How do we pray for God’s mission?
Prayer, unquestionably, is central and foundational to discovering and joining the Spirit on God’s mission. In Luke 10, Jesus’ first instructions to the 70 appointed ones is to pray: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers” (Luke 10:2). And then he sends them! To do what? To enter into the life of these Samaritan villagers from a prayerful, attentive, listening posture. They are directed to share peace, to receive, and to remain. This too is prayer as we discern and attend to God’s presence and leading among the people to whom the Spirit sends us. Peter is sent to Cornelius to discover the Holy Spirit already at work in this Gentile leader (Acts 10-11). Paul and his companions are sent outside the city to women gathering by the river, where they too step into what God has already initiated in Lydia and her household (Acts 16).
These prayers involve asking, listening, and acting—perhaps not what first comes to mind when we think of the call to pray. Yet God’s people have always been directed to “Hear the word of the Lord” (e.g., Ezek. 34:7, 37:4; Isa. 28:14, 39:5; Jer. 2:4, 29:20). Faithful Jews to this day recite the Shema, which begins, “Hear, O Israel” (Deut. 6:4-5). The command to hear means much more than allowing sound to enter our ears. The Hebrew word shema in other passages is translated as “obey” (e.g., Ex. 19:5; Deut. 12:28; Josh. 24:24; 1 Sam. 12:14). There is no separate word for “obey.” Thus “to hear” entails not only being attentive, but responding, obeying, and doing! Our listening prayers, then, are also our doing/responding/acting prayers. We are invited and called to participate in God’s mission by shema-ing the Spirit through the text, one another, and our neighbors.
Wondering where to start shema-ing prayer? How about with Luke 10:1-12? Hear it by reading it repeatedly, slowly, and attentively, allowing God to speak to you through it. What catches your attention? What nudges? Now act on it: share peace, be a guest of your neighbor, receiving whatever they give you and pointing to the kingdom of God.