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“... pray continually … .” -1 Thessalonians 5:17

Being prepared is an essential quality in life. Many of us take part in daily rhythms for the purpose of preparation, sometimes without even realizing it. We set alarms in the morning so we’re on time for work, we make lists before we head to the grocery store, and we set aside savings so we are prepared for unexpected medical or home expenses. Preparation can protect us from minor frustrations, such as arriving at the beach and realizing we have no swimsuit, or major hardships, like not having insurance to cover the expenses of a car accident. However, many things in life are difficult to prepare for in advance. We might face the unexpected death of a loved one, a natural disaster, a broken relationship, a health crisis, or persecution on the mission field. In both big hardships and small, the Bible emphasizes the importance of preparing our hearts through prayer.

Prayer Prepares Missionaries

Prayer is an essential part of preparing believers for the mission field. We see this example in Acts 13:2-3:

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

Prayer is vital to the calling, commissioning, and equipping of missionaries. While much of the preparation for entering the mission field includes practical training—things like internet security, language school, and conversion rates—missionaries must be prepared for the inevitability of suffering in service for the Lord. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul emphasized in their ministries that suffering was to be expected for those at the front lines of sharing the gospel. Without the foundation of a steady, consistent prayer life, missionaries might try to white-knuckle their way through these trials, which can lead to spiritual exhaustion or even an early abandonment of their post. When missionaries first prepare their hearts through prayer, focus shifts from difficult circumstances to the unchanging power and glory of God. Prayer is a reminder that even when human strength can’t, God can. Prayer grows a missionary’s relationship with the Lord and postures the heart to worship Him.

Prayer is a Practice

All throughout elementary and secondary school, I took piano lessons. The most basic requirement of learning an instrument came down to one thing: practice. I practiced every day for 30 minutes, sometimes more if I was preparing for a competition or recital. I knew that in order to handle the pressures of playing a difficult piece in front of a large audience, without my sheet music to guide me, I needed to know the song by heart. I couldn’t just show up and expect to play my piece perfectly without any preparation. Intentional, daily practice was the only way to truly be ready for the pressures of performance.

In the same way, prayer is a practice. Without daily fellowship with the Lord through prayer, a missionary’s heart will not be prepared for difficulty. In Scripture, the greatest example of the essentiality of prayer is Jesus. He modeled getting up early, while it was still dark, to pray before going to a new place of ministry (Mark 1:35). He prayed before big decisions, like when he prayed all night before appointing His Twelve disciples (Luke 6:12-13). He prayed both before and after performing miracles (Mark 7:34-35, Luke 5:16), and, most strikingly, He even prayed in death (Luke 23:46). For Jesus, prayer was as essential to His humanity as breathing. He displayed, both for His disciples and for believers today, a consistent practice of prayer that was the foundation of His fellowship with the Father.

Prayer Protects and Equips

The practice of prayer equips missionaries to face suffering and protects the believer’s heart from despair. Before Jesus faced the agony of the cross, He prayed all night in the Garden of Gethsemane. During His time of prayer, He asked His disciples to pray against temptation, and He cried out in anguish to the Lord, asking for the cup of suffering to be taken from Him if the Father willed (Luke 22:39-46). As He prayed, Luke 22:43 tells us an “angel from Heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.” God was with Jesus as He prepared for the trial of the cross, strengthening Him to bear the excessive weight of the world’s sins upon His shoulders.

In your walk with the Lord, do you find yourself praying to prepare for life’s trials? Or do you only pray once the trial is upon you? A person can’t effectively prepare their home for a hurricane when the storm is already roaring. Before the hurricane arrives, they must board up the windows, secure the doors, and lay the sand bags. Otherwise, they will find themself being pelted with wind and rain, desperately trying to hold things together on the outside rather than sheltering within their readied dwelling. In the same way, prayer helps protect believers’ hearts from hopelessness in suffering, equipping them to weather the storms of life with steadfastness and trust.

As missionaries prepare their hearts through the practice of prayer, they are strengthened for the challenging task of taking the gospel to the ends of the Earth.

“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” -Acts 6:4, KJV