Charles Spurgeon once made this remark: “I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.” Countless other famous preachers and evangelists, like John Bunyan, Andrew Fuller, and George Whitefield, were known for their persistence in prayer. It’s remarkable to see men who fully rested in God’s sovereignty throw themselves before his throne in prayer.
However, I think many of us who embrace the biblically-rooted doctrine of God’s sovereignty struggle to bring our prayers to him. I’m convinced this is because we struggle to understand the true meaning and importance of prayer. Before you go overseas as a missionary, invest in prioritizing prayer because it will remind you of your dependence on God’s provision and align your will with God’s will.
Many of us who embrace the biblically-rooted doctrine of God’s sovereignty struggle to bring our prayers to him.
Prayer Reminds Us of Our Dependence on God’s Provision
All too often, pride rises up within us in ugly ways, even in prayer. When life seems to be going well, we forget that every good and perfect thing comes from above (James 1:17), neglecting to recognize his provision in our lives. At the same time, difficult circumstances in missions push us to depend on him in prayer. Whatever situation you are in, whether it be joy-filled or pain-filled, we are called to depend on him in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
Jesus gave us the best example of prayer in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1–7:29). In the model he gives us (Matthew 6:9–13), he immediately shows us that we are dependent on God in prayer when he says, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). As believers, it’s a glorious privilege that we get to call God our “Father” (Romans 8:14–16).
As God’s children, we are dependent on our good and perfect Father. As an earthly child depends on their earthly father, so we, as God’s children, depend on our Heavenly Father. Since the Holy Spirit is the seal of adoption (Ephesians 1:13–14) and the One who leads us (Romans 8:14), the Spirit will convict us to go to our Father, who is both holy and near.
The crucial point of prayer is that we don’t deserve to be God’s children who depend on him (Ephesians 2:1–10). We don’t deserve to be missionaries and laborers for his kingdom. We don’t deserve the unhindered, free-of-charge access we have with God (Ephesians 3:12). We could’ve been left to our own devices like all unbelievers. Realizing that we come before the all-holy, all-knowing king of the universe in prayer ought to crush any remaining pride in our souls and stir our hearts to depend on him.
Prayer Aligns Our Will with God’s Will
Once we come to the end of ourselves, a question that often follows is, “Where do I go from here?” When we pray, we aren’t approaching God as a mere “cosmic vending machine” for him to dispense a simple answer to prayer in the field. We are approaching the God who made heaven and earth by his sovereign command, whose precious providence reaches far beyond our comprehension. We aren’t aligning God’s will to ours; we are seeking God to align our will to his will when it comes to reaching the lost.
When we truly confess, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), we submit to his authority no matter what. We want what he wants in missions. We desire what he desires for his kingdom. At the same time, God promises to take care of us (Romans 8:38–39). We can ask him to provide for us what we need (Matthew 6:11–13) as we serve him in advancing the gospel.
Submitting to God’s will in missions can be very difficult. Our lives have both beautiful and broken moments. They are all within God’s providence to mold us into being more like Jesus and to strengthen our dependence on him as we serve him. No matter what comes in the field, we need to pray in such a way that reflects our trust in God for who he is and what he has done for us.
Prayer is the Fruit of a Healthy Relationship with God
Jesus gives profound insight into what a healthy relationship with God looks like in John 15. He explains our relationship with God in terms of abiding in him. As a vine abides in the branch, so we are to abide in Christ. Another important piece in terms of abiding is about bearing fruit. As we abide in Christ, the fruit of the Spirit becomes visible in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23).
Prayer is a fundamental piece to abiding in Christ, and it’s in prayer we see the fruit of the Spirit on display in missions. We pray because of God’s love for us and our love for him. We pray for patience in difficult circumstances when our efforts seem to not be gaining traction. We pray for joy when life is full of sorrow.
We pray because God is good, and we desire to reflect his goodness and love.
We pray for self-control when we are tempted. We pray for kindness that we show to unkind people, especially those who persecute us for our faith. We pray for peace in times of war and chaos, especially when it impacts our mission field. And from all of this, we pray because God is good, and we desire to reflect his goodness and love in our missionary context.
The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus, the perfect High Priest, “holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24–25). His atoning sacrifice has drawn me near to him, and through him, I can lift my soul up to him in prayer. I’m deeply encouraged that no matter how broken I am, no matter how grim circumstances may be, I know my Savior lives and loves me, and I can go to him in prayer anytime and anywhere. I hope you find encouragement in this great truth also as you prayerfully fulfill God’s calling for you to labor in missions.