God has called his followers to be on his mission through Jesus. He is calling us to be disciples of Jesus – that is, to construct our entire lives around following Jesus. But this isn’t enough. Jesus’ mission for you doesn’t end there. He has called you, as a disciple, to be a disciplemaker. Jesus sends you to show who he is and what he is like to those around you. There’s so many ways this can be done. But I want to introduce you to one of my favourite ways to remind myself I’m on God’s mission in the world. I call it missional prayer.
Missional prayer is not having a list of people you are pray will become followers of Jesus. This is a good thing to do, but it’s not what I’m talking about when it comes to missional prayer. The idea behind missional prayer is that it leads to action.
One of my favourite episodes in the Bible is when Philip talks to an Ethiopian (Acts 8). Picture the scene. Philip is going about his day when God tells him to walk down a certain street. God doesn’t tell him why he should go or what to do – just go. I imagine Philip is praying as he is walking. I can imagine him seeing the Ethiopian and asking God “Should I talk to him? What do you want me to say?” This is a picture of missional prayer. It is prayerfully inviting God’s presence to interact with people and situations.
Missional prayer is asking God how you can be his agent of grace right where you are.
It can be so frustrating when the checkout lines are moving slowly at the grocery store. We naturally look for the shortest line and join it, don’t we? No one wants their time wasted – it’s too valuable. But what if standing in the line wasn’t a waste? What if it was an invitation to join in God’s mission?
Over the past few years I’ve come to see I’m not the centre of God’s universe. God is more interested in people than the things I have to do. So, I’ve started choosing which line to stand in by who is working rather than length. And as I wait in line I pray, “God, what is it this person needs to hear today?”
It would be great if there were loads of incredible stories to share about how God suddenly gave me words of knowledge for people, but most of the time the sense I get is to just take an interest in them – show them I care. This isn’t spectacular but it makes a difference. Over time a lady felt comfortable enough to share how her husband was dying of brain cancer and wanted me to pray for him. Another person just needed to share the struggle of their post divorce life.
Once I said thanks to the cleaner for how clean his bathrooms always were at the shops. After a year of occasional conversations he asked me what I did? He was shocked when I told him I was a pastor and used the library for some office space. I can’t forget his response. “How can you be a pastor? You’ve never made me feel guilty for being gay.”
How is this missional when I hadn’t spoken about my faith with the guy for about a year? His initial experience of Christians was entirely negative. He believed they judged him. How far would talking about my faith have got me? Now we can talk about things. He’s open to hearing about things I believe. He asks about my family and how church went. In short, he feels comfortable talking about things that are important to him with me – a Christian. And sometimes it includes faith. He would never have done this before.
3 simple steps for you to begin praying missionially
1. Open your eyes
Missional prayer begins with opening your eyes. It starts with seeing those around you as important to God. For me it was the realisation that I wasn’t the centre of God’s universe that helped open my eyes and seeing all those ‘necessary’ interactions with people as opportunities to be an agent of grace. What will help open your eyes?
2. Ask for help
Missional prayer is about relying on God. Ask him for what will help the other person. In my experience it is usually either to encourage them or thank them.
3. Open your mouth
It’s scary talking to people you don’t know. I’m an introvert, and just between you and me, I really don’t like talking to people I don’t know. I worry I’ll seem like a weirdo. But as I’ve overcome my fear I’ve noticed something else develops. People start talking to me. They start asking how my kids are? In other words, opening your mouth invites people into relationship and ultimately experience some of your relationship with God.
Leave a comment with how you can apply this in your context.
Here’s a few more missional posts you might be interested in:
Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman
5 Things to Pray for a Colleague by Rachel Jones
Gospel Metaphors by Jeff Vandersteldt