At the end of 2021, we were invited to submit an article to our colleagues from the Singapore National Office – something to help build a connection between praying AND learning as part of what it means to be ready to serve in cross-cultural ministry. Imagine our delight to discover that what we shared was published! Thanks, Singapore National Office friends!
Enjoy our article:
Significance in Missions: Prayer & Learning
You are significant – it is a compliment that we hear many times. In missions, every aspect that pertains to it is significant – each of us, and in our contributions to His kingdom work. In this issue, we focus on praying and learning.
We pray that we might know the heart of God and express our needs, wants, and desires to our heavenly Father who loves us with an everlasting love. It is in prayer that we learn about God, His kingdom, the roles He has for us, and who we are as a people.
In searching the Scriptures to find places where praying and learning intersect, I (Eunice) discovered something I call the “prayer cycle.” Prayer frequently leads to learning which leads to additional prayer. Let’s look at some examples:
- Daniel had been in the habit of praying, and even when he learned that he would be found at fault for his prayer patterns, he returned to his established pattern of prayer, viewable by all from his window (Daniel 6:10). Knowledge of danger and risk did not hinder his pattern of prayer.
- Jesus’ habit of prayer led to a teaching request. In response, a community of disciples learned how to pray. “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)
- At a time of distress and uncertainty, the disciples turned to prayer for guidance. As a result, Peter gained understanding and was led to a principle that guided their actions – the need to appoint someone new to serve with them as apostles. Together, they sought the Lord through prayer for His leading as they applied the principle, and Matthias became numbered as one of the apostles. (Acts 1:14-24)
- In Acts 10-11, the centurion Cornelius, who prayed continuously before God, was assured that the Lord has heard his prayers and was commanded to send for Peter. In the meantime, Peter, continuing his habit of regular prayer, saw a vision and learned a new truth about the common and the uncommon, specifically regarding Jewish dietary rules. This new learning revealed to all of them when Peter met Cornelius, surely led to even more prayers unto the Lord!
Prayer can also lead to deeper insights, ones which might have been overlooked if we just tried to learn, apart from prayer. Paul prayed for Philemon “that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” (Philemon 1:6)
Prayer aside, it is also important to read and study, and carefully consider what has been presented in the light of Scripture, prior knowledge, and personal experience. These new ideas can then be incorporated into the overall structure, as supplementary or complementary thoughts. What is important for an individual is also important for a community of faith or an organisation such as OMF. Ask yourself:
What is the point of the new thought?
Where does it fit in the larger picture?
Part of my (Ka-Neng) role as Librarian and Archivist at the OMF International Centre in Singapore is to manage and organise a collection of books and documents related to the China Inland Mission, the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, and her members from around the world, over its long and eventful history. I read extensively about the life and ministries of our members, and some of the decisions made by our leaders. From these publications, I am piecing together the story of the development and growth of the Church in many countries and among the peoples of East Asia, a story at a time.
From our missionaries’ accounts of their jungle hikes, village lives, and Gospel outreach, I learned much about the challenges of conveying Biblical truths, especially to people groups without their own written language. Meeting minutes and reports provide summary updates and prayer requests, as well as directives and decisions for designating members to continue the work in strategic locations. Biographies and books written two or three decades later then reveal some results of the ministries and point out lessons learned. To me, this progression from Gospel proclamation by outsiders to the development of an indigenous church that is self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating is very exciting and encouraging.
In concluding, learning is not about the many facts to sort through and weigh for consistency and coherence. It is not merely a recounting of the exploits of our members, although there may have been many instances of disappointments and dangers faced. And it is not simply to bring attention to the pioneering efforts of our organisation. It is to encourage us to pray with thanksgiving. Prayer is the foundation for all ministry and is the ideal place to start – whether of a new year, or a new step in your mission journey, or for a deeper understanding of who God would have you be for His purposes.
May all of God’s people praise God for His faithfulness to His Word, in bringing forth and growing His Church in East Asia.