A few days ago my dear friend, Ajith Fernando, director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, sent me an e-mail note. In it he wrote, “You are regularly in my prayers.” Attached were some thought provoking reflections he had as he celebrated his 54th birthday. At that point of passage, Ajith had been asking himself the question, “What am I going to do when I am too old to run around; when there is no ‘job’ for me to do?” Like so many of us, he naturally thought of intercessory prayer. However, as his thoughts carried him on, he began to see that praying for people is not a prescription for retirement but an important part of his job description now, like teaching or writing a report or visiting a sick person. Ajith concluded, “It is the most powerful thing I do. (James 5:16) When I finish praying for the day, I have a sense I’ve achieved something.”
This got me to thinking. Intercessory prayer is not just work, it’s hard work. Paul describes Epaphras as “always wrestling in prayer” for the church he helped plant in Colosse. It was sustained spiritual struggle. This sort of perseverance bears fruit. It makes a difference in a marriage and family, at school and at work, in a church and in a nation, as well as in the fulfillment of God’s global purpose. Praying for people is a powerful job every Christian has.
An insurance company in Hong Kong likes to focus on “the power of partnership” in its attention grabbing TV ads. Jesus taught His disciples about “the power of prayer partnership.” “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 18: 19). This is an invitation to and promise of a powerful prayer partnership. The church fully recognizes its importance when sending people out in cross-cultural service overseas and urges members to sign up as prayer partners. Unfortunately, a limited understanding of the role of Christian professional service as it relates to the Great Commission drastically limits the scope of this powerful prayer partnership. Because most do not look upon Christian professionals, or those in the corporate world and business, in civil service or politics, teachers, workers and housewives as being an integral part of the Great Commission, churches don’t ask people to sign up and provide prayer support for them. This is indeed a vast mistake!
Yet these Christians have an incalculable role to play. They go where few full-time Christian workers can enter, and their lives and work touch every stratum of society. Like salt and light they can permeate the whole. The people of Antioch were so impressed by the lives of the new believers among them, they called them “Christians”— little Christs. Paul told the Colossian converts he had not stopped praying for them, “asking God that they would live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work.” (Colossians 1:9-10) Paul knew the power of prayer partnership. We too can experience it as we form prayer groups for mutual intercession, accountability and encouragement. In this partnership we need to include prayer for Christian professionals, businessmen, civil servants, teachers, workers and housewives in our churches; that they will integrate their faith and life so effectively and winsomely that others will be drawn to Christ. Doctors, lawyers, businessmen and people in government and politics are exposed to insidious temptations to compromise biblical, ethical and moral standards. But if we support them in prayer as we do full-time Christian workers, the difference for them, their families and for the advance of the Kingdom would be profound.
When we understand this, it will not be difficult for us to do the same for Christian professionals, people in the corporate world, businessmen, civil servants, teachers, and others who, at personal sacrifice and risk, have left home and serve overseas for the Kingdom.
The Lord has invited us to experience the limitless opportunities of His power in prayer partnership. How will we respond?
This article is reprinted from the MSI Bulletin. Used with permission.
Image credit: Prayers by Sheila, on Flickr.
James H. Taylor III is president of MSI Professional Services. He was born in China, educated at Chefoo Schools, Greenville College, Asbury Seminary and Yale University. He served as founding president of China Evangelical Seminary and general director of OMF International. View Full Bio