Why Is Prayer Crucial to Missions?

A Letter to the Young Man I Met in Cape Town

Sarah Plummer | 24 Mar 2022

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In 2010 at the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, it was my privilege to be part of the prayer team. During the congress, one young man came up to me and said, ‘I just don’t get prayer, I just don’t know why you pray.’

he did not know his Creator as a Father who loved to listen to his voice and yearned to be fully known by him and through him.

He was a young, very self-sufficient and successful man. Highly intelligent and capable, and passionate about global missions—enough to be in Cape Town for that week. Yet he did not know his Creator as a Father who loved to listen to his voice and yearned to be fully known by him and through him.

Why bother with prayer? And why bother with prayer specifically when it comes to missions?

It is a crucial question, which comes with a crucial answer.

I looked at the people of God gathered in that week in Cape Town and yearned to see the Lord deepen the prayer life of his church, especially as it relates to missions. How hard it is to have a posture of humility and repentance in our prayers before God. As God says in Isaiah 56:7, ‘I will bring them to my holy mountain and let them rejoice in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’

As plans are underway for the Lausanne 4 Congress in 2024, prayer and the Lord’s ‘house of prayer for all nations’ is once again at the forefront of my mind. And I think especially of that young man I met in Cape Town. Here is my letter to him.

To the Young Man in Cape Town:

Our Heavenly Father loves to hear your prayers. They are like a beautiful aroma in the incense of worship (Rev 8). The Lord Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in this very moment and is actively interceding on your behalf. Jesus takes our imperfect requests and weaves them into God’s kingdom history for action, according to his will—incredible and marvelous.

We are actually weak—we are dependent on him for every breath.

Though we may feel at times that we are strong and only need God occasionally, we are actually weak—we are dependent on him for every breath. We need God to sustain this world and everything in it. We even need God to place the very breath in our lungs so that we might utter our prayers. We depend completely on God for life. We were dead, dead in our sin and have been made alive in Christ. Now we may boldly we approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16), with thankful and expectant hearts. I want this so much, and I wonder if you do as well.

When I come before God in prayer, in sorrow I tear at the thought of the suffering, the pain, the discord, the gluttony and greed, the disparity of God’s resources and injustice. The abuse of power and presence of violence. ‘When there is no truth, bloodshed follows bloodshed’ (Hosea 4:1-3).

In John 17, Jesus prays for himself and for his followers who are scattered all over the world, which includes you: ‘I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy completed in them.’

Our God actively and continually engages with and through us in this world. Our prayers should ask God to be a part of what he is doing, to tune our hearts, our prayers, our lives, our actions to him, so that we might have Jesus’ joy completed in us and through us.

Jesus states very clearly, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14:6). Therefore, praying to him, being with him, is connecting with the very source of our life. We are utterly reliant on him—even and especially when it comes to doing his work of missions.

Our prayers should ask God to be a part of what he is doing.

Surely as a Cape Town participant, you have heard about the Lausanne Movement’s fourfold vision: 1) the gospel for every person; 2) a disciple-making church for every people and place; 3) Christ-like leaders for every church and sector; 4) kingdom impact in every sphere of society. Outside of the Bible, I know of no better summary of our yearning as mission-minded believers.

Perhaps like me, you need a scaffold on which to hang your prayers, a trellis on which your life of prayer can grow. If that is so, I would like to invite you to join me in praying through the calendar below, based on Lausanne’s vision. For the next 28 days, join me and the Lausanne community in praying into this vision for those you love and those you hate, for your family, your neighbourhood, your country, your enemy’s country, the reached peoples and the unreached peoples, your brothers and sisters in Christ across the world.

And my prayer is that as you pray with a faith-filled and expectant heart, you will come to understand the joy and privilege of prayer. May you know intimately the love of our Father and his heart for not only the world, but for you.

Pray with Me

Lord, please move in our hearts through your spirit. Forgive our self-reliance and arrogance as individuals and as your Church. Give us a greater thirst and a hunger for spending time with you in prayer. Give us a true and genuine love for you and your name. Lord, our times are in your hands. May we use our time to see ‘your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). May every breath and every utterance be for you, Lord. For the sake of the Least, the Last, and the Lost. Amen.

Join us as a praying movement in this season of the church, the gospel and the world.


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Praying hands illustration “Surrender” by Longmore Guy.

Sarah Plummer is Chair of the Lausanne Intercession Working Group and is a Senior Chaplain with the Specialist Commands in New South Wales. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

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