The World Mission Prayer League grew out of a God-given burden to pray for the unreached interiors of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. By the mid-1930’s, a band of students, pastors and friends in the Minneapolis area joined together in prayer that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers into his harvest (Luke 10:2). Soon some of them felt called to join the harvest themselves.
They organized themselves along simple lines to accept volunteers and send them into areas of special concern by founding the South American Mission Prayer League in Minneapolis on May 25, 1937. They were committed to finding a way to send and go in mission, without the constraint of budgetary limitations; to providing a way for lay participation in mission, without the requirement of ordination; and to complement the regular work of the Lutheran synods, without diverting means or personnel from their programs. Within a year its first global workers were sent out: John Carlsen and Ernest Weinhardt were on their way to Bolivia. Soon other volunteers were sent to Central Asia, and eventually to Africa and Eastern Europe.
A sister organization emerged from this same sending fellowship. The Lutheran World Crusade functioned alongside the Prayer League for a few years in the 1940’s. These two communities were formally merged and, in 1945, as a reflection of growing involvements around the world, they were incorporated in the State of Minnesota as the World Mission Prayer League.
In 1969 a sister organization, the World Mission Prayer League Canada, adopted its Constitution and incorporated in Edmonton, Alberta. Read more in WMPL Canada History 1944 – 1995.
In 1972 the American Board of the Santal Mission merged with the World Mission Prayer League. The American Board sent its first global workers from Minneapolis in 1904, to join a Scandinavian work already in progress among the Santal people in northern India. From these early beginnings, the World Mission Prayer League has inherited a particular concern for the Santal people of India and Bangladesh.
Together with the Church and its partners in mission, the World Mission Prayer League seeks to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s fresh initiative in our world today. Prayer League members continue to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth workers, and that the Lord himself would sustain and uphold them.
For more on the history of our fellowship, read the Mission Handbook, The Spirit of God Was Moving and Food from Ravens.