Praying Into God’s Mission (Part 4 of Continuing in Prayer Series)
Maybe you’ve been thinking “I thought this was going to be about God’s Mission! All I am reading about here is average stuff about praying in the family.” I want to remind us all again that your family is God’s mission. In gathering the family together to pray, you are practicing God’s mission.
It might be helpful here to make a distinction between the internal mission and the external mission of your family. This might seem like something of an artificial distinction, but I think it can be helpful to remember that our mission as family is to embody the love of God towards one another and to reflect the love of God toward the world.
When we pray as a family, we are often practicing the internal side of this, that is, looking to God to bless us through his presence, inviting God to dwell in our midst, to become as family all that God intends us to be. Our attention is focused on God and those we love. In receiving grace from God through prayer, we become filled with the Spirit of God. We are enabled to embody the love of God toward one another.
On the other hand, when we pray for others in the world outside our little household and our extended family, we are asking God to bless others. In doing this, we are blessing the world by reflecting God’s love outward toward those in need in a thousand places. We are already engaging in the external mission because we are praying for the world outside of ourselves. Our attention and our energies are focused on God and his world.
In the Gospel of Mark, we read this: “They arrived at Jerusalem. Immediately on entering the Temple Jesus started throwing out everyone who had set up shop there, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of the bankers and the staff of the pigeon merchants. He didn’t let anyone even carry a basket through the Temple. And then he taught them, quoting this text:
‘My house was designated a house of prayer for the nations.
You’ve turned it into a hangout for thieves.’”
Mark 11:15-17 (The Message)
Jesus was angered because religious leaders turned God’s house of worship into a business operation for marketing religion at exorbitant prices. He drove the money changers and merchants out of the temple. He then cited the verse from Isaiah 56:7 “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” But this verse can be considered not in relation only to organized religion. It can be applied in our homes as well. What if instead of applying this verse to a religious building like the Temple in Jerusalem, we applied it to our own homes and began to make it our intention to allow our homes to become “a house of prayer for all peoples?”
Here are some things we can do to begin making our homes a house of prayer for all peoples.
- Keep on your dinner table copies of newsletters from the missionaries you know or which your congregation supports. If you are a smart phone user you may have this information on your phone. As you get ready to thank God before your evening meal, read a section of the newsletter. Include the work of the missionary and pray for the people this missionary is serving before you eat. If missionaries have given you a prayer card and you’ve hung that prayer card on the refrigerator, at least once a week, take it off the refrigerator and put it in the place your family gathers for prayer to ask God to bless this missionary.
- As you read news in newspapers, on websites and on your smart phone, take notice of what is happening around the world, in your county, town or city. Pray for people facing difficulties, natural disasters, wars, terrorism and injustices. Pray for the work of believers who are helping in these places. Ask God to send people to help provide relief, healing and the good news of Jesus. Sometimes you will notice events taking place in the same countries where you have friends and acquaintances serving as missionaries. Include what you read in the news to inform your prayers.
- Get information about groups of people around the world who are waiting to hear the good news of Jesus and have not yet heard. A good place to look for this is https://www.globalprayerdigest.org. There are many other such aids to praying for missionaries and people of the world offered by a variety of organizations. Use them as well. Look for books that tell about life in a certain country, about its people groups, its hardships and challenges. Make a list of these ethnic groups around the world where there are very few followers of Jesus. Become informed about life in these places and pray for the work of God’s kingdom among them. They might be far away from you and they might be within a mile of your home. Pray that the good news will reach these peoples.
- Be specific in prayer. Using personal correspondence, newsletters and the publications offered by mission organizations to inform you about the needs in various countries around the world allows you to get specific in your prayers. Accurate information about what is really happening in the world helps us to become more engaged in prayer. It helps us to love genuinely. I can pray “God, bless all people everywhere.” That is a good prayer. But I can also pray “Lord, help our friend Jim provide water and sanitation systems in the impoverished communities in Niger where he is working. Help his wife Jody train nurses for that country to provide better medical help.” The second prayer gets specific and allows me to express my love for God, the missionaries and the people of Niger because it is related to the actual needs in real time. Report to your family answers to prayer. If you hear news, share it. Whether the news is good news or bad news, it helps everyone to be informed and to re-engage in prayer.
- Finally, keep praying, don’t quit. In Luke 18 we read that Jesus told his followers “a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’
“He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice—otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black-and-blue by her pounding.’”
Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns.” (Luke 18, The Message.)
In prayer we participate with God in changing the world. In the process, we are changed too. So hang in there. Don’t quit. Let your home, slowly but surely, become a house of prayer for all peoples.
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