From time to time the Lord lays a burden on me to come alongside others and pray for them. There are many times when I never meet the person face to face and the reality is that in this life I probably never will – but despite the distances, firm friendships are made in the process.
I have partnered in prayer with a mission team which is due to leave for an overseas trip next week. How I would love to go with them on this trip of encouragement and the building up of the local church. Yet, the truth is, while I am not going with them physically, I am with them spiritually. For I am praying that they will be fruitful and effective in love. I am praying for their families and friends who are staying behind. I am praying for the church where they are going to. I am praying for their protection and that the evil one will be bound from harassing them. They are going to a place where you will suffer persecution for being a Christian. I pray regularly for a number of the locals who live in the area and am amazed at their fortitude and love for Jesus, who despite the persecution this causes, continue to make Christ known.
One of the things I have learnt from reading the Apostle Paul, is that he not only told people he was praying for them, he also told them what it was he was praying for them. And so on a regular basis I will write my prayers out, and send them to those I am praying for. I believe this practice has a number of benefits.
- It forces me to pray and not just say I will pray.
- It allows those I am praying for to say Amen.
- When I get feedback of how the prayers are answered, or encourages others, it spurs me on to pray with more faith.
- It encourages those I am praying for to know that they are being prayed for.
- There are times when I have received written prayers and have read them over and over again – allowing the power of those prayers to wash through, over and well up within me.
- It forces me to think about what it is I am praying. How am I praying. Are my prayers God honouring.
- It builds a sense of community and belonging. It connects me with others.
Now I don’t write out every prayer that I pray and send to people. There are times during the day when someone comes to mind, and I say Father, bless so and so. Other times I feel burdened to take some time out and go and intercede for them, asking the Lord to pray through me, and allow me to pray through him – for what ever the specific circumstances that I feel led to pray for.
I am also in the habit of praying with people on the spot when they ask me to pray, or I sense they have need. It could be at church, at the supermarket, car park, on the street or at someone’s home. If its in a public area, we go and sit down, and I gently lay a hand on their arm, or put my arm around their shoulder and quietly pray. If its in a private area, I do the same. I am constantly amazed how strangers will open up to me and share stuff with me, often stuff that they have never shared with others. And in the sharing process they often say words to this effect, “I don’t know why I am sharing this with you?” and continue to share with me. And they are often doubly surprised when I ask them if its ok for me to pray with them.
I believe that all mission has to be soaked in prayer. Every Christian is a missionary where ever they are placed. Our mission must start in prayer, for its through prayer that we connect with our living God. It’s through prayer that we relate with our living God. And its through prayer that our relationship with God and with others is truly worked out. And its through prayer that we can connect with others across the world and partake in the unity of the brethren – and take part in what God is doing, even if we can’t be there in person.