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The Importance of Praying for the Work

A Pamphlet from 1910

Alfred E. Street (1860–1922) and his family served in Hainan during the early decades of the twentieth century—first with the PCUSA Board of Foreign Missionaries, and then independently. This pamphlet, originally published and distributed by the Student Volunteer Movement ca. 1905, was later reproduced by the China Inland Mission and many other mission-minded organizations.

The text is reproduced as it was in the original pamphlet, including terminology and “technology” that are out of date. The challenge to take up this important work, however, is as timeless as it is vital. The following excerpts have been selected to encourage new generations of readers to persevere in prayer on behalf of the work in China and around the globe.

Intercessory Foreign Missionaries

An Intercessory Foreign Missionary is a “laborer” who cannot go in person to the foreign field, but who has set himself apart to pray for the definite details of foreign missionary work. He alone is entitled to the name who enters upon an engagement to work for definite fields, an engagement as real as an appointment by a foreign mission board. His striking peculiarities are that he is working in the realm of “the heavenlies” instead of among visible men, and that there are no restrictions as to the number who can be intercessors, as to the place of their residences, or as to the variety, sweep, and completeness of the results accomplished.

That mission field which has the largest number of laborers (faithful intercessors), whose names are not necessarily in the published lists, will always be the most successfully harvested. This is true

  1. Because of the nature of missionary activity. Eph. vi. 10–20 reveals the facts clearly, concisely, and completely, showing that we are not primarily overcoming the prejudices and superstition of men, but “principalities—powers —world-rulers of this darkness—spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies.”
  2. Because prayer based on God’s Word is the only weapon man can use to touch the invisible foe. We can reach a [Chinese person] by speaking face to face with him, but we can strike the spiritual Prince of China only by way of the place “above, where Christ is,” ever living to make intercession.
  3. Because the Missionary on the field cannot alone do His work. When the intercessors’ hands fall Amalek prevails on the mission field today.

What Can Be Done by Intercessory Missionaries.

  1. A host of intercessors can be speedily enlisted for this war.
  2. Enough missionaries and money can be found to really accomplish our task.
  3. Suitable men can be sent as missionaries, and the unsuitable can be prevented from making the mistake of going. Such mistakes have in the past cost many lives and thousands of pounds.
  4. Many urgent questions of general missionary policy can be solved only through much prayer.
  5. Individual heathen can be prayed for by name and thus saved.
  6. An adequate native ministry can be raised up and maintained.
  7. Revivals can be brought about continually on the foreign fields.
  8. Fresh fillings of the Holy Spirit can be given to over-burdened missionaries.
  9. The health and strength of missionaries can be maintained under the severe strain of their physical and social surroundings.
  10. Lonely missionaries—those without many friends—can be cheered and helped until their usefulness is multiplied many times.

Experience has repeatedly shown that the believing prayer of one humble intercessor at home can bring about a revival on the foreign held and save thousands. The experience of one missionary was that as far as man can see results, he was able to do more for the heathen toiling as an intercessor in America than while he was among the heathen without intercessors pleading for him.

How To Do the Work of an Intercessory Missionary.

  1. Decide deliberately that this intercession is to be a regular binding duty.
  2. Select fixed days, hours, times, and make them take precedence, as far as possible, of all other engagements.
  3. Begin humbly, letting experience enlarge and guide.
  4. Wait on the Lord of the harvest for directions as to what part of the field you belong.
  5. Learn the names of all missionaries of all connections in your field and pray for them by name.
  6. Do not pity the missionary or condole with him, give him your sympathetic help.
  7. Write to the missionaries you are praying for, asking pointedly what their difficulties and needs are. Tell them you do not want something bright and newsy, but something dark and discouraging, and that when they are worn out you want them to drop you a postcard telling you that, so you can pray them strong again.
  8. Pray for every need or condition that you can learn about. This article is only suggestive.
  9. Form the habit of letting God impress upon you the things for which to pray. He will do it.
  10. Not many words are needed, but much time must be spent in “waiting” upon Him, the very silence calling for His will to be done. Silence enables one to drawn very near to God. “We know not how to pray as we ought,” and must let “the Spirit Himself make intercession.”
  11. Study and practice the art of praying until you are expert in it. The Bible furnishes its laws and examples, which can be worked out by patient practice only, just like any other art.


Some may be tempted to cherish a subtle, hidden feeling that by doing this work they are conferring a favor on someone by helping. Not at all, it is the other way; the unspeakable favor is granted you of sharing the burden of intercession daily carried by the risen man Christ Jesus in heaven.

A newly arrived missionary cannot vote for the first year, as so much has to be learned before he can vote intelligently. In the same way, one beginning as an intercessory missionary needs to consider himself as a beginner with much to learn.

When details of mission work begin to come to your knowledge, be exceedingly careful how you judge, condemn, or decide in matters that you have never met and that have puzzled the wisest men for many decades.

Remember that the worse the troubles are the greater is the need for your prayers.

Many, many times you will be tempted to give it all up as useless, for every possible form of deception will be among his “wiles” to stop your intercession; if he can stop each one his victory is assured, and there are alarmingly few intercessors.

Be ready patiently to toil on without apparent results; time is required for them to show. Many a laborer has worked for years without seeing the results that overjoyed his successors. Cannot you do the same? Woe be to anyone who tries to become an intercessory missionary while the Lord is calling him to go in person!

Image credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash .

Swells in the Middle Kingdom

"Swells in the Middle Kingdom" began his life in China as a student back in 1990 and still, to this day, is fascinated by the challenges and blessings of living and working in China.View Full Bio

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