From 1960 to the mid 1970’s, the common perspective was – “The days of great revivals are over! Expect no great harvest. We are in the days of the ‘great falling away!’” Church growth had stalled. Church attendance was in a steady but accelerating decline paralleled by church closures. America’s churches had reached a growth plateau and seemed to be on the back and downward cycle of their life. The mood of the nation had changed radically. Interest in missions was waning. Doors previously open to missionaries were now closed. In some places, the mantra became “Missionary, go home.” Then, around 1989, global watchers noted a burgeoning prayer movement and began to ask, “What about the great commission?”
The 10/40 window is a section of globe that reaches from ten to forty degrees latitude north of the equator, and west-to-east from North Africa and Southern Europe through the Middle East, India and China. It is home to most of the world’s unreached peoples. Two-thirds of the world’s population is squeezed onto one-third of the earth’s land mass. This is the heart of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Eight out of ten of the poorest of the world’s poor live in areas dominated by Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Only 2.4 percent of the world’s missionary force and 0.01 percent of the income of the world’s Christians is aimed at this unreached area of the planet – the 10/40 window.
With most of these nations closed, how do we now reach them? In the past, we have concluded that closed doors meant no missionary activity. When doors are closed, Paul’s solution was simple, “Pray that a door might be opened for me to preach the gospel!” (Col. 4:2). What about prayer? What about the simple and pure power of incense? Hudson Taylor used to say that you must “go forward on your knees.”
Is prayer only to aid our missionary activity, or is prayer a form of missionary activity in itself? Is there, by prayer, a way in which intercessors extend themselves into taboo areas? Does God, through the mystery of prayer, invade the space behind closed doors and hearts, and manifest himself in ways that prepare people, if not peoples, for the preaching of the gospel?
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.
 Quoted by Wesley L. Duewel, Mighty Prevailing Prayer (Grand Rapids: MI; Zondervan, 1990), 250.