The battle for souls
Being a missionary is really quite a challenge. In fact, the Great Commission is our personal mission impossible! The only thing that our lost friends truly need—namely the Holy Spirit’s divine intervention to bring regeneration—is what we do not have in our power to give. This can be infuriating.
Sometimes, in order to mask this frustration, we become so enthralled with our tasks that we start living as functional atheists. We come up with plans, we implement our own strategies, and we turn missions into a measure of our own success. Oh, and as an after-thought, we ask God to perfunctorily bless our efforts.
Prayer, however, is the most basic acquiescence that we are 100 percent reliant on God for everything. Our every breath, salvation, our abilities and resources are all gifts from Him. We pray because we know that without the bookends of God’s power and presence in the Great Commission, we might be tempted to do the middle part on our own and the mission to conquer the souls of men would be doomed to fail (Matt. 28:18-20). Our mission is a fight to the death and nothing less than our souls and the souls of our lost friends are at stake (Jos. 5:13-15).
The battle plan revealed
Just imagine for an instant Joshua’s disbelief when the Commander in Chief of God’s armies appeared to him revealing the battle plan for Jericho’s conquest. Walk around the city for six days, then on the seventh day, seven more times and then blow trumpets and shout? What earthly good could that do other than bring everyone to the point of total exhaustion? This military leader might have just laughed except he realized that the One who appeared to him, sword in hand, was worthy of his worship (Jos. 5:13-15). So Joshua rolled out the plan and the people followed. For 13 rounds of the city, they had time plead with God that this ridiculous plan would in fact succeed. Was it foolish to have placed their trust in God? Would a military battle plan not have been more strategic? Would God come through? In the end, God did grant them victory because they carried out his plan and not their own, through the power and presence of Christ Himself.
When Jesus arrives on the scene in the New Testament, the devil and his demons also recognized Jesus’ true identity as the Commander in Chief who had come to destroy their evil works. Satan tried to tempt Jesus to cast Himself off the temple Mount and call on the heavenly armies to save Him, as Satan knew his role could command. He wanted Jesus to act independently of His Father’s will. But Jesus had come to fight a different battle. He was to fulfill the Father’s plan by going into the arena alone and powerless. There, He was to face His ultimate adversary in a hand-to-hand combat. By what appeared to be a foolish plan that backfired on Him at the cross, Jesus disarmed death itself, inaugurating a new age of resurrection power and presence that envelop the mission of God to reach the ends of the earth.
The battle already won
Missions is the hard struggle of reliance on God to fulfill the Great Commission and prayer is the best expression of it. We pray His word would pierce hearts. We implore him that His authority and presence would be made known. We plead with Him that He would establish His just kingdom, and bring all things into alignment with His will. But since we know the end of the story, there is so much hope!
In Revelation 19, we get a sneak peek into the future. Jesus is finally revealed as the triumphant leader of the armies of heaven that Joshua encountered of old. But this time He’s wearing a robe dipped in blood, and His sword is coming out of His mouth (Rev. 19:11-16). When we follow this Christ, we depend on His all-powerful word and His resurrection power and presence to get the job done. When we pray, we are following Jesus and His heavenly armies into a winning war!
Prayer may seem foolish to some, a simple waste of time. But because Jesus promised us both His authority and His presence, we can pray humbly, boldly, and effectively. We are to pray for things that God has already promised that may not yet be reality. The prayer of faith is the only tool that expresses complete reliance on God and gives Him all the credit when the prayer is answered. It is an amazing gift and mystery that God has chosen to use our prayers to accomplish his mission! O, we of little faith! May we humble ourselves and pray with renewed zeal and expectation and may all glory go to God!