support. Being dependent on the generosity of other believers can be a humbling and faith-growing experience. It can also be a stressful experience, if the missionary allows it. Pray that their financial needs will be met in a timely manner, so they can focus on the needs of the ministry. 2 Corinthians 8:1-4
- Pray for prayer partners that will consistently raise them up to the throne. Pray that a circle of prayer support will encompass the missionaries you pray for, that your prayers will not be the only ones ascending to heaven on their behalf. Pray also that these prayer supporters – which hopefully include family and friends – will be in touch with the missionaries on a regular basis to encourage them. Colossians 4:2-4
- Pray for the salvation of those to whom they are ministering. Salvation – true, life-changing, life-giving commitment to Jesus – is the ultimate goal toward which they are working. Pray for that fruit and that it will yield a harvest of multiple ripples of salvation. Matthew 13:23
- Pray for wisdom about how to minister. Ministering in another culture may mean having English classes or sewing lessons, drilling wells, establishing and running medical clinics, or providing for education. This list is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg about how missionaries might minister in their work – pray that they will have wisdom about what to do. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
- Pray for wisdom about how open to be about their faith and work, especially in hostile or closed countries/cultures. This goes beyond sensitivity (#3) to needing true discernment about to whom, where, and when to share the message of Christ. Philippians 1:9-10
- Pray that God-seekers would seek out the missionary. There is a limit to what missionaries can do to attract seekers. At some point, the seeker must make a move toward the missionary in conversation, online, or through written communication. Pray that God would grant courage to those who are genuine seekers to ask the hard questions, especially in the face of disapproving family, friends, and culture. Often taking this step is risky for a seeker; pray for safety for those who are honest in their desire to know the God of the Bible. Hebrews 11:6
- Pray for their prayer life and spiritual growth. Full-time ministry workers, whether pastors, missionaries, musicians, or others are often in danger of meeting the spiritual needs of others at the expense of their own need for intimacy with Christ and growth in faith. Pray that they will prioritize their relationship to God and all that means: Bible study, devotions, prayer life, family devotions, and worship. Hebrews 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:8
- Pray for physical health. Missionaries may not have access to healthcare that those of us in the States take for granted. Pray that God will keep the missionary and his/her family healthy so that the need for healthcare services in minimal. Also, healthcare insurance is often a hardship to obtain, so pray that they would have appropriate and affordable insurance. Proverbs 3:1-8
- Pray for friendships, both with other missionaries and ministry workers, as well as genuine friendships among the people to whom they are ministering. It is easy to feel lonely when ministering in a foreign culture or a country far from home. Pray that, by establishing heart-connection friendships, missionaries will not fall victim to loneliness and the temptations it brings. Paul, perhaps the greatest missionary of all time aside from Christ, never ministered alone. This should be a model and lesson for missionaries and the church that sends and supports them. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
- Pray for safety in travel. Travel, both on the field and to and from the States, is frequently required of missionaries. Often missionaries must travel in dangerous places, with less-than-ideal transportation, or use public transportation which can vary widely in its cost, safety, and reliability. Pray for the missionaries to be safe wherever they travel. Acts 21:5-6; Romans 15:23-25, 31-32
- Pray for a positive testimony in the community and with neighbors. It is human nature to be suspicious of those who are different from us. Missionaries must face this natural tendency and overcome it with love, compassion, care, and positive interactions with others. Pray that missionaries will be building that positive testimony from the very first day, and guard against anything that would sully the reputation they’ve worked so hard to build. Acts 4:13-16
- Pray that missionaries would develop the gifts God has given to them. Whether this is evangelizing, teaching, counseling, behind-the-scenes service, or loving extravagantly, each missionary you pray for has specific gifts that he/she needs to focus on building and using, and allow others to fill in the gaps where their gifts falter. This need to focus on their own strengths, and allow others the gift of service, can be difficult for any believer not just missionaries. Pray that they will have the humility to put their efforts where God directs. Romans 12:3-8
- Pray for an evangelistic spirit. While gaining fruit for the kingdom is the ultimate goal of missionary work, how it is done varies. No matter what aspect of ministry the missionary is engaged in, they need to have that heart for the lost that all believers need, that Jesus Himself evidenced in His earthly ministry. 1 Corinthians 3:7-11
- Pray for the sending agency of the missionaries you are lifting to the throne of grace. These agencies are often operating on a shoestring budget, and with multiple constraints on what is and is not allowed in many different countries. Maintaining the status quo in the home office is a tough job, but few ministries are satisfied to be maintaining the status quo – they usually have growth and more ministries on their plates as well. Pray that funds will arrive as needed for individual ministries and missionaries; that the vision of the leadership will be supportive of those on the field; that the ministry will not grow so fast that they cannot keep up with current obligations; and that God will be glorified in all. 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 5:17
- Pray for the physical space needs of the ministry. Every event – small class, larger retreat, one-on-one lesson, corporate worship – needs a space to meet. Pray that real estate may be available to meet these needs, whether that means purchasing several acres or renting a tiny room. Pray that leases would be honored by those from which space is being rented, and that prices would be fair. Proverbs 11:1; Acts 28:20
- Pray for times of refreshment. Elijah needed time away to refresh himself physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally after doing battle with the priests of Baal. In the same way, missionaries need regular times away from the ministry to recharge so they can minister effectively. This may mean returning to their sending churches, but should also include times when nothing is expected of them except to relax, renew, and refresh. 1 Kings 19
I know this is a long post, and I thank you for reading to the end! To make this a more useful tool in your prayer toolbox, I have created a condensed version of this list – one page only – that you can print out and put in your prayer notebook or journal. The PDF file also include the complete list, in case you want all the notes as well. You can get the list in both versions – complete and condensed – here.