Unity between the prayer and missions movements has Jesus’ name written all over it
God is arranging a glorious convergence in the earth between prayer ministry and missionary activity. One of our favorite parts of our story at the International House of Prayer of Kansas City, Mo., is the way He brought us into partnership with Youth With A Mission, one of the world’s largest missions agencies. Committing to pray for the ministry of YWAM is a privilege for us, because what God has joined together—missions and prayer ministry—must not be put asunder, and we get to participate in their union.
God’s love is only seen in fullness when the whole body of Christ functions together, and part of our inheritance at IHOP–KC is in the fruit of other ministries. Some speak of “the prayer movement” and “the missions movement” as though they are distinct—if not in conflict with each other. In identifying particular expressions of God’s work, we sometimes lose sight of their integrity. Each of these two movements has attracted some criticism—missions groups for not praying enough and prayer movements for not reaching out in missions enough.
However, missions is not the ultimate goal; worship is. As John Piper so eloquently writes, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Worship is ultimate because Jesus
is ultimate. Worship is the fuel and goal of missions. Worship is a response to the worth of Jesus—it is the reward of His suffering.
When the fame of Jesus is our passion and His beauty our fascination, nothing less than heaven coming down to earth will satisfy our hungry hearts. The respective merits of praying, evangelizing, caring for the needy and righting injustice are put into perspective by love for Him and desperate dependence on His Spirit. The real issue is no longer what we are doing; rather, it’s whether His worth is the reason we are doing it.
I love to study what the Holy Spirit is orchestrating in the earth because I believe He is preparing His church as a bride for the second coming of Jesus. As I consider missionary and prayer expressions in recent history, I am convinced that, once again, Jesus is creating holy convergence. Now as the end of all things—and the beginning—draws closer, the stakes are high. Consider with me what has happened in the last two centuries of prayer and missions movements.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the planet experienced unprecedented population growth. According to the United Nations in “The World at 6 Billion,” world population reached an estimated 1 billion people in 1804, 2 billion in 1927, 3 billion in 1960 and 6 billion in 1999.
At the same time, the church grew exponentially. In fact, the growth rate of Christianity kept pace with the median population growth globally! Bradley Coon, in his article “One Hundred Years of Christian Growth” in the April 2007 edition of Lausanne World Pulse, described the Christian growth rate in various regions compared to population growth. The average Christian growth globally was about 1.32 to 1.37 percent, while the median population growth rate was 1.33 percent. In Asia and Africa, the church has been growing at 2.96 percent and 2.56 percent respectively.
Studying statistics like these may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the story of what happened in missions as this growth occurred is exciting. Protestant missionaries from the West and growing numbers of indigenous missionaries in the developing world and global south got a vision for reaching all the nations before the end of the 20th century.
A series of historic gatherings took place: the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference in 1910; the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, convening since 1974; and the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement’s Global Consultation on World Evangelization meeting through the 1990s. This remarkable collaboration among Christian leaders was truly a work of the Holy Spirit.
During this time there have also been tremendous movements of prayer. The Moravians in Herrnhut, Germany, began a “watch of the Lord” in 1727 that went night and day for more than 100 years. The Great Awakening (1734-1750), the Haystack Prayer Meeting movement (1806), the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century, the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905, the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1915), the Pyongyang Revival in Korea (1907-1910), and renewal in China (1927-1937) and Indonesia (1964) followed on one another’s heels.
A pattern emerged as intercession brought revival, which in turn prompted significant missionary activity. Out of their faith in Jesus, men and women made extraordinary sacrifices for the gospel. Their biographies continue to inspire and challenge us.
The pattern makes sense. There is a relationship between missions and intercession. When He pointed out that “the harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” Jesus was clear about the solution: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38).
Since the 1980s the church has targeted the “10/40 Window” and emphasized the transformation of communities. Prayer “mountains” and “towers” in Korea, Indonesia and Uganda witness to the growing awareness of Jesus’ intention for His church to be a house of prayer for all nations (see Mark 11:17).
Day-and-night prayer centers are springing up all over the globe, strengthening Christian work locally, nationally and globally. All prayer ministries today are part of this divine orchestration. Such great momentum in prayer cannot be attributed to human ingenuity, but rather to the work of the Holy Spirit.
More recently another movement, one focused on compassion and justice, has been intersecting with the prayer and missions movements. The result is an even more cross-pollinated expression of Christianity. For example, I know a YWAM missionary who served in Tibet who now leads a “strike force” interceding strategically in the most dangerous mission fields and deteriorating cities.
I also know a full-time intercessor based in America who is mobilizing university students to give their lives to frontier missions through missionary conferences and training programs. The University of the Nations in Hawaii and Every Home for Christ World Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., are pioneering night-and-day prayer rooms. Intercessors are giving themselves to missionary effort, and missionaries are giving themselves to focused prayer and worship. These people aren’t trying something in a vacuum. Something big is going on.
As Christian leaders, we have the tremendous privilege of stepping into the opportunities Jesus is opening for us in this generation. The cross-pollination He is cultivating between particular movements produces an integrated perspective and creates synergy among different dimensions of Christianity. It will strengthen the body of Christ, and most importantly, prepare the church to welcome her Bridegroom King.
Unlike us, Jesus was less concerned about the odds of a great harvest than about the odds of finding His bride mature. “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” He asked (Luke 18:8).
There is a qualitative dimension to the Great Commission alongside the quantitative dimension. We spread the gospel through local evangelism and cross-cultural missions but also focus on making fervent, wholehearted and faithful disciples. Jesus is returning for a mature bride who has made herself ready for Him (see Rev. 19:7; 22:17), not simply for a church outfitted with representatives of each nation.
His prophecy that the “gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14) is concerned with more than numbers and maps. It has to do with the response of worship from hearts fully devoted to their King (see Rev. 14:6-7). The drama of the book of Revelation unfolds in a throne room where God’s people sing a “new song” to Jesus, crying: “You are worthy ... for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
The responsibility of the Great Commission is sobering, yet we have so much reason for hope. Jesus promised, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20), and He is so clearly on the move. As we celebrate the holy convergence of prayer and missionary ministry today, let us worship the Lamb, and agree with the Holy Spirit in crying, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).
Daniel Lim is the CEO of the International House of Prayer. He trained at a Baptist seminary and holds a master’s degree in world missions. Daniel served as a Baptist pastor in Malaysia for many years in evangelism, ministry equipping centers, and mercy and relief work.