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Praying for Mission


The beginnings of the CRC church in Wollongong were soaked in prayer. As the pastoral team ministered to God, they sensed the need to call the congregation to all-night prayer gatherings. Beginning around 8 p.m. on Saturday nights, intercessors persevered until daybreak. In those times of prayer, praise and proclamation, the Spirit often spoke through prophecy indicating the needs of the city. On Sunday, people would be drawn to the services by the Holy Spirit, many times without fully comprehending why they were there. This church implemented the model of prayer depicted by Christ in the book of Luke.

Lukan mission emphasizes the importance of the relationship between the Holy Spirit and prayer. In the work of Jesus and the early church, a strong correlation between prayer and mission exists. Luke sees Jesus praying where other Gospel writers do not: the baptism of Jesus (3:21), the selection of the Twelve (6:12), Peter’s confession (9:18); the Transfiguration (9:28); before the teaching of the Lord’s prayer (11:1); and at the crucifixion (23:34, 46). Independently, Luke relates two special parables about prayer: the friend at midnight (11:5-8); and the unjust judge (18:1-8). He alone presents the story of the Pharisee and the Publican at prayer in the Temple (18:9-14), and states that Jesus exhorted his disciples to pray during his agony in Gethsemane (22:40).

Why does Luke include the prayer motif at key junctions in his story? It seems that for Luke it is the means whereby God directs his mission of salvation to lost humanity. Through prayer, God guides the mission of the church and apprehends the dynamic power of the Spirit for salvation history (Ac. 2:42; 4:31; 6:4; 13:3; 14:23). In other words, Luke conceives of prayer as an important means by which God guides the course of redemptive history and prayer serves as an important way in which the divine plan of salvation is made known.

Through prayer, God guides the mission of the church and apprehends the dynamic power of the Spirit for salvation history.

Two paradigmatic passages on prayer and mission illustrate this point. First, at the baptism of Jesus in Luke 3, the narrator links prayer, the Holy Spirit and mission together as a pattern for all disciples of Jesus to follow. Further, the God-spoken sentence from heaven is a combination of two messianic texts. The first half from Psalm 2:7 is in the context of God commanding his resurrected Son to ask for the nations as his inheritance (see Ac. 13:33). The second part is a quote from Isaiah 42:1. The prophecy concerns the coming Messiah filled with the Spirit who “will bring forth justice to the nations.” Both sections of God’s exhortation to Jesus at his baptism come from messianic scripture that speak of his mission to the nations.


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Category: Ministry, Winter 2006

About the Author: Robert L. Gallagher, Ph.D. (Fuller Theological Seminary), is Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College. He is an author, editor, and translator with professional interests including research into biblical theology of mission, the expansion of Christianity from postapostolic times to 1800, and leadership development of cross-cultural workers. He is an ordained offshore minister of the Australian National Council of CRC Churches International, as well as an ordained minister of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in the United States.

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