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The power of prayer

One of the many missionary prayer groups around Australia.

Every Christian is intimately involved in God’s global mission – and our prayers are powerful, writes David Williams, CMS Development and Training Secretary.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. (Colossians 4:2-3)

A missionary serving in a strongly Muslim country shared a testimony: He and his wife had been driving through a small town, where they had seen a soldier standing outside a shop. The wife had a strong sense that God wanted them to give the soldier a Bible, a job that clearly fell to her husband. He was not terribly happy about the assignment. They had an altercation. Eventually the husband gave in and did a U-turn. He walked up to the soldier and handed him a Bible, saying, “My wife told me I had to give you this.” To his surprise the soldier didn’t shoot him. Instead the soldier’s eyes filled with tears as he shared his story: “Three days ago I had a dream of a man in shining white clothes. He told me I had to be here at this shop today. He would send someone to give me a book.”

God works through our prayers and proclamation

God is at work around the world, drawing men and women into a relationship with King Jesus. But God, in his grace, has a particular way of doing his work. He doesn’t write in the sky or release an army of angels. Instead he does his work through his elect people – ordinary Christian men and women.

God works through us as we pray and proclaim. He reached a Muslim soldier by sending a grumpy husband, reluctantly giving away a Bible. But where is the prayer in that story? I can’t tell you about one specific prayer for that one specific soldier. But I can tell you that Christians around the world have been praying in a focused and concerted way for the Muslim world over the last 30 years.

The result of these prayers has been staggering. David Garrison, who has studied movements of Muslim people coming to faith in Jesus, found that in the first 12 years of the 21st century there have been 69 separate movements to Christ among different cultural groups, in comparison with virtually no voluntary movements of converts to Christianity in the first 12 centuries of Islam.[1]

CMS is a fellowship of pray-ers

Prayer is powerful because God is powerful. He answers the prayers of his people. This truth has been a part of the identity of CMS throughout our history. We have always been a fellowship of people who have participated in God’s mission through our prayers. Eugene Stock, who wrote the History of the Church Missionary Society, put it like this: “Those who faithfully pray at home do as much for foreign missions as those on the field, for the quickest way to the heart of a lost person is by way of the throne of God.”[2]

The work of mission involves praying and proclaiming the gospel. Not every Christian can serve in another culture to share the good news there. But every Christian can be involved in faithfully praying for the mission of God. As we pray, we experience the benefits of a closer relationship to Christ, a deeper empathy for the lost, and we gain a better understanding of God’s global purposes.

Persistent prayer

The history of mission teaches us that persistent prayer is particularly important. We know many stories of people who prayed faithfully for years, decades, before they saw any obvious answers to their prayers. This should neither surprise us or disappoint us. The Bible makes it clear that our prayers are to be persistent, and that God will not always answer us immediately.

Christians have been praying in a focused way for the Muslim world for 30 or 40 years, but have seen startling answers only in the last 10 years. Similarly, in the Hindu context, pioneer missionaries to Nepal lived on the India-Nepal border for decades, praying the country open. Over the last couple of decades God has answered these prayers and the Church in Nepal has been growing rapidly.

I’ve been encouraged to meet members of the Melbourne Nepal Prayer Group. They’ve been gathering once a month to pray for mission since September 1968. They’ve only missed one meeting in the last 48 years. This faithful and persistent mission prayer group know that they can “do as much for foreign missions as those on the field”. What a privilege! And what a responsibility.


Gives thanks to God that he answers our prayers. Ask him to enable all Christians to pray persistently and passionately for those who don’t yet know him, that they will hear and believe his gospel of salvation.

[1] A “movement” of believers is defined as a group of more than 1,000 baptised believers or 100 new churches within a Muslim community. Source: Christianity Today

[2] Paraphrased from The History of the Church Missionary Society, Eugene Stock.


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