Prayer for our missionaries

Dear Friends,

I really think I couldn't do better than to include, as the pastoral letter, the following advice from an experienced missionary. Mrs Adele Ellis, which was recorded in St. George's Tron Magazine, some time ago. It is so practical and human in its advice on what we can pray for, when praying for our missionaries.

Perhaps I could add just one thing - I should be very grateful if you would use it to fire your imagination on how to pray for ministers!

C. Peter White


‘In 1965 Indonesia was heading towards a Communist coup. At that time I was in hospital with T.B. and pleurisy. David, coming to visit me, had his life threatened. Communications within the country were difficult - David sent a letter and a telegram to our Mission doctor. The letter took ten days; the telegram two weeks.

‘But right then, when nobody knew our particular need, we received a letter from an old lady in England. 'The Lord is giving much prayer for you', she wrote, 'for I feel you are in danger. That is the sort of prayer partner all missionaries want!

‘However, since we are not all seventy-nine years old and experienced in prayer as she was, perhaps a few practical pointers might help us.

This may sound obvious! But do you subconsciously have different standards for the missionary than you have for yourself? Do you imagine that: they are not subject to the same temptations, failures, weakness? Do you ever get irritable, discouraged, depressed? So does the missionary - especially when the temperature is 90 degrees and the humidity 90%. “It only takes a touch of dysentery to make you doubt your missionary call”, our Mission doctor warned us. Pray for the missionary as you would pray for yourself.

Privacy is a western concept, and when you look different (“like a peeled banana"), and act differently, you are worth watching! Missionaries live under constant scrutiny - particularly in village situations, where houses are not exactly hermetically sealed. Pray for patience and consistent Christian living.

How do people in goldfish bowls find peace and quiet for Bible reading and prayer? First let me say that there is rarely such a thing as peace and quiet. Houses are often close to each other, windows open, and neighbours generously share their radio broadcast with the whole village. In cities, traffic is often chaotic, and horns blare, night and day. And if you do go to sleep the mosque will wake you at 4 a.m. noisily insisting that "prayer is better than sleep". Yet missionaries must pray.

‘A veteran missionary, facing fierce opposition, wrote: “There is nothing more profitable, more priceless, that you can ask for us than that, in spite of physical weariness, frequent infirmities and the care of multiplying converts, we may be enabled to remain on our knees, for there is a praying in detail to be done, if the infant churches are to grow and prosper'. Your prayers can make the prayers of your missionary friends especially potent and prevailing.

Pray for young couples in the pressures of an alien environment, loneliness, lack of Christian fellowship, and the strain of constant scrutiny. An old lady once said to us, 'I am a Muslim ... but if I'm ever born again into this world I want to be born a Christian, because Christian husbands love their wives'. Pray for the witness of Christian homes.

‘One of our children once said, 'When we die we will wake up in Jesus' house and we'll never move house again'. No separations, no changes - a missionary child's idea of heaven! Perhaps you could take the needs of missionaries’ children to heart and pray specially for them.

Recently one of our fourth term missionaries (that’s nearly 20 yrs a missionary – cpw) wrote in her prayer letter of struggles with 'terrible loneliness'. Her parents - devoted Christians - were astonished. 'We never knew it was a problem!' As one of our veteran ladies said to a new worker, 'Dearie, it never gets any easier'.

‘In many cultures a single lady is unable to go around freely on her own. This makes recreation ... days off ... holidays, a problem. And what about furloughs when parents have died? Single lady missionaries can often feel rootless without a home base.

Riots in India ... guerrilla wars in South America ... and many countries nowadays are not sympathetic to the West. Sometimes when there is fighting, foreigners can become the scapegoats. Pray for them. And remember, too, that travel can be chaotic and hair-raising, and prayer for “safety in travel” is not just an empty phrase!

Ask your child what he or she would like for Christmas and I can guarantee that you will not get a vague or general answer such as "presents ..." You will probably be told specifically and in detail. Why? Because your child is interested and concerned about the subject!

‘Does our vague "God bless the missionaries" betray a lack of real interest and concern? Take time to find out about one or two missionaries and show that you care enough to name him and his (or her) needs before the Lord.

‘How to pray for missionaries ... you do pray?

‘Missionaries need your prayers. A pioneer missionary begged his friends: '1 implore you by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love that the Spirit inspires, be my allies in the fight; pray to God for me ...' Romans 15:30."

Adele Ellis