As we think about the history of the Church and the enterprise of carrying out her mission to “Go and make disciples of all nations,” we inevitably think of the Apostle Paul, who was the first—and arguably the greatest—missionary of all. We have visions of this intrepid man blazing trails for the spread of the Gospel as he traveled thousands of miles throughout the Mediterranean basin, sharing the Good News and planting infant churches. We’re amazed at his dedication and stamina as he endured all kinds of hardship, danger, and opposition for the spread of the Gospel.
The thing that we may miss, however, was the secret behind Paul’s extraordinary success. Even with all the character qualities we rightly ascribe to this man, he recognized that his mission would have been a failure were it not for one key element: prayer.
“Brothers, pray for us!” This is Paul’s plea to the church as he closed his first letter to the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
In writing to the Colossians, he reminded them to:
Colossians 4:2–4 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
In his second letter to the Thessalonians he wrote:
2 Thessalonians 3:1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.
In writing to the church in Corinth, he recognized the vital necessity of their prayers for his protection:
2 Corinthians 1:10,11 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
Paul ardently desired the prayers of his Christian brothers and sisters for:
- Open doors to share the Gospel
- Clarity in speaking the truth
- A rapid spread of the message and acceptance by those who heard
- Deliverance from any obstacle or peril Satan might try to use to destroy their ministry
If Paul recognized that focused prayer by others was a vital necessity to success of his ministry, can we afford to do less for those God has called and who we have sent out from us to other places? Let us seek every opportunity to inform ourselves about the work and needs of our global workers so that we can pray specifically for them.
One such opportunity is a ministry here at Grace, especially for women and focused specifically on our missionaries and global ministries. The group is called Women of Grace Missions Fellowship. This group meets the second Tuesday of each month at 9:15 a.m. in DC204/205.
Karen Harper, who has been a member of Women of Grace Missions Fellowship for nearly 25 years, describes the group as follows:
One thing I would emphasize about Women of Grace Missions Fellowship is that it is for women who have a real heart for missions but cannot go on the field themselves. We support our global workers through prayer, projects, and voluntary donations. We receive timely updates from our missionaries.
Attenders can choose a specific support group for countries where our global workers serve or float between our small groups to get a good overall view of the Lord’s outreach at home and abroad. Our speakers are often missionaries home for a while or passing through. It is one way to really feel the heartbeat of those who go out in the Lord’s name.
The other great blessing of Women of Grace Missions Fellowship is the friendships and personal ways we can support each other. It is a great mix of ages of women. Childcare is provided and a light brunch is served. We have short devotions and singing. In my nearly 25 years in the group, I’ve been able to know the heartbeat of Grace missions without ever leaving home.
Whenever you think of our missionaries and the difficulties they face in cultural adaptation, learning new languages, the hard work of meeting new people, and the very real physical danger for some, remember Paul’s plea: “Brothers, pray for us!”
Dan Hammers has been serving in pastoral care for over eight years at Grace. He and his wife, Sherry, have been a part of Grace Polaris Church since the late ’70s after serving as missionaries in France for six years. Dan taught Bible courses at Worthington Christian Schools for 38 years while directing theater and teaching photography. Pastor Dan and Sherry have three grown children and five grandchildren.