Missional Prayer: Introductory Thoughts

In his excellent book, Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, John Piper begins his chapter on prayer saying:

“Life is war. That’s not all it is. But it is always that.  Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth.  Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief.  It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den.  God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world.  Prayer thus gives us the significance of frontline forces and gives God the glory of a limitless Provider.”

For the past week or so, I have been spending a significant portion of my personal study considering the role of prayer specifically in the context of the mission of God and the advance of the gospel as understood in Scripture.  There’s a lot of talk these days about being a missional church (most of which I like), but one can quickly discover the thrust of the missional church by how they pray and what exactly they for.  I’m sure you have heard of the line that far too many prayer meetings are consumed with requests to keep loved ones out of heaven rather than pleading with God that many more might go to heaven (or variation of that thought).

When we as a church began a two-month season of praying about the new church planting initiative, I chose to preach a series on the prayers of Paul as a means to instruct and encourage our members to pray about the kind of things we find Paul, the greatest church planter, praying for.  Here was a man who had been abandoned in Asia, beaten several times with whips, shipwrecked, left homeless, stoned, and a host of other incredible things we have never experienced.  If ever there was a person to ask for prayer about himself or physical needs, it was him.  Could you imagine Paul praying to the Ephesians, “Please pray for my back. I was just beaten in Lystra the other day before coming here.”  Or to the Corinthians, “My eyes are going bad. Could you pray that I may see better?”  Who knows, Paul may have indeed made these requests, but it is no small thing that nowhere do we find such prayers being offered.  He was crucified with Christ.  He didn’t want anyone to bother him, for he bore in his body the brandmarks of Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:17).

Paul and the early church prayed in accordance with the Father’s will, for the glory of Jesus, and because, as Piper explained, prayer was “primarily a walkie-talkie for the mission of the church.” A church with a domesticated prayer life will inevitably be a church in maintenance mode rather than in missional mode.  Simply put, if you want to know if a church is on mission, listen to their prayers and feel their hearts.

Absorb yourself in the prayer life of Jesus and the prayers of Paul for the churches and consider prayer in a new light–not just a spiritual discipline but missional devotion.  Our alignment and involvement in the mission of God is governed and guided by the prayer of faith from a fervent heart.

I don’t know about you, but I want to have a good handle on this walkie-talkie in the life-long war of proclaiming Christ, rescuing sinners, and building His church!  When you give me call, make sure it is about our King and His kingdom.

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5 Comments on “Missional Prayer: Introductory Thoughts”


  1. Thanks for this post. I find your lines: “Please pray for back. I was just beaten in Lystra the other day before coming here.” Or to the Corinthians, “My eyes are going bad. Could you pray that I may see better?” very convicting. I find my prayers to be more “comfort” prayers and not kingdom prayers.

  2. Randy Alston Says:

    Good post and a good book by Piper. I too like most of the talk about being missional, but I do have some concerns with how far that goes with some churches/church planters. With that being said, I think prayer has a very important role in this. Of course, prayer has an important role in the life of a Christian who is supposed to always be about the mission of God. I look forward to hearing more from you brother. Thanks again for the post.

  3. Adrian Pyle Says:

    A comment not so much on the blog entry but on language and the book referred to at the start of the post. I wonder how useful “war” language (the language of separation) is when at the same time we are focussed on a vision of wholess (that is, a Godly realm [or “Kingdom” to use the traditional language] – the langauge of belonging).


  4. […] on ‘missional prayer’ December 11, 2008 Timmy Brister has begun a series of posts which addresses prayer as a part of the church’s mission: “Paul and the early […]


  5. […] Introductory Thoughts 2.  Jesus 3.  Early Church (Acts) 4.  Paul 5.  Concluding […]


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