Praying for Missions

Click here for more messages from the Praying For … series.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.

(Matthew 9:35-38)

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called “Praying For,” and over the past weeks we have looked at praying for things in general, and then praying for forgiveness, praying for healing, praying for victory over sin, praying for church and family and praying for the lost. I hope you have found this series helpful in knowing not only what to pray for but also how to pray for these various things. Today we come to the last message in the series which is praying for missions. (Read Matthew 9:35-38 and pray.)

————————————–

So today we are talking about praying for missions. You may have noticed that the scope of our prayers has broadened as we have gone through the series. We started off praying for personal things like forgiveness and healing and victory over sin, and then widened the scope by praying for church and family, and then widened it further by praying for various people whom God has placed in our lives, and now we open it up all the way by praying for missions around the world.

And of course, the broader you go, the harder it is to pray. It’s easy to pray for yourself and your family, a little harder to pray for your church, even harder to pray for lost people around you, but hardest of all to pray for people in countries that you don’t even know.

It’s hard to think about praying for the world when you’re going through so many things just on a personal level, but God wants us to be a part of the big picture of all that he is doing in the world. As John Stott puts it: “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.” And one of the best ways we can accomplish this is through our prayers.

James O. Fraser said: “I believe it will only be known on the last day how much has been accomplished in overseas missions by the prayers of earnest believers at home.” We cannot do missions without prayer, and your prayers make a difference.

Of course, it can be overwhelming thinking about praying for the whole world. So how do you go about it? That’s what today’s message is all about. Together we will look at three areas of need this morning relating to missions. And then we will look at some practical ways that you can build praying for missions and the world into your prayer life.

I. The need for the gospel

So, let’s get started. The first area of need relating to missions and prayer is the need for the gospel.

   A. All have sinned and need salvation
      – Romans 3:23; Revelation 20:11-15

The Bible tells us that all have sinned and are in need of salvation. We read in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Sin is not simply a personal problem. Sin is not a localized problem. Sin is a worldwide problem, and therefore it requires a worldwide solution.
And it’s not just that everyone sins, but everyone who sins will be judged for their sin. We read about the great white throne of judgment in Revelation 20. John writes: “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books…. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)

There’s the need for the gospel right there. Sin is followed by judgment. All have sinned. Therefore, all will be judged. Only those whose names are found written in the book of life will be saved. The gospel is good news, but as theologian Carl Henry once said, it’s only good news if it gets there in time! (“The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” Carl F. H. Henry; Engage magazine article) Everyone who sins needs salvation, and everyone has sinned.

   B. Jesus is the only Savior for the world
      – John 14:6; Acts 4:12

All have sinned and need salvation. We need to share the good news of Jesus with them because Jesus is the only Savior for the world. Jesus said in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Acts 4:12 tells us: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

It’s a big world out there, and there are a lot of religions and a lot of beliefs in different gods, but there is only one way to be saved, and that is through Jesus. We need to bring the gospel into all the world, because Jesus is the only Savior for the world.

   C. God wants people saved from all nations
      – Isaiah 49:6; John 3:16

Not only that, but God wants people saved from all nations. Not just one nation, not just a few nations, but God wants people saved from all nations.

God says to Jesus in Isaiah 49:6: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6) God is too great a God and Jesus is too great a Savior for only a few people to be saved from a few nations. Our God is a great God, and he is worthy of eternal worshipers from every nation across the earth.

John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God loves the world! God loves all peoples from all nations. And God sent his Son Jesus so that people from all nations would be saved.

Oswald Smith observed: “We talk of the Second Coming, but half the world has never heard of the first.” That’s the need for the gospel. All have sinned and are in need of salvation. Jesus is the only Savior for the world. God wants people saved from all nations, so we need to bring the gospel to all the nations.

II. The need for workers

So, there is the need for the gospel. Secondly, there is the need for workers.

   A. Jesus tells us to go into all the world
      – Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8

Jesus tells us to go into all the world with the gospel. We find Jesus’ Great Commission to the church in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) Notice the Great Commission is not, “Therefore stay and make disciples of all your own people,” but rather “Go and make disciples of all nations.” It’s important to make disciples at home, too, but Jesus tells us to go into all the world.

Jesus told his disciples in Luke 24: “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations…. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48) Jesus later tells his disciples in Acts 1:8: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

When Jesus says that we are to be his witnesses, he is not simply talking about witnesses who have seen or experienced something, but rather witnesses who speak out and give testimony, witnesses who share what they know with others.

The mission of the church is a global mission. We are to be witnesses of Christ’s death and resurrection to all the nations, to the ends of the earth. You might say, “Well, that’s a pretty big job!” Absolutely! It’s a huge task. There’s a reason we call it the Great Commission!

   B. We need people who are willing to go
      – Matthew 9:37-38; Romans 10:13-15

Jesus tells us to go into all the world. And that means we need people who are willing to go. We need workers. That’s what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 9: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38) We need workers who are willing to go into the harvest field of the world and share the gospel with those who have never heard.

Because how can they believe in Jesus and be saved if they’ve never heard of Jesus? That’s what Paul says in Romans 10: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:13-15)

Take a look at your feet for a moment. Do you have beautiful feet? Or do you have ugly feet? Do you know who has beautiful feet? Those who bring good news! Those who go and share the gospel with others. Why? Because people cannot be saved unless they believe. And they cannot believe unless they hear. And they cannot hear unless someone tells them. And we cannot tell them unless we go! I don’t want to have ugly feet! I want to have beautiful feet! I want to tell people about Jesus, because people need Jesus. People need to hear the good news of Jesus to be saved.

Jesus tells us to go into all the world. The task is great, and so we need people who are willing to go. Steve Moore put it this way: “The Great Commission is too big for anyone to accomplish alone and too important not to try to do together.” We cannot fulfill the Great Commission without a great number of workers who are willing to bring the good news of Jesus to those who have never heard of Jesus.

III. The need for prayer

So, there is the need for the gospel. And there is the need for workers. Which means there is the need for prayer. The Great Commission is too big a task for us to do without God’s help. A.B. Simpson, the great missionary pastor, said, “Prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work.” Just as you cannot move a train forward without the engine, so you cannot move missions forward without the engine of prayer. And so, we need to pray for missions.

There are a number of ways you can make praying for missions a regular part of your prayers. And so, I want us to look at those now.

   A. Pray various Scriptures relating to missions
      – Matthew 6:9-10, 9:38; Revelation 5:9, 7:9-10

First, you can pray various Scriptures relating to missions. For example, you can pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10) This is a prayer for God’s name to be honored over all the earth. It is a prayer for God’s kingdom to spread over all the earth. It is a prayer for God’s will to be done over all the earth. That can only take place as the gospel goes forth into all the world. So, you can pray the Lord’s Prayer for missions.

You can also pray Jesus’ prayer for more workers that we saw in Matthew 9:38: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:38) Ask God to raise up workers who will bring the gospel to every nation in the world. Ask God to raise up workers from this church who will be willing to go where God calls them.

You can also pray the beautiful passages in Revelation which speak of people from all the nations worshiping God in heaven. For example, we read these words in Revelation 5:9: “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9) And again in Revelation 7: “I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:9-10)

This is the end game. This is why Jesus came. Jesus died for people from every nation, tribe, people and language. You can pray for the gospel to go into all the world so that people from every nation, tribe, people and language will be saved for God’s glory. So that’s the first thing you can do in praying for missions. Pray various Scriptures relating to missions.

   B. Pray for your church’s missionaries
      – prayer list; brochure; weekly focus; newsletters

And then, secondly, you can pray for your own church’s missionaries. There’s a lot of ways you can do this. You can use the list of missionaries that is on our church prayer list that we publish each week. You can take one of our mission brochures with brief summaries about each of our church’s missions and put it in your Bible to remember to pray. You can write down our missionary prayer focus for each week and pray specifically for that mission during your daily prayer times. You can take a copy of our quarterly newsletter and pray for the specific needs and requests from our missionaries listed there.

   C. Pray for specific nations and unreached peoples
      – Operation World; Joshua Project

A third way you can pray for missions is to pray for specific nations and unreached people groups. There are some great resources out there to help you with this, but two that I have found especially helpful over the years are Operation World and the Joshua Project.

Operation World comes in several different formats. You can get it as a book with information about each country and the various needs in that country relating to missions. You can go to their website and use their prayer calendar to join with others in praying for various countries around the world each day. (http://www.operationworld.org/prayer-calendar) Or you can sign up for emails with daily prayer reminders for different countries around the world. (http://www.operationworld.org/prayer-movement-sign-up)

The Joshua Project is similar with a website detailing unreached people groups around the world. (https://joshuaproject.net/pray) Just like Operation World, you can access a prayer calendar or sign up for daily emails to pray for a different group each day.

Operation World and the Joshua Project are also both available as free apps for your tablet or phone. I like using the app versions, because I use my phone every day anyways, and I can sign up for a daily reminder right on my phone to pray for a different country or unreached people group each day. I figure if I can get notifications from Facebook on my phone each day, why not get a notification to pray?

Both ministries are excellent resources for praying for missions. The main difference is that Operation World focuses more on praying for countries while the Joshua Project focuses more on the individual unreached people groups within those countries. I used Operation World for many years. For the past number of years, I have been using the Joshua Project. They are both great resources. I would encourage you to check them both out.

But whatever resources you use, just make sure you pray for missions. Samuel Zwemer wrote: “The history of missions is the history of answered prayer.” Missions doesn’t happen without prayer. So, pray for different countries and unreached people groups. Pray for the people. Pray for the workers. Pray for Bible translation. Pray for financial resources. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts to bring them to Christ.

   D. Ask God what he would have you do
      – willing to pray, give or go (or any combination)

And then, finally, ask God what he would have you do with regards to missions. When it comes to missions, every Christian should be willing to pray, give or go – or any combination of those three as God calls you.

So, talk to God about all three of those options. Ask God, “How can I pray better for missions? What changes would you have me make as a result of this message in how I pray for missions?” Ask God, “How can I give better for missions? What would you have me give the church? Are there any specific missionaries to whom you would have me give additional support?” Finally, ask God, “Where would you have me go?” God may tell you to go to a foreign nation to share the gospel with those who have never heard. He may tell you to get involved with a local ministry that helps share the gospel with others. Or he may tell you to go across the street and get to know your neighbor so you can share the gospel with them.

We should all be willing to pray, give or go as God calls us. So, ask God, “How would you have me pray, give and go?” And then be willing to do what God tells you to do, to give what God tells you to give, and to go where God tells you to go.

CONCLUSION: Worldwide missions is a huge task. It’s a team effort. No one can do it alone. We need everyone’s help to accomplish the Great Commission.

The Bible says to whom much has been given, much will be required. You have been given the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation. And that means you have a responsibility to share that gift of salvation with others, especially with those who have never heard of Jesus.

The worldwide mission of the church is the responsibility of every Christian. And it’s not that we don’t have the time to pray for missions. I like what John Piper says about prayer: “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” Ouch! If prayer is important to us, we will find the time to pray.

We must pray. People’s lives depend on it. People’s eternal lives depend on it. God’s glory depends on it. There is a growing movement of Christians around the world committed to praying for missions. Will you do your part? Will you join in prayer for missions and a lost world?

© Ray Fowler

You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this message provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and that you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For any web postings, please link to the sermon directly at this website.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copies:
By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

Click here for more messages from the Praying For … series.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.