By Frank Barker. People frequently make prayer requests of us. So many, in fact, that we tend not to take them as seriously as we should. I think of some requests I received recently:
…a mother asking that I pray for her wayward son
… a missionary, for the Gospel to penetrate his area
… a minister’s wife, for her discouraged husband
… a grandfather, for his seriously ill Granddaughter
… a wife, for her marriage
When Jesus Made a Prayer Request
Matthew tells us of an occasion when Jesus made a prayer request. At Gethsemane He said to Peter, James and John, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). R.C. Trench says Jesus uses a remarkable word that points to an unfathomable depth of anguish. Mark’s term is that he was “sore amazed.” He wanted human comfort, companionship. His hand, in the darkness, gropes for the hand of a friend. He asked that they pray for Him.
He then made a request of the Father: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (vs. 39). What is the cup of which He is speaking? Hugh Martin in his classic, The Shadow of Calvary, writes:
That curse of God, from which he came to redeem his elect people-the penal desertion on the cross-–the withdrawal of all comfortable views and influences-and the present consciousness of the anger of God against him as the surety, substitute … these were the elements mingled in the cup … which was now to be put into his hands: and the prospect caused him deadly sorrow! Christ is disappointed in His disciples’ response.
“And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (vs. 40-41).
The flesh, human nature, is weak. He was experiencing the weakness of His own human nature and theirs was fallen. He says: “You need to watch and be constantly vigilant against anything that would trip you up. Be vigilant against slothfulness in prayer especially. Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation!”
A little later they defected! They were sleeping when they should have been praying. Meanwhile He has peace, having been strengthened in answer to prayer.
Prayer for Others is Crucial
From this story we can see that prayer for others is crucial. Jesus requested such prayer for Himself! Paul requested prayer for himself, “brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25). James tells us to “Pray for one another” (5:16).
God, on occasion, leads in such prayer, laying burdens on our hearts that He would have us pray for and then giving unusual indication of its effectiveness. Oswald Sanders in his book, Prayer Power Unlimited, tells of Mrs. Ed Spahr being awakened at midnight burdened for missionary Jerry Rose in Dutch New Guinea working among stone-age culture people. She prayed and the next morning wrote a letter telling of it. Later it was learned that he received prayer letters from five prayer partners in five continents saying they prayed for him on that specific occasion. When the dateline and time span were adjusted, it was seen that they all prayed at the same time-the very time Jerry was standing with his arms tied behind his back and a “stone-age” savage was standing before him with a spear ready to pin him to the ground.
As five prayer partners on five continents prayed, another man in the tribe (there were no Christians at this time) spoke to the man and he walked away. As we can see, this was, in a sense, God requesting prayer from these five for Jerry Rose.
How Can We Encourage Taking Prayer Requests Seriously?
We can encourage it in others by giving opportunity for making such requests. On Saturday mornings we have a men’s prayer breakfast at our home. We distribute lists of things to pray for, but when we break up into smaller groups we tell the men to share with each other prayer requests. In a group you’ll say: “Bill, what can we pray for you?”
Bill responds,”I lost my job.”
“George, what about you?”
“Praise God! I got that contract you fellows prayed about!” George exclaims.
Sam says,”My son is on drugs.”
Well, believe me, you pray for each other in such an environment, and you cry for each other, too.
At our early morning prayer meeting at the church, we spend the last fifteen minutes in small groups praying for each other. Some of our Sunday school classes do similarly. Many churches have telephone prayer chains to handle prayer requests.
To encourage yourself to take such prayer requests seriously, try the following. First, if possible, pray with the person right when the request is made whether over the phone or if the person is with you. Second, right then write the request down in your appointment book (I have a section in the back for such requests). Third, have time in your prayer schedule for praying about such things.
Something that has been helpful to me is to arrange my prayer time letting the different days form an acrostic. On Monday M stands for Ministers and Marriages; O for Other Evang