The Importance of Prayer

Written by: Jessica Harrelson Cormier

Edited by: Sarah McKendree

Illustrated by: Sandra Means


Question: Do you pray for your missionaries? Do you know how important it is to pray for missionaries? Here is a true story about a missionary named Dick Harrelson and a pastor named Vic Wilson. Bro. Harrelson and his family were missionaries in Papua New Guinea. Pastor Wilson faithfully pastored his church and prayed for his missionaries for many years.

Let's see how one missionary and one pastor learned the importance of prayer...

Prayer2It was ten hours to the hospital. The missionary was almost to his destination. On the seat beside him sat his sick little girl. He had to get her to the doctor. He glanced sideways at her. How he loved her, his precious JoAnna that God had given him to raise and to protect.

"God," he prayed, "Please help my little girl. Please make her well. Please let the doctor know what is wrong with her so that he can know how to treat it."

His whole mind was consumed with praying and with the worry he felt in his heart. Normally, when he drove the roads in Papua New Guinea, his mind stayed on high alert to what was going on around him, but on that day, his only thought was to get to the doctor.....FAST!

As he neared a one-way bridge in the road, he noticed a semi truck coming on fast from the opposite direction. He could see that the semi would easily make it to the bridge before he did, which meant he was going to have to stop and wait his turn. His foot touched the brake pedal, and he gradually slowed to a stop on the side of the road. The missionary stared at the oncoming truck, but his mind was far from the scene before him. Then, without warning, it happened!

Prayer3Suddenly, from the bushes alongside of the road sprang two men armed with machetes. One of them rushed at his door while the other raced to the passenger side. In an instant, his door was yanked opened. (Oh, why hadn't he locked it as he normally did?!) The terrifying, movie-like drama began to play itself out. Thinking quickly, he grabbed his door and jerked it open as wide as it would go. The man on his side of the car was knocked out into the way of the oncoming semi. He slammed and locked his door and then whirled around to take in the situation on his daughter's side of things. The second man was reaching across his daughter for the gear shift!

Bro. Harrelson rammed the man's hand to the floorboard and at the same time glanced up at the road. The semi had passed! His foot stomped on the gas pedal, and the pickup truck accelerated. Both men were left sprawling in the dust behind them.

His heart pounded! It had all happened so fast, and it was over before he had really known what was happening. He turned to his daughter. She was okay, just shocked like he was. As his mind replayed the event that had just taken place, he realized that the situation could have gone much worse. Why had that second man dove for the gear shift instead of grabbing his little girl? If he had taken her, everything would have been over. He would have had to get out and deal with the two men, and they probably would have taken his truck and everything in it. But God had mercifully blinded their eyes and had given Bro. Harrelson the wisdom to know exactly what to do. It was a moment in time that he would never be able to forget.

Prayer4Several months later......Bro. Harrelson and his family were on furlough. They were just finishing up a service at one of their supporting churches. It was obvious that this church loved their missionaries by the way the people hung around their table and spoke to them after the service. No one seemed to be in a hurry to leave. But later, when the church was mostly empty, the pastor came up to the missionary with a sober look on his face, "Brother, there is something I gotta to tell you. Each morning, I get here to the church early, but before I enter my office, I always take a few minutes to pray for our missionaries."

The missionary glanced around him at the many prayer letters lining the walls. He nodded, and the pastor continued. "Each morning, I make my rounds. I lay my hand on these prayer letters and pray for each missionary in turn for a few minutes before I move on to the next one. Well, Brother, several months ago, something really strange happened. I put my hand on your prayer letter, and as I began to pray, I was overcome with an intense burden for you and your family. I literally could not take my hand off your letter, and God would not let me move on. Instead, my eyes filled with tears and I stood there for who knows how long laboring in prayer for you. Brother, I'm curious. Do you have any idea why I might have been under such a heavy burden that day?"

Time seemed to stand still for the missionary as his mind raced back to that horrifying day three months before. And then it was his turn to tell his side of the story.  The two men wept and rejoiced together at the goodness of God.  The hearts of that missionary and that pastor bonded as the full truth hit them. They had BOTH been truly laboring together on that fateful day on the mission field.

The missionary went on to tell that story, both sides of it, everywhere he went. Now, more than ever before, he realized that he and his family could not make it without the prayers of their supporters back home.

Prayer5Question: Do you pray for your missionaries? I mean, do you REALLY pray for your missionaries? Do you know them personally because their names are on your lips on a regular basis? If you were asked about one of your missionaries in particular, would you know him, or would his name just vaguely ring a bell? Your missionaries, each one of them, need YOU. Are you ready to bow before God at a moment's notice to spend time in prayer for one of them? They are depending on you for more than just money to keep them on the field. They need your prayers. Their lives may depend on it!


A True Story from the Autobiography of Herbert E. Grings: Missionary to the Belgian Congo


His autobiography can be found here on Amazon

Story written and Illustrated

By Sandra Means

1.  Jilo squatted by the wall of his father’s hut and heard the spiteful words of his brothers. His old father was near death and Jilo was the next in line to be the chief of the village. His father had many wives and many sons, but it was decreed that he was to be the next chief. His father was of the mighty ruling Bahema tribe, but his mother was of the lowly Balendu tribe. Jilo did not know if his brothers hated him because he would be the next chief, or because his mother was the favorite wife and he the favorite son.


               His brothers’ jealousy and meanness were hard to live with, but as he silently sat and listened to his brothers’ talk he knew there was more. They were talking about different ways they could kill him. His heart filled with fright as they discussed how to make it look like an accident.

              Jilo loved his mother and father, but as his brothers’ evil plan unfolded before his ears he knew he had to do something. All he knew was his village. He did not have family anywhere else to hide with. Then he got an idea. He had heard about a “Muzungu” or white man at the Linga village. He had heard that the Muzungu bewitched and killed people. He had a great desire in his heart to go and see this white man, but he was afraid that he would die if he did so. However, if he stayed there his envious brothers would kill him. Jilo made up his mind he would take his chances with the white man.

2.  In the still of the night Jilo crept out of the hut and walked the many miles to the Linga village. It was not hard to find the Muzungu, as everyone knew where the white man and white woman lived. He fearfully approached the door of the hut and asked the Muzungu if he could work for him.


The white man gave him a job of clearing a path from the hut to the water hole. Jilo’s stomach rumbled hungrily as he diligently worked with the bush knife and hoe to make a good path. He hoped he did a good job. The white man came and inspected his work and seemed very pleased. The missionary tried to talk to him about an all-powerful God that created the earth, but all Jilo could think about was his empty stomach and the stories he heard about the white man bewitching people.

Jilo fearfully and nervously asked the Muzungu for his pay for working so he could go and buy food. As soon as the white man gave him the money, Jilo ran back to the village as fast as he could go.

Jilo passed that night fearfully. He expected some great calamity to happen. Sometime during the night he drifted off to sleep, but he sat up with a start. It was morning and nothing had happened to him. He looked himself over and he did not feel any different, so he again went to the Muzungu’s house and asked for work. At the end of the day, he again nervously asked the missionary for his pay. The white man again told him a story about God. Jilo was still afraid the white man was trying to bewitch him so he hurried away as quick as he could. But nothing happened that night either.

By the fifth day, Jilo was breathing a little easier. Surely something would have happened by now. He had helped the Muzungu build a little cookhouse and when they were finished the missionary told him an exciting story about a man named Jesus who opened the eyes of a blind man. The missionary asked him to kneel with him as he talked to this invisible Lord Jesus for him. Jilo watched the missionary intently under lowered eyes as the white man bowed his head and talked to Jesus.  It was all very scary, but it also touched his heart that the white man would pray to Jesus this for him. When he was finished praying, the missionary asked him if he would like to live in the cook house and work for them. Jilo was afraid to stay with the white people, but he wanted to learn more of this God who loved him so he fearfully accepted the offer.

             3. As Jilo lived and worked for Herbert and Ruth Grings, he realized they had something that he did not have. Mrs. Ruth Grings knew his mother’s tribal language.  As they worked around the house she would tell him Bible stories in his language. Jilo thought a lot about what he was learning about God. God loved him so much he sent His only Son Jesus to earth to die on the cross of Calvary for his sins. He has never heard of anyone rising from the dead as Jesus had done. The more he learned the more his heart burned within him showing him the missionaries had something that was real. Until one day he knelt on the ground with the missionary couple and Jilo prayed and gave his heart to the Lord Jesus.


Life became different for Jilo. The darkness in his heart was gone and he had joy within. He was the first one in the whole Linga Village to get saved. He started refuting the white doctor’s lies about the missionaries and influenced the other boys to come learn their letters at missionary’s school.

Jilo loved learning about God. The missionaries were teaching him to read the Word of God that they had translated into his language. Jilo thought about how thankful he was that he had come to stay with the missionaries. The more Jilo thought about this, the more he realized that he would not have gotten saved if his brothers had not been trying to kill him. But how will his brothers hear about Christ? If they did not get saved they would die and go to hell.

            4. Finally Jilo decided what he needed to do. He told the missionary: “Teacher, I want to go back to my village down by the lake and bring my brothers here to learn the words of God.” The missionaries knew Jilo’s story about his brothers’ jealousy and their plans to kill him, so they were concerned for him. They all prayed together before Jilo set out on the long trip home. As Jilo walked along he prayed and asked God to help him talk to his brothers. He did not know what his brothers would do when he came back.


As he entered the village there was a big commotion as everyone came running to see that he was back. His jealous brothers listened in amazement as Jilo told them about living and working for the Muzungu. He told them the stories of God he had learned and his desire for them to travel back with him and learn them also. The more they were around Jilo the more they were astounded at the change in him. Jilo rejoiced as he made the long trek back to the Linga village. For two of his brothers, the very ones who plotted to have him killed, walked beside him to go learn about God. It was not long before they too knew the God of love who sent His Son to die for them.


  1. Why did Jilo decide to leave his home village? What were some of the reason Jilo thought his brothers were jealous of him?
  2. Who do you think it was that put the desire in Jilo’s heart to go see the Muzungo or white man? Do you think Jilo would have gone if his brothers had not wanted to kill him? If he had not gone to live with the white man do you think he would ever have gotten saved?
  3. Why did Jilo have trouble sleeping after starting to work for the missionaries? Why do you think the witch doctor would spread lies about the missionaries?
  4. What was it that made Jilo decide to live in the cookhouse and work for the missionary?
  5. What were some of the things that Jilo did in the village after he got saved that helped the missionaries?
  6. If you have Jesus in your heart do you think that everyone should see a difference in you like they did Jilo? If you have never asked Jesus into your heart, did you know that He will save you just like He did Jilo?
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