12 Reasons We Don’t Pray for Missionaries


Let me start with this statement: if you’re not really interested in missions, I hope you’ll continue to read this post anyway. Our churches send missionaries all around the world – often to risky, hard places – but we do so too often without a strong commitment to pray for them in an ongoing way.

William Carey is known as the “father of the modern missionary movement.” Before leaving for India in 1793, William Carey told Andrew Fuller, “I will go down into the pit, if you will hold the ropes.”

God does not call us all to serve full-time as an overseas missionary, but he does call us to be involved, to be rope-holders. We can do this in a variety of ways, certainly with our money but also with our prayers.

Here are some reasons we fail to pray, followed by an idea to start correcting this omission:

1. Our churches give too little emphasis to missions in general. When our local churches seldom talk about missions, we can’t expect folks to pray for missionaries.

2. No one has challenged us to pray for missionaries. Simply put, few church leaders have pushed members to pray this way. If the leaders don’t carry this burden, neither will the church.

3. We don’t know enough missionaries. Get to know a missionary family, and you’ll pray more for them. Something just happens when you have a name, a face, and missions stories from around the world.

4. They live far from us. That’s obvious, of course – but the point is we must intentionally work to pray for folks overseas. By default, we tend to forget they’re there.

5. Our world is too small. We forget missionaries because our world revolves around where we live, work, and go to church. We’re isolated, even in a global world.

6. We take lostness for granted. Billions of people on the planet do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, and they’re destined for hell. That fact should cause us to pray for missionaries who work among them.

7. We don’t know how to pray for missionaries. “Lord, I pray for the missionaries” seems too generic and superficial – so we don’t pray much at all for them.

8. We don’t have much sense of what missionaries face. We can make guesses, but they’re typically no more than that. Our lack of knowledge of the real issues they face results in too little praying for them.

9. We don’t know what God’s doing around the world. God’s doing great stuff, but it’s not on the front page of the local newspaper. The more we know about His work, the more we will want to pray for His workers.

10. Our praying in general is more reactive than proactive. We tend to pray in response to problems rather than in preparation for doing God’s work. Thus, we don’t think about praying for missionaries unless we hear about an issue.

11. We too often don’t even pray for our local church leaders. When we don’t pray regularly and intentionally for our pastors, it’s not surprising we don’t pray for missionaries, either.

12. We simply don’t pray much about anything. When that’s the case, missionaries obviously miss out.

So, how do we begin to correct this issue?

Check out the needs at a website like one of these, and take some time each day to pray for at least one missionary: imb.org; www.joshuaproject.net.

At the risk of sounding self-serving, I invite you to listen to a message I gave on praying for missionaries at the 2018 9 Marks Conference at Southeastern Seminary. If nothing else, it will show you my passion for this responsibility.

Pray on, friends, on behalf of our brother and sister missionaries. Be a rope-holder.

About the author: Dr. Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Doctoral Studies, and Vice-President for Spiritual Formation at Southeastern Seminary, where he holds the Richard & Gina Headrick Chair of World Missions. In addition, he serves as Team Leader for Theological Education Strategists for the International Mission Board.