I haven’t cared like I should. During prayer the other morning, I remembered a photograph of a young lady from a missionary’s recent prayer letter. I had written her name on my list, so I dutifully breathed her name to God and moved on to the next item. Minutes later I was struck with a sobering thought. This person meant as much to me as a stock photo. Her story was so compelling that the missionaries had highlighted her spiritual need and specifically asked for prayer, and I was no more concerned for her than for a piece of clip art.

S.D. Gordon writes in Quiet Talks on Prayer, “A man may go aside to-day, and shut his door, and as really spend a half-hour in India … for God as though he were there in person.” I have visited missionaries in person in their countries. I have seen them invest countless hours to have a spiritual impact on people like the young lady in the letter. Still, on this particular morning my thoughts were unfocused, and my prayers were ineffective. I was certainly not praying in the spirit of James 5:16.

So how can you move from mere dutiful prayer to effectual, fervent prayer? Honestly, I’m still learning that. Here are a few ideas I’m starting to apply.

  1. Visit a missionary on the field. Get to know some of the fruit of their labor. When a prayer letter mentions someone I have met, that connection highlights for me the importance of the request. By remembering those I have met, I can use that bond to learn to care for someone I have not met.
  2. Consider a friend or family member experiencing the same trouble. If he is unsaved, recall an unsaved loved one. If they are having marital problems, remember friends facing divorce. While problems may express themselves differently in different cultures, our core human needs and challenges are fairly universal. Understand the need locally and you’ll be able to pray for someone remote.
  3. Imagine her laughing, talking, or crying. Remember that this “soul” is a person. I’m not sure why, but the word “soul” feels inanimate to me. Yes, I understand that the soul is the most real, most alive part of the person, but that doesn’t help me feel it. If I am going to pray fervently for someone, I need to see them as a person.
  4. Practice. Paul exhorts us to “…exercise thyself … unto godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7) Be deliberate about daily fervent prayer, and allow God to soften your heart for those you don’t know.

Praying fervently for people I’ve never met is still a challenge for me. When you read a missionary letter requesting prayer for one of their people, how do you pray an effectual, fervent prayer and intercede for them? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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