Article | Missions magazine

A Little Creativity Goes A Long Way | Praying For Special-areas Missionaries Requires Outside-the-box Thinking

Feb 13, 2024
Sarah Dunlap Article

By Sarah Dunlap

Some countries are open to the Gospel. Some offer religious freedom but discourage or prohibit evangelization. Others are closed to missionaries altogether. Yet God is “not willing that any should perish,” so He calls His children to serve in countries all over the world—even “special areas.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Many of the believers whom He calls to special areas must exercise caution, primarily for the safety of themselves and their contacts and to remain in the country. On the field, those precautions take forms supporters may never be aware of. But flip to the “Special Areas” section of the Missionary Prayer Handbook, and you’ll notice that no locations are listed, some workers abbreviate their names, and others withhold their contact information or photos. Read their newsletters, and you may observe the care with which they write—leaving out names, dates, and locations and even avoiding words such as God and Bible. Some may be unable to distribute newsletters.

Due to these precautions, knowing how to pray for special-areas missionaries can be difficult. Creativity is essential. As the missionaries themselves seek creative methods for sharing the Gospel, you can find additional ways to pray for them if you think outside the box of seemingly limited information. Ask God to help you find those creative ways. Below, we list three categories of “tips” to help you get started.

Do Your Homework
One of the best ways to learn more about the missionaries you pray for is to consult good resources regularly:
- Find trusted news outlets so you can stay up to date on current events. An awareness of international situations and politics can help you understand the climate many special-areas missionaries live in—even if you don’t know their country or region.

- Rely on the information provided in the Missionary Prayer Handbook (MPH). Each missionary’s entry includes a ministry description, which gives you an idea of the work he or she is involved in. While you might not know the specifics of, say, the worker’s home Bible study, you can pray that God will grant the missionary special insight and strength while preparing.

- Read Missions magazine monthly. Missionaries, including some who serve in special areas, share updates in the “Connections” section (which, for security, appears only in the printed magazine, never online). Some even write articles on their ministries. Missions also publishes “May We Introduce” articles so you can get to know new missionaries.

Start Talking
Next, look for ways to interact with the missionaries digitally and in person:
- Communicate with them if possible. Some missionaries offer contact information, such as email addresses or WhatsApp numbers, in the MPH. Send them a note of encouragement; they may provide an update in response if they can share the information. Remember to choose your words carefully until you know what the missionaries are comfortable with; avoid words like pray, Bible, and God or find creative alternatives.

- Talk with them in person. If you learn of missionaries coming to the US or Canada on furlough, ask your assembly leadership to invite them to share a report at your church. Often, special-areas missionaries can discuss their ministries more openly in person—and you can ask them questions.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes
Finally, use the knowledge you’ve gleaned alongside your personal understanding of everyday matters—family, health, the Christian walk—to consider aspects of life on the mission field:
- Pray for the missionaries’ protection as they build relationships and share the Gospel, as they worship in their local churches and invite people to join them, and as they go about daily life—all of which present risks.

- Ask the Lord to give special-areas missionaries opportunities for physical, mental, and spiritual rest. Besides the usual factors that cause burnout, special-areas workers may face environmental stressors, such as extreme political tension, hostility and aggression toward Christians, isolation, and wars and fighting.

- Affordable, comfortable housing may be difficult to find and keep. Ask the Lord to provide, or preserve, housing in a safe community.

- Pray for strong marriages and healthy families.

- Pray for the missionaries’ children on their birthdays. In the Missionary Prayer Handbook, many of the entries list the kids’ names and ages alongside their parents’ information. You can look up the children’s birthdays (when shared) in an index at the back of the MPH and pray for the kids on those days. As they age, remember their practical needs, such as education.

- Many parents have shared that missionary kids struggle with identity, so pray that their children will root themselves in Christ. Pray, too, for healthy, encouraging friendships on the field.

- Often, special-areas missionaries are far from their families, and some may fellowship with only one or two believers. They may crave the encouragement that comes from being with family and fellow believers. Pray that the Lord will give them a deep sense of fellowship with Him.

- Poverty surrounds some missionaries. They need discernment when helping their neighbors and community.

- Missionaries in areas affected by natural disasters often show Christ’s love through relief work. The missionaries need wisdom to help others rebuild their lives while navigating the trauma themselves. Pray for opportunities to meet needs and present the Gospel.

- Workers devote much time and care to learning languages and cultures, especially when serving among unreached people groups in the 10/40 Window. Pray that the Lord will guide the missionaries and provide nationals who can help.

- Special-areas missionaries may find the line between ministry and local restrictions difficult to navigate. Pray for wisdom.

- Many of them are thrust into helping converts face marginalization and persecution from their own families and the society around them. Pray for wisdom to disciple new believers into grace, faithfulness, and boldness.

- In certain special-areas countries, the conditions and cultural expectations may limit women’s movement and interactions. Such an environment can make ministry challenging for them and create feelings of isolation. Yet friendship evangelism can become a powerful tool when connections are forged. Pray for opportunities to build relationships.

- In a world of restrictions and security risks, special-areas missionaries need to approach their ministry with creativity. But, when they experience stress and concern, their creativity may plummet. Ask the Lord to supply new ideas, new perspectives, and strength to explore new opportunities.

Go before the throne
All missionaries need your prayers and support—for many of the reasons listed above. But prayers for special-areas missionaries may require more creativity. Don’t let limited information stop you. God knows the details. He hears your prayers, and even when you think they’re too general, He fills in the gaps. God knows what His children are facing, He knows their needs, and He loves your prayers.

Sarah Dunlap, Missions editor

Originally published in Missions magazine, January 2024. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at