The first Christian missionaries to Europe came from a small Christian community, hidden in Turkey. This church was led by a group of elders who had a rhythm of prayer and fasting. They had never sent a missionary in the past and many in that church had only left their hometown because persecution had gotten a little too hot. The church seems to have been led by a jewish family with strong religious history and with a radical conversion.
The Antioch church faced strong pressure from the local jewish and gentile communities. It was here that the believers were first called Christians – it was meant to be a slur but became a badge of honour. It was in a season of prayer and fasting (which seemed to be more normal than seasons without prayer and fasting) that 2 men were identified by the Holy Spirit as ready to be sent with the Good News that Jesus was the only King worthy of worship.
At this, Paul and Barnabas collected a few people around them and set out on the first of their missionary journeys.
The Lord seems to prefer to start missions and revival with praying people. There are many stories in church history that speaks like this – the monks at Bangor, the Moravians, the desert fathers, the Methodists and the persecuted church today. Prayer, intimate relationship with Jesus, has always been at the root of God’s moving through and in the church. Cultures have been transformed through the faithful witness of the praying church.
I am convinced that missions starts and ends with prayer. Let’s assume that prayer is much more than a circle of people in the church basement on a Wednesday night and that it is the main activity of the church. If most of the great missions movements were started in prayer, perhaps we can be part of a great missions movement today by transitioning our churches into houses of prayer. Here’s some thoughts I’ve had to help me move towards being a house of prayer leader that calls out mission.
1. God does nothing except in response to prayer – John Wesley
This seems to be God’s way, not because he cannot act without our prayers, but rather that he takes great delight in allowing us to partner with him.
2. Missions exists because worship doesn’t – John Piper
John Piper insists that we remember that all of creation was made to praise God and that we are happiest when we’re making God happy with our prayers and praise.
3. It’s God’s descriptive statement of the church (and Jesus emphasizes it).
these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56.7
“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’ ” Matthew 21.13
4. Prayer is the language of the Age of Eternal Life
Who do you think you’ll talk to and about when Jesus comes to set things right? Prayer is like practicing to speak in the next age.
5. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55.8
6. Prayer was Jesus method – doing nothing except what he saw the Father doing, getting up early, going to solitary places.
If we are to be “Christians” (little Christs) then we should speak and do as He did.
7. Globally, where the church is growing the fastest, it is praying much more than it’s evangelizing.
8. In the west, where we do not emphasize prayer, it is very difficult to move forward in the gospel
10. When we’re so poor (corporately) at prayer, the only way to get better is to pray.
See my post on Outliers on why we should set our target as 10,000 hours in prayer.
11. Every great revival, renewal, outpouring and movement of God has started with prayer, and continued in prayer.
12. The way we pray on Sunday is the way that prayer happens all through the communities during the week. Corporate prayer is key to personal prayer.
Don’t expect people to follow right away, they’re likely not ready to follow you right now. This is why one week of prayer will not get your whole church praying. This is also why you must preach and lead in prayer.
I know to have a laser-beam focus on prayer would require not doing some other very good things. What are you concerned about not experiencing by being in prayer? What is the Lord saying to you about the time you spend in prayer?