On December 6,2009 I published on this blog a post entitled: To Help Us Grow a Missionary Mindset. The post came from a simple tool I created to help folks on our team think and act as missionaries in Northampton. If you read it you would have seen the seven questions I invited team members to measure their weekly progress against. It was designed to help us all really become missional rather than talk about it. Talking about it is easy to do and weirdly emotionally satisfying. It can take the place of actually doing it. I know I am quite brilliant at giving lip service.
From looking at the tool lately I have decided to put some flesh on each of the 8 questions I outlined. I will do so in 8 posts detailing one question at a time. I hope you all find it helpful in your own missional development.
QUESTION: Am I praying for people around me who don't know Jesus?
This first question would evoke a "yes" from many people especially in prayer for family members who have yet to follow him. For the most part, we want those we love to come to know him, and have spent time praying as such for them, even considerable time. Perhaps most of us would say we have prayed for colleagues, neighbors, our kids' teachers, someone on the TV, or even strangers we might encounter who seem in great distress or need. We have all gotten heart-wrenching pleas through e-mail about someone we don't know who is in desperate straits and prayed for them. The horrors in Haiti come to mind right now.
I am actually not posing the question in regard to those prayers. Rather, I am suggesting a fundamental shift in how we approach praying so it flows from a deepening missional mindset of persisting prayer that can unlock a person who can't see Jesus, or can open our eyes spiritually to see a stranger's need for the healing, salvific love of Jesus for him or her.
This kind of praying comes from a fervent, consistent longing to see people freed into Christ. Such prayer has a prevailing sense to it. The heart fully longs for salvation and redemption as if one's own life depended on it. Sometimes it will feel like pleading with God. It will come with many tears, and anguished crying for the person - a kind of groaning in the Spirit from a deep place in the heart. Other times, it will be simple, and matter-of-fact.
The desire to free the captive is real and focused whether or not it is accompanied by emotion. A longing for the person's liberty persists nonetheless.
This sort of prayer becomes a way of life for the person, not an occasional focus. The missional person focusses his or her life from redemptive Kingdom interests. Praying for someone who does not know Jesus is a natural and energizing outflow of those interests.
So a person who prays this way makes it a habit of asking for God's discernment as he or she moves amongst strangers: at the supermarket, a school concert, at the mall or the movies, going for a walk in the neighborhood, at the gas pump, the doctor's office or the video store. Being out and about is viewed as an opportunity to "pray in the Kingdom," in someone's life.
Such prayer becomes a lever opening a way for Kingdom leverage in the other person's life.
Such prayer becomes a seed planted unawares.
Such prayer becomes a subversive penetration breaching the adversary's claims and territory.
Such prayer becomes a softener breaking up steel-hard ground in the soul of the person being prayed for.
Such prayer becomes a declaration of the Sovereign Ownership of God over the person.
Such prayer becomes a kiss of grace given freely in hope.
Developing a missional mindset means you must begin practicing this type of prayer everyday. That's the key. Every once in awhile won't cut it. Ask God to bring it to mind each time you encounter a stranger, or someone you know who has no relationship with Jesus. Fill your days with such prayer and become more and more aware of how God desires to reveal something of the person's state of soul as you come into their presence. Ask him to open your heart and deepen your compassion for people who do not have the hope you do. Ask for the "gift of tears," so you can see into the anguish, hopelessness, loneliness and fear hidden in plain sight all around you.
Most importantly ask God to make your's the heart of a missionary from now on. Ask him to grant such favor and to teach your this spiritually rich way of Kingsom life.
Write me what happened and what you are learning from time to time. It helps me too.