Operation World posted a great list of specifics to pray when praying for missionaries.
This is one of the big ones, but one of the most important for prayer!
Missionaries. The harsh realities of spiritual labour soon dispel the imagined glamour of pioneer missionary work. Both the missionaries and the churches that send them need to have realistic expectations, adequate support on every level and unflinching devotion to the task. Pray for:
a) Vital, supportive home fellowships of believers who are willing to pray the missionary out to the field and keep him or her there through the years of greatest effectiveness. This is difficult to maintain with rapid changes and turnovers in membership and in the pastoral team in most congregations. Congregations must see themselves as local launching pads for the essential task of global mission, rather than as local institutions where foreign ministry is an optional add-on.
b) The supply of their financial needs. Mission is too often regarded by churches as a charitable extra – if there are sufficient funds left over from the local essentials. Many missionaries live sacrificially for Christ, in harsh and demanding contexts, with simple lifestyles and neither present nor future guarantees of income or security. This is especially the case for those from newer sending nations where churches do not yet appreciate the importance of financial support for mission. Missionary lifestyles also need to be sensitive to the living standards of the contexts in which they work.
c) Adequate preparation for missionary work. This is arduous and long – theological training, ministry experience, language learning and adaptation to a new land may take years before an effective ministry can be exercised. Those years can be traumatic and discouraging. The significant number of missionaries who fail to return for a second term of service is indicative of possible deficiencies in selection, preparation, structure and pastoral care. With the increased amateurization of mission, training and preparation are increasingly compromised for the sake of getting people “on the ground” as soon as possible. But it is more training – and not less – that will see healthy, growing, culturally appropriate churches planted in cross-cultural situations.
d) Cultural adjustment. Many prospective missionaries cannot make the adjustment to new foods, lifestyles, languages, value systems and attitudes. Some return home disillusioned and with a sense of failure; others react wrongly on the field and hinder fellowship and witness; yet others go too far in their adaptation and compromise their health and sometimes their faith. Wisdom is precious in such situations, as is an authentic biblical love for the people and culture where the work is occurring.
e) Spiritual vitality and a rich devotional life. In the role of spiritual leadership, as a living testimony to the efficacy of the gospel, often in isolation from other believers and as an ambassador of God’s Kingdom in dark places, a missionary cannot afford to exist with a tepid spiritual life.
f) Protection from Satan’s attacks. The powers of darkness are real. In many areas, Satan’s kingdom has never before been challenged. Missionaries must be more vigilant on the field than in home situations. They need to be able to discern between cultural differences and spiritual opposition, but the spiritual authority to resist evil attacks is even more vital. These can come through many means, including physical health and disease, attacks upon the mind and attitude, in relationships and in physical threats such as violent attacks and hostage taking.
g) Family life. For singles, the missionary call may mean foregoing marriage for the sake of the gospel – loneliness can be a heavy burden to bear. Yet, singleness on the field can also bring rapid language and culture acquisition and flexibility of lifestyle and ministry. For others, family life may be made difficult by living conditions, inadequate amenities or lack of finance; long separations, many visitors and excessive workloads may disrupt it. Missionaries’ children may be separated from their parents for long periods because of education; children’s educational needs bring to an end the field ministry of countless missionary families. But family life can be a real asset for integrating into the target community as well as a great opportunity to demonstrate the gospel through family relationships.
h) Calling and commitment. The assurance that God has guided one to a particular ministry is often the only anchor to retain workers in difficult situations, misunderstandings, broken relationships and “impossible” crises. Pray that none may leave a place of calling for a negative or superficial reason, but only because of a positive leading from God.
i) Built-in obsolescence. Missionary presence on a field could end suddenly for a host of reasons; when expatriate workers make themselves irreplaceable this can spell disaster for the health of fledgling churches and movements. Success should be understood as having been achieved when the missionaries are no longer needed for the role for which they came. The ideal goal of all missionaries should be to train their own replacements from among local believers.
j) Re-entry – temporary or long-term – which can be traumatic. Returning missionaries need adequate debriefing, preparation for reverse culture shock and the continued support of God’s people; these help establish an effective rapport with churches at home, build a fruitful ministry on the home end and prepare for a return to the field.
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