Have you ever asked a missionary how you can be of help to them and their ministry?
If you did pose that very common question to them, even though I'm not a prophet--and didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, I'm fairly certain that they told you their most important need was for PRAYER.
In fact, my guess is that EVERY missionary you've ever asked that question probably told you that their greatest need was for prayer.
There are two important things it's helpful to understand about what they've told you.
First, they aren't spouting a tired old cliche like many professional athletes do when they are asked the same questions over and over again.
They aren't just telling you that because that's what missionaries are supposed to say.
Second, the level of spiritual warfare that they experienced on their path of getting to the field, and are immersed in since they have been on the field, has convinced them that their spiritual and emotional health and their ministry effectiveness are linked in a "cause and effect" type relationship with the God-directed pleas of their brethren on their behalf.
They have learned by experience that prayer from fellow believers serves as both a fuel and a lubricant for the vehicle that their lives and ministry are for His glory among the nations.
Based on my own experiences on the field, I believe that the things Paul prays for the Colossian believers provide a beautiful five-fold outline for covering the crucial aspects of life for a missionary.
This is what he says he prays for them:
Col 1:9-12 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing [Him], being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Using this text as a model, here's an example of WHAT you should pray for them, followed by a brief explanation of WHY they probably need that specific prayer.
WHAT you should pray for them.......that they would:
1--Be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and understanding
That God would fill them with both an intellectual and experiential knowledge of His will for them today--and that they would perceive it with the wisdom and spiritual understanding that can only come from Him.
--Because of the challenges they are immersed in on a daily basis, they may have drifted away the initial confidence they had when they arrived on the field--that they were right in the center of His will. Which can also inhibit their ability to view what's happening in their lives and ministry through the lens of wisdom and spiritual understanding.
2--WALK worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him
That being filled with this fresh knowledge of His will, they would live every aspect of their lives in a way that honors and reflects Jesus properly, with a strong conviction that by doing so, they are being fully pleasing to Him.
--Because the ongoing stresses that compose cross-cultural living can desensitize them to the fact that those they live among are watching almost every aspect of their lives, including the difficulties they experience and the way they respond to them. They can easily lose sight of the fact that God experiences great pleasure when His children walk in a way that is worthy of His Son.
3--BE FRUITFUL in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God
That the variety of practical expressions of love they are involved in would produce fruit and that their personal, experiential knowledge of God will always be on the increase.
--Because fruitfulness can be very difficult to measure on the mission field and the lack of visible impact from their efforts can be incredibly discouraging. And, they can be so focused on whether they are doing His will and being fruitful in it, that they forget those things are actually the by-products of their ever-increasing, experiential knowledge of Him.
4--BE STRENGTHENED with all might according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.
That God would strengthen them by giving them all the might that flows from His glorious power, so that they can endure any circumstance, and be patient with any person--in a joy-filled manner that is observable to others.
--Because the circumstances they find themselves in every day and the amplified difficulties they face in relating to people who are of a different language and culture, can deplete their spiritual, emotional, and physical strength. Even though they may be enduring they're circumstances and being patient with others, they may not be doing those things in a joyful manner.
5--GIVE THANKS to the Father, who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
That they would have an ongoing mindset of thankfulness to the Father for making it possible for them to be His children and gratitude for the shared inheritance that they possess with all of their brothers and sisters in Him.
Because day to day interaction with those who haven't responded to the Gospel and who are navigating life according to very different--and sometimes opposite values, can cloud their desire and ability to thank Him for both the grace they have already received and the other expressions of His grace that await them in the future.
By putting in to practice this five-fold approach to praying for the missionaries you know, you're not only providing what they say their greatest need is, you're also participating in the fulfilment of God's end-game purposes.