Answers to Missionaries' Prayers :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Answers to Missionaries' Prayers

Alan Patterson
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A missionary’s life is in many ways a catalog of answers to prayer. Jan and I can say that was (and still is) the case with us. Like nearly all missionaries, we began deputation with little money (just enough to get to our first meeting in Indiana), and early in our first term the bottom dropped out of the dollar in exchange with the Japanese yen so that we were receiving roughly half of an already low level of support. Nevertheless, the Lord provided in answer to desperate praying and has continued to provide in both ordinary and remarkable ways. But answers for financial needs are only a fraction of the answers the Lord gives to His workers. His answers touch every aspect of the missionary’s life. Following are some examples from missionaries of the past.

With fasting and self-denying praying, David Brainerd earnestly begged the Lord to save the Indians he was seeking to evangelize. The work was slow and unpromising at first, but he wrote in his journal for June 25, 1744:

Was something better in health than of late; was able to spend a considerable part of the day in prayer and close studies. Had more freedom and fervency in prayer than usual of late. Especially longed for the presence of God in my work and that the poor heathen might be converted. And in evening prayer my faith and hope in God were much raised. To an eye of reason, everything that respects the conversion of the heathen is as dark as midnight; and yet I cannot but hope in God for the accomplishment of something glorious among them (bold is my emphasis).1

And God answered his prayers. Brainerd wrote almost two years later in March of 1746:       

I know of no assembly of Christians where there seems to be so much of the presence of God, where brotherly love so much prevails, and where I should so much delight in the public worship of God, in general, as in my own congregation; although not more than nine months ago, they were worshipping devils and dumb idols under the power of pagan darkness and superstition. Amazing change this! Affected by nothing less than divine power and grace! “This is the doing of the Lord, and it is justly marvelous in our eyes!” 2

Mary Slessor’s work among the Africans in present-day Nigeria was also carried on in the daily strength, wisdom, and provision of believing prayer. She describes her life this way:

My life is one long daily, hourly, record of answered prayer. For physical health, from mental overstrain, for guidance given marvelously, for errors and dangers averted, for enmity to the gospel subdued, for food provided at the exact hour needed, for everything that goes to make up life and my poor service, I can testify with a full and often wonder-stricken awe that I believe God answers prayer. I know God answers prayer. I have proved during long decades while alone, as far as man's help and presence are concerned, that God answers prayer.…It is the very atmosphere in which I live and breathe and have my being and it makes life glad and free and a million times worth living. I can give no other testimony. I am sitting alone here on a log among the company of natives. My children whose very lives are a testimony that God answers prayer, are working round me. Natives are crowding past on the bush road to attend palavers, and I am at perfect peace, far from my own countrymen and conditions, because I know God answers prayer. Food is scarce just now. We live from hand to mouth. We have not more than will be our breakfast today, but I know we shall be fed, for God answers prayer. [3]

Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth had an amazingly fruitful ministry in China, and she wrote a book about some of those experiences entitled How I Know God Answers Prayer. The number of conversions they saw were remarkable, but she does not limit anecdotal proofs of her conviction about answered prayer to conversion stories. For instance, she shares the way the Lord answered her prayer for something as simple as a winter coat for her daughter, as they were getting ready to travel back to China. This could seem a small thing, but as she said, “Those who have never known such tokens of the Lord's loving care in the little things of life can scarcely understand the blessedness that such experiences bring.”4

So, whether in seemingly large or small things, whether answers in remarkable conversions and great awakenings or in physical health, deliverance from mental strain or provision of food at the exact hour needed, the missionary life is a soul-sustaining stream of answered prayer.


1 Jonathan Edwards, The Life of Rev. David Brainerd, (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1978), 166.

Ibid., 223.

3 W. P. Livingstone, Mary Slessor of Calabar (Hodder and Stoughton: London, 1917), 322.

Rosalind Goforth, How I Know God Answers Prayer (Moody Press: Chicago, n.d.), 92.