3 Reasons Why Prayer is Essential to the Work of Bible Translation

Woman in the posture of prayer

We all live full lives and as believers we are confronted with the challenge of not being pulled into the vacuum of “busyness”. We struggle to get all the laundry folded, the car oil changed on time, meet the demands of our jobs, and cart our children around to all their school and extracurricular activities. The family calendar on the wall in the kitchen is full before we even start a new month, so penciling time in for prayer is more of a struggle than we would like to admit.

We get it, and even our global team of prayer warriors have to be reminded of why we pray for Bible translation. 

Pray for Zero’s mission is to accelerate Bible translation by expanding the global capacity of the church to pray, advocate, and directly contribute to bringing God’s Word to all by 2033. Accomplishing this mission is going to take all of us, fully engaged, and proactively praying for the end of Bible poverty. It is urgent that we take up the mantle and perhaps erase a few things from our family calendar to make space for daily prayer. 

Let’s discuss three reasons why prayer is essential to the work of Bible translation.

1. The Bible instructs us to pray without ceasing.

All throughout Scripture, prayer is made a priority. We see it in the Old Testament from the heartfelt prayers of the Psalms, to the supplications of the prophets, to the anguished petition of Hannah for God to give her a child. We also see it in the New Testament. Jesus pioneered the most ground-breaking, long-lasting ministry of all time and yet consistently made time for prayer. Luke 5:16 tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul instructs us: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV). 

No matter where we feel we are at in our prayer life, whether we think we are good at praying or if we struggle with it, it is the will of God for us to pray regularly. For some of us, consistent prayer may seem overwhelming. We must remind ourselves that nothing in Scripture tells us prayer has to be complicated or elaborate. God wants us to come as we are and offer the prayers of our heart. 

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 1 Samuel 1:10-11 (NIV)

2. We cannot do the work of Bible translation in our own strength.

Bible translation is a very complex and arduous process. Challenges vary depending on the region, however no translation project is simple. Here are some examples of the challenges that are often incurred throughout the process of translating Scripture: 

  • The format necessary to make Scripture accessible to the community it is translated for can present unique challenges. Bible stories, oral, audio, sign language video, print, or digital each require different resources and skill sets to effectively communicate the truth of God’s Word.
  • Recruiting and maintaining trained mother tongue translators to see the project through can be difficult. On average, a people group can receive their New Testament in 5 to 10 years. Societal, political, familial, and other circumstances can affect the longevity of a consistent translation team. 
  • Language limitations are often encountered during the translation process. This Seed Company article provides an example: a landlocked tribe in Africa had no word for boat. So when the Bible said Jesus withdrew to a boat, the team needed to decide whether to use the Arabic word or try to explain it using words the people already had. In the end, they chose a word in their language for an object shaped like a boat and told the people it traveled on water.
  • Some challenges are nearly impossible. For example, a sensitive country in Mainland Asia used to be relatively open until a few years ago when the doors seemed to slam shut. Translation projects that were in process came to an abrupt stop as most foreign workers had to leave. Starting new work has been extremely difficult and past connections no longer exist.

All of this serves as a reminder that we cannot do the work of Bible translation in our own strength. We need the supernatural grace of God to open doors, provide resources, and sustain each aspect of the process. We need the guidance and discernment of the Holy Spirit to lead the translators and consultants as they work meticulously to ensure the accuracy of each word, sentence, chapter, and book translated.

It is imperative that we partner with our fellow believers in the translation process by interceding on their behalf in prayer.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:18-20 (NIV)

3. We war not against flesh and blood.

It is easy to forget that what we can see is not all there is. While we face many challenges in the natural (what we can see), there is a very real battle in the supernatural (what we cannot see) where Satan and his workers of darkness are doing everything in their power to stop the progression of Bible translation.

The enemy does not want the whole world to have access to the life-saving, eternity-changing truth of God’s Word. He does not want us to fulfill the Great Commission. He much rather keep the status of “go and make disciples of all nations” to “go and make disciples of some nations.”

When we pray for Bible translation we are going to battle in the spirit realm. We are interceding according to the will of God. We must remember Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 6:10-12: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (NIV).

We see prayers answered as God moves mightily around the world every single week. Every prayer matters. Your prayers matter. We invite you to join our global team of prayer warriors by signing our prayer wall and subscribing to our weekly prayer journal. You will receive real-time updates on the work of Bible translation, praise reports, and specific prayer requests every week straight to your inbox.

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