I’m almost through with Philip Yancey’s book: Prayer: Does it make any difference? As I read the stories of great missionaries, the one thing which stands out is, first of all, their personal dedication to prayer and secondly the prayer support given to them by other people. I have learnt to be very humble when it comes to prayer, mainly because I have found no foolproof recipe that works every time. In fact, I maintain that, if I should find such a foolproof recipe, I would probably be able to convert virtually the whole world, because which person would reject a foolproof offer to change whatever they want to change, merely by praying about it? Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately), prayer doesn’t work in this way. Yet I have often found that in strange ways, things that we pray about, often seem to work out in ways unforseen.
Through the years I have found that I cannot cope with the work in Swaziland without proper prayer support. As I go around, telling people about our work, mainly at present concentrated on those living with HIV and AIDS, the one thing I ask for, time and again, is prayer supporters. And as more people get involved in this task, so we find that the work becomes manageable and we also experience positive things happening.
Prayer support can be given in many ways. On the negative side, many missionaries experience people saying very easily: “You’re doing great work. I’ll pray for you,” without really realising what the work entails. My feeling at these times are that the people are actually saying: “I don’t want to get too deeply involved with your work and the quickest way to get rid of you is to tell you that I’ll pray for you.” The message I want to get across is that we have to be sincere when we say to someone that we will pray for them. Missionaries rely on people praying for them and their ministry. I’m trying to get myself in the habit, when someone asks for my prayers, to immediately pray for whatever they asked for, merely because I tend to forget afterwards. When a friend sends me an email asking for prayer support, I often write my prayer on a return email.
I have about 300 people receiving monthly updates from me via email in which I also highlight two or three matters for which there can be prayed. Many of those receiving the newsletter immediately pray for these matters. Many of them will only pray once, but in some way which I still cannot understand, they have contributed to the work being done in Swaziland.
And then I have a number of people who have made it their task to pray for our work on a daily base. These are the people that I contact whenever a crisis occurs. These are the people who start the day, praying for the various aspects of our work (and usually for other missionaries as well), the people contacting me on a regular base to find out whether there are any special prayer requests.
But then, obviously, our own church members are also motivated to pray for the work on a regular base, bringing special needs to God, bringing people with specific needs to God, praying for special projects.
How it works I cannot explain. But I know, without prayer support we would not have been where we are today. And although it is impossible to prove, I think that, with more prayer support, we may have been further than we are today.
By the way, should you want to receive our monthly newsletters via email, you can subscribe to the newsletter by clicking on the link at the end of this sentence and then choosing whether you want to receive it in Afrikaans or in English: SUBSCRIBE TO SWAZILAND NEWSLETTER
This is a blog where I would like to share some of my ideas about contemporary mission. I have more than 25 years experience as a full-time missionary in Swaziland, have done a PhD on the theology of mission – specifically on the relationship between mission and eschatology – and am presently specialising in the problem of HIV/AIDS and how the church should approach this problem. You are welcome to respond and share your ideas on this blog.
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