This post is adapted from an article I wrote for Pray! magazine in the January/February 2007 issue. I still find this topic challenging—how about you?
When I began a new job and ministry a number of years ago, I attempted to round up an intercessory prayer team. I knew I’d need a lot of prayer. Most of the people I asked to join the team said yes. But one friend, an elderly pastor and prayer warrior, declined. He told me kindly that he already had a good number of prayer commitments, and he wasn’t sure he would be able to invest the time that my new ministry’s needs would require. He assured me of his confidence in the ministry and in me, and he said that he would pray for me as the Holy Spirit brought me to mind. And I know for a fact that he did just that. He occasionally sent me notes telling me so.
I’d never had an experience like that before. Always before when I asked people to pray for me, without missing a beat they assured me they would. But I never really knew whether they followed through or not. After all, I’d made similar promises to other people scores of times, and my own follow-through was pretty spotty.
The interaction with my pastor-friend taught me to take people’s requests for prayer more seriously. I can’t say I’ve been brave enough to tell people that I won’t take on their prayer assignments, but I do try to pray for the people who ask me for prayer, even if it means praying for them on-the-spot, at the moment they ask. I don’t want people to count on me for prayer and then be left exposed because I didn’t make good on my promise.
Romans 6:18 tells us to “Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” That’s a lot of believers to pray for! I know I’m not the only one who gets lots of emails, texts, Facebook messages, missionary letters, and other communications with prayer requests—often urgent ones. How do the rest of you handle this huge responsibility and privilege? What ways have you found to follow through?