This semester I’ve been writing about how prayer and mission are inseparable. Sometimes the “prayer people” can look at mission people and think “you’re all about planning and strategizing, but you need to pray so you’re not operating in a worldly way.” Sometimes the “mission people” can think “you’re all about praying, but you should get out of the prayer room and do something.” I believe both camps (prayer people and mission people) are right because prayer and mission go hand in hand, and there are many scriptures to prove it.
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, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:2-6
Inward and Outward Prayer
So many of Paul’s letter start and end the same way. They start with him telling how he is praying for them. They end with him asking them to pray for him. These are the two sides of missional prayer. There is outward prayer (praying for them) and inward prayer (praying for us). Outward focused prayers open doors for ministry and inward focused prayer open our eyes to the opportunities to minister and fill us with boldness. Simply put, God has two purposes in prayer: to change others and to change you.
Prayer Opens Their Doors
Part of the way prayer and mission work together is that prayer opens doors for ministry. Paul asks the Colossians to pray “that God may open a door for our message.” You may have heard the phrase “prayer works.” I like the way my friend Steve Hawthorne says it a little better: “Prayer does not work, but God is at work and He uses the prayers of His people to accomplish His work.” God is always at work and He mysteriously lets us be part of His work in the world through our prayer. When we pray, God opens hearts and mission happens.
Prayer Opens Our Eyes
Part of the way prayer works with mission is that it opens our eyes to opportunities for mission. This is why Paul describes prayer as being “watchful” and why he speaks of “making the most of every opportunity.” The reason prayer is so critical to mission is that prayerful people are more spiritually aware of the needs and opportunities around them. Prayer is not just about what God does “out there” it equally about what He does “in here.” He opens doors when we pray, but he also opens our eyes so we can see the open doors that we’ve been praying for.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.