December 1, 2009

The Most Important Thing

“We’d love it if you could give monetarily … or even come and do a short-term mission trip in our country. But the most important thing you can do for us is pray.”

I always thought that the missionary speakers at our church growing up were just throwing the part about prayer in because they were supposed to. After all, it would be awkward to show up at a church just to ask for money. So I always assumed that their thinking process was: ‘We’ll ask for the money, but we’ll really emphasize the importance of prayer to kind of offset any idea that we just want a handout.’ And I didn’t blame them, really. I, too, thought that prayer was a nice part of missions support, but really just as an augment to the main task of generous missions giving.

Today, I am fairly certain that some missionaries do say “the most important thing you can do if pray” for exactly the reasons I assumed as a teenager. However, I have learned a few things as an adult …

First, I have learned that many of the missionaries I know really believe that “the most important thing” a supporting church or individual can do is pray. They know God will provide all their needs. They know they don’t need to beg people. And they know that, instead of begging people, they actually need those people begging God to bless their work! All the monetary support in the world is useless if God doesn’t keep the missionaries faithful, give them endurance, and open the hearts of the peoples of the earth. The missionaries know – from reading the Scriptures, and from living in the hardest places – that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. So they really do need our prayers more than our money (though the money doesn’t hurt!).

Second, I have learned that missions really is a God-sized task. I know we all sometimes say: ‘If there were just more workers’ or ‘if there were just more resources … that people group would hear and believe.’ And there is a germ of truth in that. But the big truth is that ‘if God moves mightily, that people group will hear and believe … whether through the instrumentality of one poor native preacher, or through a missionary team of a hundred!’ The salvation of the nations, ultimately, is in God’s hands. He can simply breathe on them, and the enemy’s hosts will fall. He can simply say the word and any missionary or lay-person on earth could be used to bring thousands to the feet of Jesus. So, yes … we need more workers in the harvest. Yes, it takes money to get them there. Yes, Southern Baptists had to keep some missionaries home this year because there was not enough money to support them. And yes, that means we have a big responsibility to give. But remember what Jesus said in Matthew 9.38: “Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.” That is the first solution to the need for more workers – not money, but prayer. And if the problem in sending workers is not willingness, but funds … prayer can solve that problem too!

So here’s the deal – I hope that each of you is able to give incredibly generously to the Lottie Moon Missions Offering (or to your church's missions offering, if applicable). Super-generously, even! But don’t get the idea that, if you give a good sum of money, you’ve done your part. No, no. The offering is quite secondary. “The most important thing you can do is pray.”

Do you believe that? Will you commit to pray more regularly for the missionaries your church specifically supports? Will you get a copy of a book like Operation World so that you can begin praying for peoples and nations you’ve never heard of … for Jesus’ sake? No one will come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. And the Father does not draw people unless workers are sent into the harvest (Romans 10.13). And, by and large, God sends laborers and draws people as we pray!

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