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What’s the role of prayer in missional living?

Prayer is a foundational practice for those seeking to join the Spirit on God’s mission. And what comes to mind first in this regard is prayers for our neighbors and others whom we long to know God’s grace and love. 

However, intercession is not the only essential prayer practice when it comes to missional living. Listening prayer must initiate and permeate our missional living, guiding us, our discernment, and our intercession. We learn to listen to the Spirit through the text, through one another, and through our neighbors. The apostle Peter demonstrates this for us in Acts 10. Peter is seeking to listen to God when he is given the same vision three times—and even then, he is still puzzled about the meaning of what he has seen and heard (Acts 10:9-20). He must continue to listen as the Spirit speaks to him through three unknown foreign men, and he must follow the Spirit in them into what would have been for him an uncomfortable and unfamiliar context—one in which he is a guest and a listener. And that is where he discovers God at work: in Cornelius and his household. 

What unfamiliar and uncomfortable context might the Spirit be inviting us to enter in order to listen and discover God already at work? Paul and his companions find themselves in a similar situation. After listening to and following the Spirit’s leading in Acts 16, they discover God at work in a group of women outside the city gate. Only after Peter and Paul have been present with the “other,” asking questions and listening, do they hear God and join with the Spirit in God’s work—not only in the other, but in them. Peter exclaims, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34).

Prayer in missional living, then, is about practicing presence with a listening posture. As we listen, we learn to be present literally, curiously, attentively, humbly, openly, and intentionally in all the places and in all the ways God sends us. I wonder how and where you will practice listening prayer today, and what you might learn.

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