Prayer and Missions
Power to reach the world
By L. John Bueno
By 1970, I had struggled for nine years pastoring a church
in San Salvador, El Salvador, but the attendance couldn’t seem to get above
300. I felt I had done everything humanly possible to make it grow. I had gone
to every conference I could think of and studied a wide variety of strategies
for church growth. I had sought the counsel of those who had been successful
with church growth. Nothing seemed to work for me.
I had no idea that God was about to bring an incredible
It started with preaching a message the Holy Spirit
impressed upon my heart. Not seeing the response I believed it should, I
preached it again the next Sunday ... and the next ... and the next. I preached
the same message for 13 Sundays. The message was on the lordship of Jesus
After 13 weeks, a small group of young people came to me
with a simple request: Could they start an all-night prayer meeting? They made
plans to meet on Friday nights, and on the first Friday, 13 committed young men
and women came to pray for our church. The group grew steadily. Soon, as many as
200 people were praying.
To this day, when people ask me how the church grew from 100
to 22,000 and I say, “prayer,” or “the lordship of Jesus Christ,” I get the
same response: “Tell us what really happened.” People don’t want to hear about
prayer; that’s too simple. They want to hear about a methodology they can copy.
But I discovered just how empty methodologies can be. It’s when Jesus Christ is
truly exalted as Lord in His Church that the impossible quickly becomes
Prayer is what enables us to recognize Jesus truly as Lord.
The great revivals and great churches of history reflect
this principle. The mid-19th-century Prayer Meeting Revival in the United
States began with one faithful, praying man in New York City. Jeremiah Lanphier
could hardly pronounce his own name without stuttering. But at his pastor’s
urging he started a prayer meeting in one of the upper rooms at his Dutch
Reformed church. That small group grew into one of the greatest revivals our
country has ever experienced.
Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, is the
world’s largest church. Built upon prayer, it has thousands of groups meeting
across the city to intercede for their pastors, communities and nation. I was
privileged to attend a prayer meeting there several years ago, and I was
overwhelmed with a sense of the Spirit’s presence and anointing.
Prayer is the foundation for every move of God, including
the dramatic growth of the church in Africa, the churches being planted across
the former Soviet Union, the surging congregations in some of India’s largest
cities and the revivals in Latin America. Jesus promised to build His Church,
and its construction moves ahead with divine force as His name is lifted in
Here are eight prayer priorities that can transform your
vision for your church, your community and a lost world:
1 • PRAY with a heart for the lost
Our first petition should be for God to give us a heart for
the lost so we can love them as Jesus does. The Bible is full of examples of
God’s love for mankind. Among the clearest is the Parable of the good shepherd
who leaves the 99 in the fold to go out and find the one lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7).
Much of our modern church growth method-ologies twist this
principle and concentrate on the 99. But Jesus said that the good shepherd left
the 99 to go out and find the one lost sheep. There’s no way around that
principle. Jesus is passionately concerned for the lost.
2 • PRAY with complete obedience
Spiritual growth — whether individual or corporate
— always comes down to obedience. Abraham was the friend of God and the
father of the faith because he was obedient to what God asked him to do. David
may have been a wise king, a great military tactician and a musical genius, but
he was first and foremost a “man after God’s own heart,” and it was reflected
in his obedience.
Jesus commanded us to pray. The act of focused prayer is an
act of obedience. As our purposes align with His, we are certain to experience
the spiritual breakthroughs for which we hunger.
3 • PRAY with simple faith
Prayer is a confirmation of our faith. We commune with God,
knowing that we are not merely uttering empty words. Our growing faith
energizes our petitions. We must believe that when we pray, God hears and
answers. Holy Spirit-inspired belief grows in our hearts and urges us to
undertake even greater prayer burdens.
Hebrews 11:6 expresses this kind of faith in its simplest
terms. We not only believe that God is, but also that He rewards those who seek
Him. God wants us to acknowledge His existence and believe that He is at work
on our behalf. His very existence is con-nected with His commit-ment to answer
4 • PRAY in a spirit of unity
In the Upper Room, the believers gathered on the Day of
Pentecost were of one accord. Matthew 18:19, 20 says if two shall agree in
prayer, then Christ is present in their midst —another powerful reminder
of the link between prayer and the lordship of Christ.
One of the most practical expressions of united prayer is
found in a long-standing tradi-tion of AG World Missions. For many years, we
have published Call to Prayer to encourage believers to pray for every
missionary on his or her birth date. By using this tool begun by our early
missions leadership, all of our missionaries receive concentrated prayer
sup-port each year.
5 • PRAY in Jesus’ name
Praying in Jesus’ name has a broader appli-cation than just
reciting “in the name of Jesus” at the beginning or end of a petition. It means
praying for His purposes to be fulfilled, for His kingdom to come on earth as
it is in heaven. Praying in Jesus’ name involves consistently pray-ing for His
will, His purpose and His heart to influence your own.
6 • PRAY as a partner with God
Sometimes we forget that our participation in prayer is a
concrete expression of our relationship with God. He created us with a free
will. As we subject our will to the discipline of prayer, we grow closer to
Him. Our love for our Savior is nurtured through active prayer.
Even though God knows our heart, He still wants us to ask
and be willing to partner with Him in receiving the answer. In many of Jesus’
miracles, He often required an act of partnership first. When He raised Lazarus
from the dead, He told someone to remove the stone and grave clothes. He told a
blind man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. He instructed the man at the Pool
of Bethesda to pick up his bed and walk. Answered prayer involves presenting
our requests and being willing to do whatever He asks of us.
7 • PRAY for those laboring in the Lord’s harvest
We are all vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. Missionaries
on the front lines of ministry frequently face the brunt of those attacks. The
prayer of Jabez includes this plea: “Keep me from harm that it may not pain
me” (1 Chronicles 4:10, NASB) The Lord’s Prayer echoes this thought with “Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13, KJV). We need to pray for one another and for ourselves
that we would remain true to our God-given mission.
8 • PRAY with the heart of God
One of the enemy’s schemes is to infiltrate the church and
compromise the power of prayer. Prayer becomes self-focused rather than
God-focused. Too often we call out for God’s blessing and prosperity on our
lives or voice any number of self-seeking ambitions without seeking God’s
purpose in our circumstances. Especially during economic downturns, we may be
tempted to pray for an easier life instead of a more devoted one.
Difficult times can teach us a valuable lesson. Prosperity
is not a guarantee. Instead, we need to keep our focus outward and see the
world the way Christ sees it. Our prayers must shift from “God, bless me” to
“God, give me Your heart. Help me to understand Your purpose.”
During seasons of questioning and un-certainty, may we as
followers of Christ be reawakened to His lordship. What money and material
blessings can do are not enough. We need His supernatural strength and power.
Only as we align ourselves with the mission of our Savior and partner with Him
through prayer can we effectively reach a desperately needy world with the
gospel of Jesus Christ.
As you read about the suffering church and the prayer needs
shared by each regional director, please commit to pray for missionaries and
fellow believers around the world.
L. John Bueno is executive director of AG World Missions.
E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.