The Great Commission is the mandate for the church, and has been at the forefront of our efforts since the day of Pentecost. The power to witness comes through the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. However, the activation of the witness, and the effectiveness of that same witness, is effected through prayer. Witness without the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) is simply devoid of the power available to believers. A witness that is bathed in prayer will invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit and will then be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In the same way, our efforts to support the work of missionaries around the world must be bathed in prayer. One of my favorite quotes on prayer, attributed to A.J. Gordon, says: “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” If we accept this premise (which I do), it is futile to expect miraculous effectiveness in witness or missions work without prayer. Prayer is simply essential if work in the field of the harvest is to be done. The situation is clear—prayer precedes power, prayer precedes production, prayer precedes redemption, prayer precedes revival.
Having developed a sense of the necessity of prayer for the Great Commission, the next thought would be, “How does a pastor motivate his people to pray for the harvest?” Matthew 9:37-38 (NKJV) reads: (37) “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. (38) Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” We must motivate a prayer force to open doors for missions, to protect missionaries, to empower them, to embolden them, and to make them effective. Missionaries are dedicated, courageous men and women who give their lives for the cause of Christ on the mission field.
The first thing a pastor can do to motivate prayer for missions is to share the urgency of its work. Talk about, teach about, preach about the sacrifice, the dedication, and the power of the work on the missions field. Be intentional about making missions a visible and audible part of your church service regularly. The American church needs to be reminded that there is a missions field beyond the four walls of its sanctuary. That field needs prayer support!
The second thing a pastor can do is to put a face on missions work. Support specific missionaries and post their pictures and profiles in church bulletins, newsletters, websites, and other publications. Invite them to come and speak at your church while they are in the United States. Make your people aware of who it is that is doing this work. Personal appearances by missionaries are extremely effective in raising awareness and contributions for the work of the harvest.
The third thing a pastor can do to motivate prayer for missions is to make missions visible at all times. Our church happens to have a missions committee and a missions club. Our church designates 10 percent of all our tithe income to World Missions. The missions committee determines how funds are distributed and sponsors missions services and the missions club. The missions club consists of all church members who have been on a missions trip and those who are interested in going on a missions trip, meeting regularly to strategize and plan trips and to meet missionaries on furlough. Both entities pray for missions at each meeting. The missions committee has put together a “missions corner” in our foyer which pinpoints where our missionaries do ministry on a global map, and there is a monitor which shows pictures and videos of our missionaries at work on the field. It is becoming a focal point for people to stay in touch with our missionaries. It is located outside our prayer room, and encourages people to pray for the missionaries, as well.
Finally, the pastor must keep the need for prayer for missionaries before the church regularly. Our church includes the Great Commission and world evangelization in any prayer emphasis in our church (National Day of Prayer, Prayer Summits, Prayer Walks), and we include prayer for missionaries in every prayer list we publish. We feature missionaries in our bulletins and newsletters. We keep ringing the bell for the world harvest, and we will keep ringing it until He comes. The greatest thing, and the first thing, a church and a pastor can do for missions is to pray. After that, every other positive action will be more effective and more productive. Pray, Grow, and Go!
—Dr. Greg Sloop
Lead Pastor, Kannapolis Church of God and World Missions Board Member