During our visit to our church planters in Ethiopia, we heard testimony after testimony of Jesus equipping and empowering his workers for the mission, as well as Jesus saving people by the power of the gospel.
In the face of aggressive opposition from Muslims, witch doctors, and the Coptic church, these church planters are like battered war heroes coming off the front lines to glorify God by telling what he did, get more resources (primarily prayer and people), and then get back out there. These men witness to nearly 1,000 people each and see 40–50 people per year putting their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This means literally thousands of people saved collectively through our 43 sponsored church planters.
When they pray, they pray with their whole being: they are on their knees, they are weeping, they are crying out, they are full of the Holy Spirit.
The place that prayer holds in the church of Ethiopia is radically different from the place prayer has in the U.S. We would do well to learn from them.
As with everything, it starts with their leadership. The elders of this church pray because they have no plan B. Everything is contingent on God’s provision and direction. Prayer is the primary vehicle for them to receive God’s provision and direction. They have been together for nearly 40 years. They have been imprisoned together for their faith under Communist rule. They used to meet every Wednesday to pray from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., until recently, when they changed to praying from 6 p.m. to midnight. This was because they “are old and have been getting tired.” When they pray, they pray with their whole being: they are on their knees, they are weeping, they are crying out, they are full of the Holy Spirit. They have set the culture of prayer in their church.
When they say, “Let’s pray,” they pray right then on the spot.
The church planters have learned from their elders and depend on prayer as the foundation of mission. One church planter shared in his testimony that he once entered a region he had never been to, knew no one there, could not speak the language, and had no clean bridge into the community. He said, “I went there and I prayed for four months.” Four months! Then God gave him a vision for how to preach the gospel to the main witch doctor, and that led to a series of salvations in the community.
The church members follow suit. When they say, “Let’s pray,” they pray right then on the spot. The concept of taking a prayer request home and maybe praying if you remember is totally foreign to them. They pray on the spot because they believe that Jesus is there on the spot to hear them and to respond to them. Prayer is not one of many ways they live out mission; it informs and drives the mission.
Every single church planter asked our Mars Hill community to pray for them. One insightfully said, “God has provided, now you must pray.” The order here is insightful. God has the resources, he knows the people, and he creates the opportunities. So let’s join our brothers and sisters overseas in prayer today and follow Jesus’ direction to us to pray:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” Matthew 9:36–38