The fire behind missionary abandonment

I love this issue of Mission Frontiers.

Missions needs prayer and prayer needs mission. Mission without prayer is dead, and equally prayer without mission can move into some strange places.

I think that intercessory movements always need to be coupled with apostolic mission. Then these prayer movements seem too ‘have teeth’. Linked with the struggle to advance the Gospel, make disciples, plant new communities of faith, endure persecution and see the visitation of the Kingdom of God, prayer always catalyses and undergirds movements. The framework of the great commission grounds prayer movements into the practical realities of spiritual warfare. We need to be a movement that ‘drips’ with passionate prayer and apostolic mission. 

Linked with the struggle to advance the gospel, make disciples, plant new communities of faith, endure persecution and see the visitation of the Kingdom of God, prayer always catalyses and undergirds movements.

When prayer movements are not linked with mission, I have seen them go pretty loopy, ‘super-spiritual’ and start seeing spiritual realities that aren’t really there, going way beyond the Bible. They end up creating dimensions of spirituality that are inaccessible to most believers. As if they have special knowledge and access to the Spirit. Another form of modern-day gnosticism. 

I believe it simply doesn’t work like that. Prayer must be accessible to everyday believers, as they go and make disciples. Jesus died so that all his children can walk right into the throne room of the Father. It is the lifeblood of all followers of Jesus. Passionate ongoing prayer which leads us into intimacy and obedience to Jesus. This obedience, love and intimacy leads us to sacrifice our lives, give-up-all and follow Jesus to the dark places and bring good news. ‘How can they know unless somebody tells them?’

I am not saying that people seeing visions, dreams, angels, the gifts of the Spirit and other ‘strange’ phenomena are wrong. Actually, I really believe the exact opposite. When you read the gospels and the book of ACTS you see all this taking place. Strange stuff going on that would raise the hair on the back of anybody’s neck! But it happens in the context of mission. God working in the harvest. 

I have also seen the other side where people pray without being linked to mission. They expect that prayer alone will do the trick without the obedience to, ‘Go and make disciples’. They go to the prayer meeting and then return to the comfort of their homes thinking that is all that is required. We can’t ‘take nations’ without sending workers. 

I love the Greek word that Jesus uses to say we should ‘go’ which is ‘Ekballo’.  Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves Luke 10:3 (NIV). This is the same word that Jesus uses when he commands demons to leave a person. It is forceful, without compromise and a command, not a polite request. This is the way in which we should pray, the sending work of the Spirit forcefully commanding people to Go.

Prayer must be linked with mission and equally, mission must be linked with prayer. Prayer and mission are inseparable. They cannot be separated. This is our challenge. 

Jesus is our example! Jesus prayed 40 days and then returned in the power of the Spirit to heal the sick, cast out demons and proclaim the kingdom of God. Jesus often said things like ‘I only do what I see my Father do, or say what I hear my father saying’. Jesus prayed and then obeyed. 

Jesus prayed, sweating drops of blood in Gethsemane and then walked those long hard yards to be kissed by Judas …