Splash Everywhere
4/25/13 at 12:00 PM 1 Comments

God Bless the Missionaries

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By Dr. Jerry Rankin

A strange pattern seems to have developed in how we pray. The bulk of our praying is for ourselves and our needs. Corporate prayer is dominated by intercession for those sick and suffering. Perhaps self-centered praying has always been the default content of our supplications, but one seldom hears passionate pleading for the nations and for kingdom issues.

It is encouraging in the midst of thanking God for the rain, invoking His blessings on the worship service and praying for Aunt Tilly in the hospital that someone will ask God to bless the missionaries. It is commendable that one would be aware of those who have left home and family to take the gospel to remote places around the world and the need for God’s blessings on their ministry; but I find myself wondering how God must respond to such generic appeals. Which missionaries? Where? How do you want me to bless them?

“GBM” praying may reflect a praise-worthy concern beyond our usual provincialism, but would voicing specific needs not reflect a more genuine, heart-felt burden for those serving God in isolation of their supportive sending churches? Southern Baptists have traditionally prayed for missionaries on their birthday. In following the missionary prayer calendar thousands pray for a few specific missionaries once a year. I guess they are to be forgotten and pitied as they labor on their own the other 364 days of the year.

How much better and more effective to pray for the few specific missionaries one knows everyday and lift them to the Lord by name. They would likely become aware of divine intervention in their lives and miraculous break-through in their work if one would make the effort to be aware of their specific needs and join with others in laying that burden at the throne of God. It is more than asking for success in winning souls to the Lord. The distractions and discouragements that inhibit the effectiveness of missionaries are often the trivial and mundane.

Safety and health cannot be taken for granted in places of traffic congestion, chaotic driving patterns and unsanitary conditions. Adequate housing, reliable electricity and pure drinking water can be time-consuming burdens for a family in a foreign country. The educational and social needs of children, relationships with other team members and unity with national co-workers are matters in which every missionary needs God’s help.

And would it ever occur to us to pray for spiritual nurture and a missionary’s walk with God. Yes, these dedicated saints can easily become spiritually dry in isolated assignments laboring for the gospel where there is no supportive church fellowship.

The needs are endless, but if our prayers really connect with the needs of the missionaries we will not just pray for them but for the people they are trying to reach.

Lift up to God the people group held firmly in bondage to sin and darkness. Pray that the strongholds of hostile religious worldviews would crumble and ways be found for the gospel to transcend cultural barriers so that hearts would be penetrated with the good news of Jesus. Pray for a “man of peace” who would be receptive and open doors of influence in the community. Pray that their visa would be secure and freedom to live and witness in their country of residence would not be threatened by a restrictive government.

Every missionary I have ever known would say prayer is their greatest need and asset. Everyone can pray. We have the capacity to make a difference in what God is doing on the other side of the world, but our intercession must go beyond a casual expression of “God bless the missionaries.”


Dr. Jerry Rankin served as president of the International Mission Board from June 1993 to July 2010 and blogs at The Rankin File.

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