We know the apostle Paul as the greatest missionary in the history of the Christian church. It goes without saying, Paul’s ministry was one of proclamation. He preached to Jews, Gentiles, pagans, philosophers, criminals, and dignitaries. In a sense, we can somewhat quantitatively estimate the reach of Paul’s ministry from Luke’s account in the book of Acts. But what if we consider the thousands of people Paul also impacted, not through proclamation, but through participation—specifically participation in praying.
From what we can gather in his letters and in the book of Acts, Paul multiplied his ministry by raising up and sending out leaders—all under the commissioning of Jesus. Paul called for prayer from the churches that the gospel may go forward in his ministry (Colossians 4:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:1) but also reminded all Christians of their equal responsibility to proclaim the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). Specifically, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we see him exhort Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). Whether by his mouth or through his disciples, Paul wanted to see the gospel spread throughout the ancient world like wildfire.
Consider how Paul might have prayed for the fruit of Timothy’s ministry or the evangelism that would take place through the churches in Philippi or Colossae. If his letters are any indication of his desire, he likely prayed for his disciples to preach the gospel boldly but also prayed for its hearers to respond with repentance and faith. It would seem, in His providence, God has ordained prayer as the thunder to the lightning of proclamation.
Praying it Forward
This past year, my wife and I began caring for foster children in our community. As Christians, our natural desire is to not only provide shelter and comfort but to introduce children (and if possible, their parents) to the God who loves us. So, as soon as we began receiving calls for kids in need, we started rehearsing our ministry plan: model worship at meal-times, read from the Jesus Storybook Bible before bed, and regularly engage in deep gospel conversations. Human plans are great . . . until the Lord shows you something greater—ministry to toddlers.
My wife thinks I’m crazy, but two-years-old may be my favorite age. They are full of life, full of energy, and soak up everything like a sponge. However, I don’t know about you, but I find it particularly challenging to walk through the Four Spiritual Laws or Two Ways to Live with a two-year-old. My plans for reaching foster kids for Christ seemed thwarted. Then as the Lord continued to move our hearts to action, we were quickly reminded of the power of prayer while sitting under the preached Word at my local church.
People often ask us, “how long are kids in your home?” Honestly, it depends. The time in our home could last a year or more or be as brief as a few days. But foster care by definition is always temporary. For us, whatever length of time the Lord has kids in our home is the exact amount of time He has called us to at least intercede for their future salvation. If we aren’t able to share the gospel with them today, we trust and pray that God will send another laborer to preach the good news when they are older. We hope that our prayers will provide the down payment for evangelism in the same way Paul prayed for the kingdom to expand far beyond his efforts in the 1st century.
Praying Far from Home
Our God has a heart for the nations. I don’t know if any truth has been further pressed upon me during my time at Southeastern Seminary. Not only does God desire to save the nations but He has perfectly planned and initiated an execution strategy—the church.
Jesus’ final words to his disciples couldn’t have been more clear. Our calling as Christians is to preach the good news continually and constantly. Yet, no matter where the Lord has called us to live out our faith we can all participate in global mission work as well. Giving resources? Yes. Taking short term trips? Absolutely. What about the ministry of prayer? Have we considered the thousands we could impact through our participation in praying?
I’m thankful for the ministry of The Joshua Project. Their mission is to “highlight the ethnic people groups of the world with the fewest followers of Christ” so mission agencies can be well informed for strategic deployment. They also resource “everyday” Christians like me with much-needed exposure to people groups who have little to no gospel presence. I recommend signing up for their Unreached of the Day newsletter or mobile app which prompts users to pray for various people groups regularly.
There are villages and towns that have never been reached with the gospel. But missionaries are on the way. The Lord is daily raising up laborers to go. Will you go before them in prayer? Will you, like Paul, lay the groundwork for their evangelism while on your knees?
Matthew 6:9-10. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (ESV)