ArticleChurch Life & Ministry

Pray for Suffering

In the local church, praying to send missionaries means preparing to suffer.

Editor’s Note: This article is the second installment in seven-part SendOne devotional series. Learn more about SendOne.


Too often, we equate obedience to the Lord with instant, photogenic success. But in Scripture, suffering is a clear mark of faithfulness.

Don’t let the title fool you. We aren’t advocating that you you actually pray to suffer. There’s enough pain in everyday life; we don’t need to ask for more.

But when it comes to missions, you should pray for the suffering—especially for missionaries—that they will endure hardship well, display Christ in weakness, and persevere in God’s calling on their lives.

The Apostle Paul speaks to this very issue in 1 Corinthians 1:9-11:

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (1 Corinthians 1:9-11)

We can draw multiple applications from Paul’s letter here.

Ministry without prayer support can feel crushing.

Imagine God calls you to overseas ministry. You busy yourself with fundraising, traveling from church to church, and training with a missions agency.

But you don’t have one particular church that is home. You don’t have one place where all the elderly ladies are praying for you. You don’t have one pastor you can call in crisis at 2 a.m. local time and hear, “I’m praying for you.”

We all suffer, but without prayer support, we suffer alone, and our pain is vastly more acute. Prayer partnership is a critical reason missionaries need deep relationships with a home church. Paul himself felt the stress of ministry: “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.”

God uses hardship in ministry to teach hope.

Paul was also able to see God’s purpose in the suffering (probably because his home church was praying for him): “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.”

Suffering on the missions field will press everyone, but it will inevitably crush those who aren’t covered in prayer and who don’t view suffering through the lens of God’s sovereign control. Paul knew this better than anyone.

God desires supporting churches to pray for their missionaries.

When you pray for missionaries, pray that God helps them to ground their hope in his deliverance, his work, his plan, and his purpose for hardship—to bring hope to the lost and even to fellow missionaries.

Pray that missionaries would not crushed. Pray that even when they feel the sentence of death, they would taste resurrection power. Pray that God deepens their sense of calling.

And if you don’t currently pray for a missionary, perhaps you could pray with your church about sending even just one out from among you.

About the Author

P.C. Maxwell is a writer and theologian. He holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor’s in biblical languages from Moody Bible Institute. He resides in the Chicago area with his wife and contributes regularly to ABWE’s blog and communications strategy.

Share

Church Life & Ministry

View all