Missional Prayer

Missional churches require missional praying. We do not inform God in our praying, nor do we instruct God in our intercession. But we do join God when out of love we pray for the mission of God in the world and all those who participate in it. God has ordained that our praying is a way to participate in the healing of the world. Communion and communication with God is one of the greatest joys in participating in God’s mission. As breathing is necessary to life, so prayer is necessary to mission.

Missional praying means interceding for the homeless and the hungry, the lost and the lonely. Missional praying means petitioning for ministers and missionaries who serve Christ in difficult and dangerous places. Missional praying means holding those before God who have no access to the gospel as well as those who do but whose hearts have been hardened to the gospel. Missional praying means wrestling with principalities and powers and resisting evil in the name of Christ. Missional praying means seeking the face of God and not just the hand of God, for others as well as for myself. Missional praying means dispelling darkness with the glorious light of God’s love.

Missional praying, like all praying, is born out of an awareness of desperate need. I recall someone saying, “I don’t pray except when I am in trouble or when someone I love is in trouble. But the fact is that I am always in trouble, or someone I love is always in trouble. So I pray all the time.” When we are faced with overwhelming and crushing challenges, we don’t need to be told to pray. We do it instinctively and intuitively. In times of crisis, we call out to God for help. In a similar manner, as we observe the crises and sufferings of others, we call out to God for help, for justice, for mercy.

Missional praying is born out of desperate and overwhelming human need that is beyond human remedy. We simply must have divine help. Therefore, we pray. Perhaps one reason many of us don’t pray for the world is because we are insulated and isolated from the sufferings of the world. Perhaps we are apathetic, indifferent, lukewarm. But when we come into contact on a personal, firsthand basis with real suffering, we feel the crushing need to pray. We ask God to do what we cannot do, and we ask God to help us do what we must do. We pray both with our lips and with our lives. We ask for help, and then we do what we can to help. It has been my experience that those most in touch with human suffering and spiritual struggles are the ones who pray the most and also accomplish the most.

Missional praying is born out of struggle with spiritual powers, forces, and realities that are external to us. The presence and power of evil is evident in systems and structures that trap individuals in vicious cycles of violence and cruelty. Sin is not only personal but also corporate and collective. Social evils are real. So we pray, both for ourselves and for others, “Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from the evil one.” Without a conviction of sin and evil, and God’s triumph over sin and evil, we will have little effectiveness in prayer.

Missional praying, most of all, is born out of love. It is God’s love for us that creates a response of love to God and love to neighbor. For me, prayer is receiving God’s love and then responding by offering love back to God that includes love to neighbor. In prayer, we do not force God to act contrary to God’s own nature, because that very nature is love. But in a mysterious way, we enter into and become participants of that love. The more we experience God’s love, the more we pray. Prayer itself is an act of love, an attitude of love, an expression of love. Love is itself a way of prayer.

This post originally appeared in chapter 9 of This Treasure Within: A Memoir by Daniel Vestal.

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