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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 breakthrough.

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 Christ.

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 possible.

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 prayer.

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 our prayers.

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.

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