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prayer: not an option but a command!

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

It is estimated that of the 7.8 billion people alive in the world today, 3.23 billion of them live in unreached people groups with little or no access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. According to the Joshua Project, there are approximately 17,446 unique people groups in the world, with 7,400+ of them considered unreached (over 41% of the world's population!). The vast majority (85%) of these least reached groups exist in the 10/40 window, and less than 10% of mission work is done among these people.

Yes, these numbers are quite intimidating! Yet, instead of allowing ourselves to be paralyzed by these numbers, let us hit our knees on the floor to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth workers into the harvest field.

A.B. Simpson, founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance said, “prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work.”

The link between missions and prayer is inseparable. Prayer is fundamental to everything that God does on earth. We know that God is sovereign, and He can accomplish anything that He chooses. However, the fact is, He has sovereignly chosen to accomplish His work through prayer, which includes missions and world evangelism.

According to the recent Barna report on The Future of Missions, a strong majority of older adults (63%) say that in the future, they see themselves praying specifically for missionaries, while only half of the young adults (50%) and teens (51%) say so.

I find these numbers deeply disturbing, knowing a new generation is less interested in praying for mission workers. We have the responsibility to teach the next generation to pray for missions and International workers.

Jesus often taught His disciples the importance of prayer and how to pray, but seldom what to pray for. But in Matthew 9:38, Jesus commands His disciples to cry out to the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into the harvest field.

Matthew 9:38 reads, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

When I looked at the scriptures connected to prayer, I found that this is the only prayer command in the entire New Testament. Jesus never commanded us to pray for various needs like housing, clothes, food, vehicle, gadgets, etc. Interestingly, while it is scriptural to pray for our many needs, we are not commanded to pray.

Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We have the right to ask our heavenly father anything we wish when we are His children. He has promised to answer us and bless us. Again, Jesus said in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

However, when we carefully study Matthew 9:38, the command is to "pray earnestly." It is one word in the original; it has the connotation of pleading for something. It is a clear command to cry out to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field. It's not an option but a command.

Jesus declares there is a great need for people to get on mission with God, therefore pray! It is quite intriguing why the command is not to go to the fields but to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers. He doesn't say the need is huge, so hurry up and get out there! Instead, He says, pray. Pray and ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest fields. So, before we go to the nations, we are to go before the throne of God to send more workers.

Sometimes when we are flabbergasted by the awesomeness of the task to reach the unreached, we wake up and hit the ground running. But what we need to do is hit the floor praying. Prayer and mission are connected in the Kingdom of God because those who dwell in his presence gain his heart and receive his assignments. God’s heart cries out for the lost and the broken. So, pray for people to pray for the workers.

In 1727 a mighty move of the Holy Spirit stirred the hearts of Count Zinzendorf and the Moravian Brethren in Bohemia. This launched a prayer movement that continued 24 hours a day for over 100 years. Within the first 25 years, over 100 Moravians were sent to the mission field. This prayer and evangelistic effort helped launch the modern missions movement. Moreover, the example of the Moravians inspired both the Wesley’s and William Carey in their vision for world evangelization.

Prayer and missions go hand in hand. The Korean church was always known for its prayer and missions. The message of the gospel first reached the Korean people in 1885 through the work of foreign missionaries. Less than one hundred years later, twenty-four missionaries were officially sent out by the Korean churches in 1974. Their number grew exponentially, and forty years after Korea sent out its first missionaries, 27,436 Korean missionaries from various denominations were serving in 170 countries.

The following are two excellent apps that can elevate your prayer life, praying for workers and nations in the light of Matthew 9: 38.

  1. Joshua Project (Unreached of the day)

The Unreached of the Day app is a great way to join thousands worldwide, praying for the Unreached People of the Day.

2. The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM pray today)

The VOM prayer app will get you started to pray powerful, specific prayers for your brothers and sisters under persecution worldwide. The app provides one new prayer request every day and can be set with a daily reminder.

Oswald Chambers rightly observed "prayer does not fit us for the greater work. Prayer is the greater work." Let us join our hearts together in this great work. Amen.


Eddie Byun, Praying for Your Missionary: How Prayers From Home Can Change the Nations (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2018), 188 pages, ISBN 978-0830845569.

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