So. After that thrilling first chapter relating missions and worship, Piper followed with two more chapters relating missions to prayer and suffering, respectively.
The gist of the prayer chapter is this: “Life is war, so prayer’s for all-out fighting, not making a nice living room more comfortable.” (That’s a paraphrase, by the way.) Piper likens prayer to a walkie-talkie between the front lines and central command, meant to keep those essential supplies and reinforcements coming. (Again, there’s a multi-page set of Bible quotations, this time illustrating all the things the disciples prayed for… healing, boldness, unity, discernment, and I could go on.) Seeking God for everything, he says, gives God that much glory—and we’re back to the whole point of a Christian’s life, glorifying God. So missions cannot exist without prayer; that’s the way God set it up to work, apparently.
The feeling of being in a war, with huge stakes, and with prayer as the walkie-talkie for supplies and reinforcement, makes sense with what I’ve been reading lately in the New Testament. I’m halfway through Acts in particular, and the way the church got straight down to business, with all its might, struck me as the very attitude that we ourselves need to take towards missions. And the zeal with which they prayed! I can’t imagine what it would be like to be up all night, literally, on my knees and concentrated on one single request for God to answer. (Just goes to show how much room I have to grow, I suppose.)
The final chapter in the first section of the book, as I said, related missions to suffering. Without listing every one of the six reasons he delves into regarding why God allows—nay, appoints—suffering in the lives of his most devoted workers, I will quote briefly:
The process through which he [Jesus] grew in deeper and deeper obedience was the process of suffering…. God knocked the props of life out from under Paul’s so that he would have no choice but to fall on God and receive his hope from the promise of the resurrection. This is the first purpose of missionary suffering: to wean us from the world and set our hope fully in God alone.
Suffering is finally to show the supremacy of God…. Christ’s power was Paul’s only power when his sufferings brought him to the end of his resources and cast him wholly on Jesus. This was God’s purpose in Paul’s thorn, and it is his purpose in all our suffering. God means for us to rely wholly on him.
And you see, yet again we return to the prevailing theme of the book: missions, growing out of worship, aims primarily to glorify God.
I’ll summarize the second section (of three) in the next installment, then in a fourth and final post, I plan to wrap this up with a summary of the last two chapters.