Want to change the world? It starts with prayer.
Pray to the Lord of the Harvest
Jesus and his closest followers were walking through towns and villages sharing hope and help with all who needed it. And there were plenty who needed it. The sick, the harassed, and the helpless were all like sheep without a shepherd. When Jesus saw them, his heart went out to them. He knew the way out of darkness. And he longed to help them find hope at the end of their struggle. At one point, after surveying their lostness, his gaze turned from the crowds to the eyes of his disciples as he explained, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:38).
His words were brief but the message is timeless. In two sentences he explained the chief strategy for missions mobilization while hinting at the primary method for reaching the world. The chief strategy is a simple ask and the primary method is ordinary people becoming bold enough to engage with the sick, the harassed, and the helpless in order for them to discover a Savior, thereby making Christ their Lord.
Pray When the Wall Is Broken
While serving as a wine taster for the king, Nehemiah heard from travelers about the sad state of affairs back home in Jerusalem. Suddenly, Nehemiah’s job seemed rather hollow. So he did the one thing he knew would work: he prayed. We know what happened. God helped Nehemiah raise funds (Nehemiah 2:4-9), make a vision trip (vv. 11-15), craft and deliver his mobilization message (vv. 17, 18), and recruit and train a ton of teammates (chapter 3). And just as one might expect after such a prayerful start, it worked (6:15). Nehemiah’s project (God’s, actually) was a huge success. We need a similar prayerful start-up today.
Pray to Compel Others
Think about it. Proverbs 21:1 tells us, “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.” Who knew? The power of prayer can somehow channel even a proud king’s heart.
Pray to Enlist Others
We may not understand why it matters to God when groups of believers pray rather than just one person, but that’s the implication of Matthew 18:19. Jesus said, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Apparently, as Wesley Duewel writes in Touch the World through Prayer, there is some kind of “added spiritual power in united prayer.”
Pray So the World Will Be Won
In John 17:22, 23 Jesus told us to pray as one so that the world could be won. In the prayer that Jesus offered up to his Father he prayed that his disciples would experience unity. If we truly want to pray for the world, if we want to raise up a fighting force, if we want to prompt people to action, then let’s pray. Pray that they can be united, intentional, and focused in reaching the world. Being one would help the world to be won.
Pray for Some to Stand in the Gap
Are you passionate about challenging others to stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30) on God’s behalf for other nations? The most effective way to mobilize others toward serving Christ cross-culturally just might be to engage them in praying cross-culturally, whether it be from their family room, from the church basement, or on a prayer journey overseas. (See the sidebar for practical next steps.)
If the Bible teaches us anything about reaching people, it’s that someone has to be sent to go reach them. According to Jesus, to raise up the “reachers,” we have to pray hard. And never, never, never quit (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17). That’s the framework for everything we do in mobilization. Everything else is just details. So, pray. Above all else, pray. And never, never quit praying.
| Practical Tips to Help You Pray for the World |
Want to get started praying for the world today? Here are some practical next steps.
Order the book Operation World. Scan the text for one country each day (two minutes’ average), then search for current events using a site like Google News (type news.google.com into your browser, then type the name of the country into the “Search for topics” box. Invest three minutes of focused prayer for the needs and opportunities you see. At the close of those five minutes, ask yourself, “What’s one action step I can take for this nation today?” Some days, you might come up empty-handed. But on other days, you might think of a next step to put wings on your prayers. Some countries have tons of different tribes or people groups (India has a few thousand), while others might be completely “reached” (practically everyone there has heard the gospel). To gain more insight about the tribes or peoples in that nation, visit www.JoshuaProject.net. Either way, 12 months later, after you’ve prayed through the whole world, you’ll be super-informed and super-useful to your church, the world, and to God!
Set aside a specific time and place to pray. You’d be surprised what a little routine will do. Once you’re in a 30-day habit, you’ll be golden.
Look for ways to influence others to pray too. Visit www.UnleashedfortheUnreached.com and “schedule the Wall of Unreached Peoples” to visit your church. It’s free (but take note—you always have to ship it to the next church or group, so pay attention when you book; if the next destination is in Alaska, you might have to save your pennies!) The Wall of Unreached Peoples is a powerful visual symbol of the task remaining. You can recruit some helpers and “pray through the wall” while it’s there at your church or group. In this case, you’re no longer praying for political countries. You’re praying for tribes and people groups by name. Still today there are around 7,000 people groups that do not have a significant gospel witness. You likely will never be the same afterward.
Put together a prayer journey to visit and pray for an unreached people group. Books have been written about this idea of “praying on-site with insight.” It’s expensive and challenging, but nothing helps a church grasp the task remaining like walking those dusty trails. Besides, if you’re serious about wanting to reach a particular tribe or people, groups like Team Expansion will help you arrange all the logistics plus train you for the trip. They’ll even send a trip facilitator to coach you along the way. (It’s courteous of your church to pick up the out-of-pocket costs.) For more information or to brainstorm about this idea, drop an email to the author at DLucas@TeamExpansion.org.
Doug Lucas serves as president of Team Expansion, a mission organization he and his wife, Penny, founded in 1978. Team Expansion makes its home on a 61-acre Prayer, Retreat, and Learning Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Currently nearly 300 full-time workers in over 40 countries serve through Team Expansion, praying daily that God helps them make and multiply disciples for his glory. Learn more at www.TeamExpansion.org.