Last week, God gave me a special assignment. He asked me to pray for someone I don’t know and probably will never meet. His name is Dr. Kent Brantly. You may have heard of him. He’s the American missionary doctor who contracted the Ebola virus while serving stricken patients in Liberia.
I have plenty to pray about. I wasn’t looking for a new prayer assignment. But from the moment I heard about Dr. Brantly last Friday, I haven’t been able to get him off my mind or out of my heart. So I’ve prayed. And prayed . . . and prayed. I think I’ve prayed for Dr. Brantly just about as earnestly as if he were a member of my own family.
I know I sound a little surprised. This type of thing may not seem strange to you. I’m learning that it’s not unusual for God to ask people to pray for strangers. Still, it fascinates me. You see, if I try to work up passion to pray for something that seems important I usually can’t. Plus, I don’t follow world news very closely. I’m not on any global intercessor teams. I keep pretty busy just praying for friends, family members, my church, and the ministry I serve.
But praying for Dr. Brantley has been different. Every morning I wake up and scour the Internet to find updates on how he’s doing. The Holy Spirit brings him to mind multiple times each day—and sometimes in the night. So I ask Jesus to heal him. I plead with Him to use this very public situation to glorify Himself and to advance His kingdom. And I ask Him to have mercy on the hundreds of nameless (to me, but not to Him) Africans who are suffering from Ebola.
This isn’t the first time God has assigned me to pray for strangers. There was a season when He asked me to pray for Donald Trump. Another time it was the Pope. Go figure. I really don’t know how God decides who I should be praying for. But when it happens, I know it’s God, and I know I need to follow through. Besides—He puts it on my heart in a way that I couldn’t not pray, even if I wanted to.
Intrigued by all this, I asked some friends if God ever gives them special prayer assignments. Do they ever pray for strangers? Most of them told me rather matter-of-factly that He does. And they do.
A former teacher said that she prays for lost or kidnapped children. Whenever she hears about them in the news, she can’t stop praying for them until they are found. They seem to be her special prayer assignment.
A 20-sometihng told me that God has captivated her heart concerning the thousands of Christians who are fleeing northern Iraq because of persecution.
I knew that another friend had prayed for the 300 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from their school in April. When I asked her yesterday if she was still praying for them, she reminded me that God hasn’t answered yet—so of course she’s still praying!
This same friend also prayed many months for Meriam Ibrahim. Ibrahim is a young mom who was held in a Sudanese prison many months awaiting execution for her Christian faith. God answered that prayer—Ibrahim was released and arrived safely in the United States with her two children last Thursday.
If I were in prison or fleeing my home because of my faith . . . if I had a deadly virus that kills up to 90 percent of its victims . . . if my child were missing or kidnapped . . . I would want others to pray for me! So it makes sense that God would put strangers on the hearts of people He knows He can trust to pray for them. After all, He tells us to “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3). He instructs us to “be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18). And He reminds us that we “know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing . . . sufferings” (1 Peter 5:9).
So I’m curious: What special assignments has God given you? What have they been like for you? Will you post a few words to encourage other readers of this blog?