40 Years of Kingdom-Centered Prayer


40 Years of Kingdom-Centered Prayer

By March 17, 2023No Comments

“[Some of the] most important work in missions is not overseas, is not exclusive to missionaries or to people who work for mission boards. Believing prayer in the local church and in the lives of Christians is key… ”– World Harvest Mission Newsletter 1985


It all started with a church prayer meeting in the early 70s.

“Word got around that the fun place to be was the Millers’ living room on Wednesday night,” recounts Rose Marie Miller, one of the founders of Serge. Soon enough, more than 60 people were cramming into their space for an evening of prayer and fellowship.

But what made this gathering truly special was that people from all walks of life were coming together for a single purpose—prayer. 

 “We had society’s cast-offs and we had drug addicts,” recalls Rose Marie. “We had seminary students who thought they were already following Jesus but became Christians in these meetings. We had people from the mental institute. One time a man brought a bag of snakes– thankfully, Jack told him he couldn’t bring the snakes in!”

As Rose Marie recalls: “People were coming to faith, and we knew it was the power of the Spirit and it was the gospel.“

From the Millers’ living room to the mission field, one of the things has been at the heart of Serge’s work: Kingdom-Centered Prayer.

As a missions agency, prayer has shaped our vision, guided our steps, and empowered us to serve with humility and faithfulness—not as a pious act of pious people, but as people who long for transformation in themselves and in the world that only God can bring.

For Dr. Jack Miller, the founder of Serge, Kingdom-centered prayer was the cornerstone of his ministry. He believed Kingdom-centered prayer should be bold and specific, persistent, and corporate. Not inwardly focused on personal needs, but extending the boundaries of prayer to our cities, institutions, people groups, and workers for the harvest. It’s about asking our good and powerful Father, by the saving work and intercession of the Son, through the power of the Spirit, to bring God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 6:9-13)

According to Jack’s son, Paul Miller, Jack’s vision of prayer came from his expectation that the Holy Spirit would show up. “He was convinced that this was the age of the Spirit,” Paul recalls. “And with the Spirit being poured out, we can do crazy things for Jesus.”

“There is no way we could have started without prayer. Not casual prayer, but concentrated prayer.” – Rose Marie Miller

As a result, Kingdom-centered prayer is one of Serge’s core values. We believe that mission relies on prayer and it’s the catalyst for all that we do. As Jack Miller wrote, “It is through prayer together that we find grace to give up control to the Father, rely exclusively on the Spirit, and see the demons subdued. It is here we get our life, vigor, zest, and authority for the battle….”

In celebration of Serge’s 40th anniversary, here are just a few powerful and unexpected stories of how Kingdom-prayer has sustained us every step of the way. 

How Unexpected Prayers Ignited the Call to Uganda

“You’re not praying enough!” they told the Millers. These words were spoken by a group of Ugandan seminary students who found themselves attending the Millers’ living room Bible study. In the mid-70s, Uganda was in turmoil under the dictatorship of Idi Amin, with border wars, ethnic and political violence, and corruption. As a result, many Christians fled the country and sought refuge in other parts of the world, which is how some of these refugees ended up in Philadelphia.

According to Rose Marie, these Ugandan seminary students were hungry for prayer and connection and even organized all-night prayer meetings at the seminary. Little did they know their passion for prayer would eventually spark a movement.

When Amin was driven out of Uganda in 1979, one of those students returned to aid in rebuilding the country. He contacted his former professor, Jack Miller, and urged him to bring their ministry to Uganda. Jack and Rose Marie felt led to answer that call.

Serge Missionary Johnny Long with Pastor in Training Isaac Ngigi in Uganda in 1974

A small team of believers traveled with the Millers to Uganda to partner with the local church in street evangelism, church planting, and community health initiatives. It was through this work that World Harvest Mission (now called Serge) was formed in 1983.

God used the prayers of Ugandans, crying out to Him in a time of upheaval and danger, to bring workers to live and bring the hope of the Gospel.

Even in the bleakest and most unexpected of situations, God ignited a movement of profound transformation that would eventually spread throughout East Africa and beyond.  

Not Our Plans But God’s Plans

Rose Marie Miller once said that “while Serge was born in Uganda, it was conceived in Ireland” —a country whose cultural identity has been shaped by a complex history of occupation and the significant influence of the Catholic Church.

The early 80s were a time of change and upheaval in Ireland, with many issues like the conflict in Northern Ireland, the economy, and the role of the Church coming to the forefront. At that time, evangelical Christians were viewed with suspicion or hostility by many Catholics who saw them as a threat.

But a small group of missionaries ventured to Ireland to preach on Grafton Street in the heart of Dublin.

Serge missionaries preaching on the street in Dublin in the early 80s

And while they eventually planted a couple of small churches, with so many barriers in the culture, they struggled to see fruit. They soon found themselves praying for guidance on why God had brought them there.

God answered by opening their eyes to many Irish church planters and their families who were discouraged and lonely as they toiled in hard places. “The Spirit seemed to be saying “you must decrease, so they can increase,” one team member recalls. As they fervently prayed, they felt led to repentance of their church planting model.

“Our prayer was transformed from ‘Lord, help us to plant churches,’ to ‘Lord, help us to help the Irish plant churches.’”

As the team shifted their focus, they were presented with an opportunity for a new missionary couple to serve in an Irish-led church plant—the first Presbyterian Church plant in the Republic of Ireland in 90 years! They came alongside to encourage the Irish leaders while living in community with them. 

Over time, the team was able to come alongside more Irish leaders through facilitative church planting, encouraging them in the gospel and sharing their own struggles. Through the work of the Spirit, weaknesses and vulnerabilities in these relationships created an opportunity for the once-familiar message of the gospel to be made new and for softened hearts to hunger for it.

“The stories of prayer in Ireland are not of us, but of Him, faithfully weaving our stories and prayers with the stories and prayers of centuries of Christians that have gone before in this verdant, boggy land.” – Serge Missionary in Ireland

Serge’s work in Ireland and Uganda was just the beginning, as members from both of those early teams went on to start new teams in other countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and beyond. 

Prayer Opens Doors in the 10/40 Window

Picture this: Missionaries in Southern Spain, a group of believers in Philadelphia, and South Asian believers all praying for the same region—the 10/40 window, an area known for being closed off to traditional missionary work.

Despite not knowing that the others were praying, their prayers were being heard.

The first team that embarked on an exploratory trip to North Africa immediately faced some challenges. Not only did their trip coincide with a season of fasting, but there was rain and cold weather, and everyone around them seemed miserable. “As we visited different cities and tried to build connections, we prayed in our hotel rooms at night,” recalls one worker. 

“One night, we found ourselves praying that God would simply let us meet people who would smile at us.”

The next day, to their surprise, they ended up riding a bus with a group of students who were happy to meet them, glad to answer questions, and even invited them to sit with them! It was a small but powerful answer to their prayers, bringing comfort and clarity to the team.

It was so meaningful to find out that there was already a river of prayer that we were stepping into. We had the sense that Lord of the Harvest was already on the move, and we wanted to be where He was at work.”- Serge’s First Missionary in North Africa


The Call Extends to South Asia

When the first team arrived in South Asia, they met national believers who showed them fervent, enduring, self-sacrificing, communal prayer. Serge missionaries knew the foolishness of the gospel to the world, the weakness and sinfulness of its messengers, and the impossibility of convincing people rooted in generations of idol devotion that there is another God who came to earth to save them.

But soon, daily communal prayer times and weekly fasting became a regular part of their team’s life with their national partners. And the Lord poured out His Spirit and power in remarkable ways.

“Prayer brought forth an intimacy and union with the Lord,” says one Serge worker in South Asia.

“We saw him do remarkable things. Sick people were miraculously healed, demons oppressing individuals were cast out, and individuals opposing the gospel work were confronted with a God of power they could not help but acknowledge. And through prayer, He strengthened us as we walked through severe times of suffering with our neighbors.”

By uniting people in bold prayers, God opened doors and made a path forward—in even some of the most closed-off areas of the world. By His hand, Serge’s work in the 10/40 window has continued to expand to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and East Asia.

Through prayer, God continues to weave the stories of Serge missionaries, their partners, and those they serve…in His ultimate story of transformation:

“I was pulled in with prayer. Passionate, desperate prayer. If it doesn’t get brought before the Father, things aren’t going to change. We need the Lord to move in these situations. Sometimes our team would pray all night organized around topics and scriptures. With some prayer requests, we would see nothing. But other times, things would happen, like funding coming through.”

- Karen MassoLong-Time Serge Missionary in Africa

“We felt led to work in Spain, however, the first few years were challenging. Our team began hosting weekly prayer meetings, asking for the Lord's guidance on starting a church to reach the immigrant community. We continued to receive confirmation and blessings with each step taken, but it was akin to steering a ship in the wind, rather than following a pre-planned blueprint by an architect. Today, the church has grown, so much so that we are in the process of acquiring a new building to accommodate our growing congregation!”

- Dan H.Long-Time Serge Missionary in Europe and Africa

“Working in East and Central Africa at times feels like a wilderness, particularly in this era of uncertainty. But prayer can give us perspective and power to keep on keeping on. Many people around the world prayed the Lubwisi Bible translation into being, prayed for Christ School to change lives, and prayed for us through the Ebola epidemic in Uganda…Each new effort arose from prayer, from God opening doors, making connections, bending hearts, giving courage, enabling us to overcome incredible hurdles of politics, corruption, and the sheer logistics to manage to survive in difficult places.”

- Jennifer MyhreLong-Time Serge Missionary and Area Director of East and Central Africa

“Prayer relating to God’s promises is what we can count on. Praying for our praying. Interceding that we would even pray. Praying for freedom from our own vision and trusting in God’s vision for our neighbors.”

- Dan MachaSerge Recruiter and former missionary in Ireland

“Prayer is an act of walking with the Spirit, drawing closer to God and asking to know His will, listening for his voice as we cry out. We can see some of the patterns of God’s grace emerging, the answers to long-forgotten, desperate prayers like the sun at the brink of dawn.”

- Serge Missionaries in Ireland

The Transformative Power of Prayer

From the very beginning of our missionary work, we realized that before we can effectively preach the gospel to others, we need to first apply it to ourselves. One incident even involved an argument between Serge missionaries that became so heated and public that it almost discredited the message they had come to bring!

Out of an awareness that our missionaries were themselves needy for the gospel, Serge created the Sonship Course in 1988. This course went on to expand to other ministry leaders in the U.S. and around the world—equipping them for ministry service with a new-found passion and freedom.

One ministry leader, who had initially been skeptical of the course, had a life-changing realization. 

“I was asked by a Serge missionary if I would like to be mentored in Sonship. I asked, ‘What is it about?’ He said, ‘It’s a course about the gospel.’ I didn’t say it then, but I arrogantly thought in my mind, ‘You don’t have to teach me about the gospel. I know the gospel. I preach the gospel every Sunday…” 

Through sustained prayer, we can experience a deep, transformative encounter with God’s grace.

However, he came to the humbling realization that he was not truly living the gospel in his everyday life. “In my experience, I had slipped to the place where I was only precious if things were going well,” he recalls. “Sonship showed me that I was precious to God even as a struggling church planter.” This realization gave him the wings he needed to carry on with his work.

The story of Sonship is a powerful reminder that, through sustained prayer, we can experience a deep, transformative encounter with God’s grace that equips us to move into deeper levels of humility and confidence in sharing Christ’s love with others. This ongoing gospel renewal revitalizes churches from within and expands God’s Kingdom exponentially.

Prayer is the Work

Every one of these stories is a remarkable account of God’s leading—of stepping out into the dark unknown by faith, giving up our own will and dreams for the perfect will of God, of death to self for a glorious life in Him.

From the Millers’ living room to our current home office, Serge still “has to get down to knee work,” as Jack would say. 

“We pray for the world. We pray for ourselves. We even pray for our praying,” says Bob Osborne, Serge’s Executive Director.

“We ask that the Holy Spirit would continue to form and send people—and continue to upend our comfort as we work to build His kingdom. It’s never something that I’ve ‘mastered,'” says Bob. “But I know it is soul-saving, life-giving work that we are called to do.” 

Forty years after the start of Serge, we feel compelled to continue the Kingdom-centered prayer that started it all. Each week, since Serge began, the staff in the home office have regularly scheduled prayer meetings, while the missionaries gather in their teams around the world to pray.

We invite you to pray with us—pray boldly, specifically, often, and together.

Sign Up for Prayer Updates

Your prayers matter. Join us in Kingdom-prayer for Serge missionaries, their national partners, and for the gospel to reach and transform every person.

Once a month, we’ll send you an email prayer update with the needs of our brothers and sisters serving and seeking God’s glory around the world. 

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Serge is an international missions organization with more than 300 missionaries in 26 countries. We send and care for missionaries, mentor and train ministry leaders, and develop resources for continuous gospel renewal.