The World on Our Hearts
A few weeks ago we started a series of studies to help us give a bit more attention to our role in
helping to take the gospel of Jesus Christ beyond our natural sphere of influence. When I
introduced this series two weeks ago I mentioned four key words that I was going to focus on,
and those are See, Send, Pray, and Go.
The first week we looked at how God sees the world. JOHN 3:16 – whoever – God sees
the world as individuals. But when God looks at those 7 billion individuals, a lot of them
are perishing because they are infected with a moral disease called sin that hasn’t been
dealt with. But God loves all of those lost, perishing people, and so the Father sent His
only Son to die in place of lost, perishing people so He could solve their sin problem.
That’s how God sees the world.
Then last week we looked at some of the things we can do to help others take the
gospel beyond where we are … things like praying, giving, encouraging, and keeping
informed. We want to be doing all those things for those with whom we partner in
ministry, but the most important thing we can do for them is to pray. So this morning, I
want to talk a little more about how to pray for the ministries we support, and then we
are going to spend the rest of our time this morning praying.
This past week I looked at the things the apostle Paul asked people to pray for him as he took
the gospel around the Mediterranean region, and the things I noticed seemed like pretty good
advice for us today, so I want to briefly highlight Paul’s prayer requests before we pray.
As Paul brings his letter to the Romans to a close, he asks the folks in Rome to do this:
“Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with
me in your prayers to God for me …” Romans 15:30
That word “strive” reminds us that praying for people is work. Prayer is usually work. The word
“together” reminds us that the work wasn’t just Paul’s work. It was their work too.
Those are good reminders for us as well. Prayer is work, but it’s not just the work of the
people and ministries that we support; it’s our work too. If we are really going to be
partners with other people and organizations, then we need to recognize the fact that
the work that needs to be done is every bit as much our responsibility as it is theirs.
So, we need to pray for our ministry partners like the work is our responsibility.
Well, in the next verse, Paul gives these folks some specific things to pray about. The first is
“that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea” Romans 15:31
As you know from reading Paul’s letters and the book of Acts, Paul faced a lot of opposition to
his efforts to take the gospel around the Mediterranean world. Just listen while I read the
summary Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the challenges he faced over the years:
2 CORINTHIANS 11:23b-27 (starting with “beaten times without number”)
So, what Paul did was never easy, and one of the things that made it hard was that some
people didn’t like what Paul was dong, and they tried to stop him.
In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he asked them to pray that he and his helpers
would “be delivered from perverse and evil men” who didn’t share the faith. That was one of
the risks that Paul faced.
Of course, today, there are lots of places in the world where people in ministry need God to
protect them in the same way.
For example, Deborah Milton’s sister Sandy is just finishing her medical training and she
has been considering serving the Lord in Afghanistan through medicine. Of course,
protection is a key issue over there, especially since ten people on a medical team from
the organization Sandy is interested in were all killed by the Taliban in August.
There are lots of places in the world where it is dangerous to share the love of Christ, so
we need to pray for protection.
Another thing Paul asked prayer for was his ability to communicate the gospel. Turn to Paul’s
letter to the Colossians … chapter 4.
Paul asked them to pray two things for him.
1. Opportunities to communicate his message
2. The ability to communicate the message clearly
Now, we should pray the same thing for our ministry partners. We should pray that God would
open doors for their message and we should pray for the ability to communicate clearly.
Now, communicating clearly involves a couple of things.
One is fluency in the language of the people you are trying to reach. So, if the people
you are praying for are learning a new language, pray about that. … By the way, that
can also be an issue for people who are reaching into a different culture of people who
technically speak the same language. For example, if you are trying to take the gospel
into a college campus environment, there is some new vocabulary to learn, even though
people may technically speak English.
Secondly, in addition to fluency in speaking the language, communication also requires
fluency in the culture. When we moved up here, we learned quickly that even though
we speak the same language … sort of … we were in a different culture.
o We never had neighbors before who tapped their maple trees and boiled maple
syrup in their back yard.
o I never knew anybody who pitched horseshoes with his buddies every Tuesday
o We had to learn what it meant for an 82 year old woman down the street to get
her wood in.
So, pray that the people we support will be able to get close to the people they are
trying to reach and understand them. The instruction that Paul gives the Colossians in
verses 5-6 is a good thing to pray in that regard.
So, pray for protection and pray for communication. Then also pray for impact.
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he asked them to pray this:
“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did
also with you;” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
So Paul didn’t just recruit prayer for opportunities to talk to people about Jesus. He also had
them pray that the word would spread … that it would have an impact. Now, Paul said, “Just as
it did with you.” How did it spread with them?
Look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 1:
1 THESSALONIANS 1:4-10
So, what happened when these folks believed Paul’s message? Well, they went out and told
other people, and the gospel spread through the whole region.
So, in Paul’s second letter to these folks, Paul asks them to pray that the gospel would
have the same impact in other places where Paul spoke about Jesus.
Of course, we should pray the same thing. We should pray that the impact of the ministries we
support would spread beyond their natural sphere of influence.
Now, what we read in 1 Thessalonians 1 also reminds us of another thing to pray. Look at verse
1 THESSALONIANS 1:5
Paul reminds them that the gospel came to them not just in words, but in the
power of the Holy Spirit.
So, we should pray for the same thing.
In Ephesians chapter 6, Paul asked the church at Ephesus to pray this:
“ … pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known
with boldness the mystery of the gospel …” Ephesians 6:19
So, Paul wanted to be able to speak with boldness. Where does boldness come from? Well,
Acts 4:31 tells us this about that:
“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all
filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31
Boldness comes from the Holy Spirit. So, we should pray for the people we support that the
Holy Spirit would fill them with power for the ministry that God has given them.
So, Paul asked people to pray for protection, the ability to communicate, the impact of the
gospel, and for the power of the Holy Spirit. Then finally, I want to highlight one other thing
that I didn’t see on Paul’s list of requests, but it probably should have been.
Acts chapter 15 tells us about one of the conflicts the Church had in its early days. But the
leaders of the Church got together in Jerusalem and talked things out and they resolved the
Paul and Barnabas were part of that conflict resolution. But the Bible tells us that some time
later, this happened …
Over the years I’ve read that the number one reason missionaries leave their
ministries is due to their inability to get along with other missionaries.
So, we need to pray for relationships.
Ministry often creates significant strain on relationships. Whether it is the relationship
between co-workers or the relationship between one’s family members, one of the key ways
that Satan cripples people involved in ministry is by creating relational problems. We all know
something about that firsthand.
So, we need to pray for relationships.
Of course, there is one relationship that is critical to all of our other relationships … and that is
our relationship with God. Proverbs 16:7 says, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, it
makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” So probably the place to start our prayers
for the people we support is to pray for their personal relationship with God. Pray that God
would draw them into an ever deepening relationship with Himself.
Well, if we had more time we could add a number of other things to our prayer list. But these
five will help us pray this morning for the folks we are partnering with. Let’s pray for
protection, communication, impact, power, and relationships, especially their relationship with
God.. And then anything else that comes to mind.
Just think of what you would like someone to pray for you if you were doing what the
person you are praying for is doing … and pray that.
So, lets spend some time praying for our partners in ministry.
Where we are: CareNet, Camp Berea, Rumney Bible Conference,
Elsewhere in our nation: Julie Savage – Camp Redcloud
Nearby cross-culture: Eric & Sarah Lovejoy - Chi Alpha at PSU
Far cross-cultural: Short-term (Rachel Bandi, Kristina Green, Josh Ingram), Compassion International,
Samaritan’s Purse – Operation Christmas Child