Lord, tonight I pray for the one who is writing and for those who are reading this, that you will embolden each of us to pray eagerly and generously for all who ask for prayer. Let us not fall back on empty promises to pray, but rather to rise up with courage, insight, and faith on behalf of those around us who are suffering. In Christ’s name, amen.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:13-18 ESV)
It isn’t often that I “Uber” places anymore.
I’m a full-time stay-at-home mother of three (sometimes more). My minivan is my chariot, taking my little brood all over the city of Seattle and beyond. But tonight my family went to a “gender-reveal” party at a restaurant a few miles from our home. Our friends would be learning the sex of the baby they are expecting, and they wanted to be surrounded by loved ones to share the joyful announcement in real time.
Within an hour of arriving, it was obvious that the hike we had taken earlier in the day to Franklin Falls had caught up to two of our kiddos, and they were done long before the “big reveal” would take place. After some brief debate, it was decided that our daughter and I would stay at the party for the duration while my husband took our two boys home to go to bed. Karl left our daughter’s car seat by the hostess table and off he went.
When it was time to leave, I paid the check and scheduled an Uber driver to take us home. When the driver arrived and we loaded the car seat into the back of his car, I heard worship music coming from his speakers. As we got settled and started moving toward home, I asked how his evening was going. “It’s OK,” he said, faltering. Then the next song came on.
“Blessed be the name of the Lord,” I began to sing along quietly with the radio, “Blessed be your name…”
The driver looked at me in the rear view mirror. “You know this song?” he asked. “I do,” I replied, smiling. He asked me if I go to church in the area, and I told him yes, I’m the music director at Mt. View Presbyterian Church in White Center. Then I asked where he worshiped. It turned out that he goes to church with friends of mine in the area.
Once we knew that we were “family,” he shared a bit more with me. Two weeks ago, his teenage daughter was hospitalized, and in the four minutes between when he answered our Uber call and when he pulled up in front of the restaurant, he got a call from his wife at the hospital. His daughter had taken a turn for the worse. He was going to drop us at home and then head down to the hospital. Then, his voice tinged with embarrassment, he said, “If you don’t mind keeping my daughter in your prayers, I would appreciate it.” I heard in his voice faith mixed with pain. He believes in prayer, and he is asking a woman he just met to keep his daughter in prayer.
I started to give a typical “of course! I’ll keep her in my prayers” response, but then I realized how hollow that would likely be. My prayer life is so scattered these days, I barely find/make time to pray for my own kids as much as I should. So instead, I said, “Let’s pray for her now.”
And I began to pray.
My daughter sat quietly beside me in the back seat, listening as I prayed for my driver’s daughter… for her healing, for peace, for restoration, for hope. I prayed for her parents, that they would have faith and peace as they walk through this season with their girl. I prayed for the doctors who are treating her, that they would have wisdom and insight and that she would get the best care possible. And I waged war against the enemy in prayer, praying that no weapon formed against her would prosper, that the hands of the enemy who is bent on killing, robbing, and destroying would be tied, and that every good work that God has started in her would be brought to completion, to the glory of Christ.
I prayed almost all the way home, and when we pulled up in front of our house and said our goodbyes, I felt a strong sense that God’s providence had just enacted a divine encounter.
We just never know what the day will hold.
“Let’s pray now.” These three little one-syllable words said together in that order are three of the most powerful words in the English language. “I’ll pray for you” has a lot of potential, but we all know how empty those words often are. We mean to pray later, of course. But I wonder how many people actually follow through on such promises.
“Let’s pray now.” Yes, it takes courage. A willingness to “go there” in front of a perfect stranger, facing the risk of praying clumsily or making others feel uncomfortable. But let me tell you this: I have never had someone say, “No thanks.” There is tremendous encouragement bestowed when someone hears us praying for them (or their daughter).
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray,” writes James, and, later, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” The call is so simple, yet it has been my experience that very few people, even followers of Christ, take these admonishments seriously.
But it is wise to pray! “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-15 ESV) And Paul, writing to Timothy, said, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…”
Over and over throughout scripture, we see examples of God’s people praying. We hear admonishments to pray. Yet many of Christ’s followers today feel like praying aloud is akin to being asked to speak in a foreign language. We are afraid of saying something stupid. We are afraid of making others feel uncomfortable. We are afraid of… ?
This needs to stop. People need prayer. The encouragement of being prayed for “right now” is immediate, and the bolstering power of prayer lasts long after the words have gone silent and the only sound is the heart monitor beeping late at night in the hospital room.
About a year ago, I went through something emotionally excruciating. In the midst of that period, I was at a meeting with my own pastor and a few other pastors in Seattle. In the hallway, I shared a bit about what I was going through with my pastor, and she asked one other minister present to join us. “Let’s pray now,” they said, and the meeting was interrupted so that these sisters could take me into a small office and pray.
Within moments, I was weeping. Tears were streaming down my face as I felt the combination of encouragement, faith, hope, and empathy swirl around me, carried by their words to God on my behalf. It would have been enough for them to simply say, “We’ll keep this in our prayers.” No one would have expected more. But when they prayer right then and there, I felt heaven and earth move a bit. Even now, over a year later, I am deeply encouraged by the memory of that time of prayer on my behalf.
Next time someone asks you to pray for them or to hold a situation in prayer, resist the urge to say, “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Instead, say, “Let’s pray now.” And then pray. If it’s via email, write out a prayer and send it on. Same as if the prayer request comes via text message. Let’s pepper the atmosphere with real-time prayer for one another and see what God will do!