19 October 2022

'Prayer doesn’t fuel mission. Prayer is mission'

Captain Gary Lacey

Someone taking a box of cereal from a food bank pantry
What is the relationship between prayer and mission?

Captain Gary Lacey explains why we should change the way we think about prayer.

The room was dimly lit, darkened by the oak panels covering the walls, except the one to the right which was floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lined with academic tomes, both historic and recent. It was a classic university lecturer’s office – calm, chilled and with an unmistakable atmosphere created by years of critical thinking and the toil of study.

I sat in an old, severely scuffed leather chair. Opposite me in a similar armchair sat my professor. I was called to see him to discuss an assignment I had written towards my master’s degree in mission. I had written an in-depth account of why I believed that prayer fuels mission. I was feeling pretty pleased with it.

My professor was a deeply Christian man and a fantastic scholar with some extraordinary gifts in teaching and writing. He was also a wise man, and you could see it in his eyes – slate grey, bright and clear, despite his advancing years.

He looked me in the eye and, with passion and respect, told me that he didn’t entirely agree with my essay. He then said something that changed me as a person and changed my prayer life and my ministry for ever: ‘Prayer doesn’t fuel mission. Prayer is mission.’

I had always understood prayer as an essential element of mission, sitting alongside other elements, for example worship, preaching, outreach and others – that to produce quality missional practice, we need to pray first.

Yet, here was my wise old tutor challenging me on that thinking. As he lavished his deep wisdom on me, shaped by years of walking with Jesus and facing immense spiritual battles, the scales fell from my eyes.

It makes sense to see prayer as mission. It changes everything.

Matthew 28:19 and 20 help this thinking massively: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

The commission is followed by the reassurance that Jesus is already with us in everything we undertake in his name. He is already there, in the brokenness of this world, in the hurting lives of people who are far from a relationship with him, in every tragedy and in every joy.

He is already there.

The invitation to join him in that is real and clear. When we pray, hoping that prayer will add fuel to that mission means that we are constantly inviting Jesus to join us! But he is with us to very end of the age. He is already working, loving and healing in the broken communities of this world. If we keep prayer in allotted places, such as in a prayer meeting, or in a quiet time, then we are not making full use of the fact that Jesus is always with us.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with prayer meetings and quiet times – we do need these spaces for concentrated prayer – but something further is needed to truly make mission exciting and productive in Kingdom terms. I would call this a lifestyle of prayer.

This requires us to make a change in our thinking around when we pray. This requires us to bring prayer out of the confines of allotted times and into every aspect of our lives. This also requires us to find out what God is already doing in the world. Prayer does change things.

Prayer breaks chains – you only have to read Acts 12:2–19 and see how the church that Peter belonged to was earnestly praying for him because he was imprisoned, and how those intercessions caused Peter’s chains to fall off, with his guards were totally unaware that he was able to stand up and walk free.

This is our mission! This is a fantastic picture of what my professor explained: that prayer is mission.

Jesus was already with Peter, the church joined in his work to free him and Peter became free. Jesus invites us to join him relentlessly in his mission to free people from the bondage of sin, from the chains of oppression, from the prison of unbelief.

Prayer is mission. Whatever mission we are involved in, Jesus is already there.

Written by

Captain Gary Lacey

Captain Gary Lacey

Territorial Prayer Network Support Officer

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