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Prayer is the lifeblood of all true believers. Whatever else you may think this article is saying, we are not saying that there is anything wrong with prayer.

But we are saying that there is something wrong with telling people that prayer exempts them from responsibility to act in obedience to the rest of what Jesus taught.

Missionaries around the world raise funds through what are called "prayer letters". These mass produced letters (which are sent out regularly, much like our monthly newsletters) tell people that they (the missionaries) could not do their job without the prayer support that these people are giving them.

They then get to the real point of the letter; and that is that they couldn't do their job without the money these same people send to them. Between the lines, what is being said is this: "If you will give me money, I will justify you for not doing anything personally about reaching out to the rest of the world."

People who specialise in a "ministry" of praying for those who do the work are often called "prayer warriors" (as though the workers aren't able to pray for themselves). But there are no such things as prayer specialists. Those who do the work are useless without a prayer life of their own, and those who pray are useless if they are not willing to put arms and legs to their prayers.

The Bible says that "the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much". (James 5:16) But you can pray as fervently as you like and it won't do any good if you are not living the life of a "righteous person" (i.e. one who is obedient to Jesus, and not one who follows man-made rules about what is right... which only leads to self-righteousness). So the prayers of these so-called prayer warriors will be totally ineffectual if they are not obeying Jesus.

Jesus said that the harvest is great, but the labourers are few, so we should be praying for labourers. (Luke 10:2) I would take one labourer who knows how to pray, in preference to a hundred "prayer warriors" who just want to send donations to excuse themselves for not going to the mission field personally.

There may be some people on life support machines or locked in solitary confinement who cannot do much more than pray. But very few of us fall into those categories. Prayer is the minimal requirement for anyone who is not in a coma. But what we do after we finish praying tells the truth about how sincere our prayers are.

James said, "I will show you my faith by my actions." (James 2:18) And warriors who pray show how genuine their prayer life is by how fervently they live out the gospel in their relationship with the rest of the world.

By all means pray for us, as we pray for you. But for Christ's sake do everything you can to be missionaries wherever you are as well. And if God gives you the opportunity to go into all the world with his love, don't excuse yourself by saying that we would starve without your support, because joining us out here in the harvest field is the best kind of support you can give.

(See also Constant Prayer.)

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