It happens every Wednesday. Like clockwork. Reliable as ever.
I get a text message from a pastor in Sydney with the prayer he has just prayed for me that morning.
Over the years, I have had many people say they pray for me regularly … I’ve come to rely on them. I need them.
He’s been doing it for years. I’m not entirely sure why he decided to pray for me specifically. He had been an intern of mine when he was studying at Morling College, and we have served together in the establishment of a network of churches in Western Sydney. But his decision to pray for me, following the promptings of the Holy Spirit every single Wednesday for years, well, that’s pure grace.
There are times that I genuinely question why God has been so good to me and why I have had just a blessed ministry, when I’m definitely not the holiest person or even close to being the most worthy of God’s special favour.
I’ve come to suspect that the protection and unction of God’s Spirit upon me is in no small measure due to the selfless and unseen ministry of those people who have prayed for me so faithfully.
Over the years, I have had many people say they pray for me regularly. I covet those prayers. I’ve come to rely on them. I need them.
I feel like the Apostle Paul, the “chief of sinners” who begged his readers to ‘… pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.’ (Ephesians 6:18-20)
But my friend Mark is the only one who actually sends me his written prayers. That means I have a saved back catalogue of God’s words to me. That’s pretty extraordinary, eh? So, this week I scrolled back through his text messages, recounting the trajectory and content of his prayers. They brought me to tears.
I share here just a few of Mark’s prayers for me throughout this most miserable of years, 2020, a year of darkness and death.
I begin with his prayer on Wednesday, January 1.
Hi Mike. I prayed this for you as you enter 2020: Gracious Heavenly Father, I thank you for Mike who pours out his life for others as he seeks to live out the example and calling of Christ to ‘serve, not be served and lay down his life as a ransom for many.’ It won’t be by his ‘might, nor by his power, but by your Spirit says the Lord.’ Holy Spirit I ask you to strengthen him for the task ahead this year, this decade. I pray Holy Spirit you will gift him where needed, counsel him as he asks, bear your fruit in his life no matter the circumstances he faces and fill him afresh as needed. I pray Lord that his life will not just be acts of service but life of intimacy as well. I pray that he will experience Jesus remaining in him as he remains in you. I pray that he will know Jesus as a friend and not just be in the posture of a servant. I pray that his life will bear much fruit giving glory to you Heavenly Father. I pray father most of all, personally, he will know that He is loved by you Lord.
How could he, or I, know what 2020 was yet to bring. To be reminded that he had prayed that I would bear fruit “no matter the circumstances,” months before those circumstances turned out to be a calamitous global pandemic and associated economic depression simply floored me.
Then in February, Mark prayed…
Hi Mike. I prayed for you to experience fresh delight in the Lord as you serve him. To experience God giving you your hearts desire. I prayed this promise to be your experience. ‘Take delight in the Lord , and he will give you your heart’s desires.’ Psalm 37:4
Hi Mike. I was prompted to pray that you would have a ‘mustard seed ministry’. That as you invest in all sorts of places that large expressions of God’s grace would bring his presence. These words came to mind. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.’ Matthew 13:31-32
In so many ways, I’ve felt that the pandemic of 2020 has reduced my ministry, culling all my travels and reducing my influence. Here was God preparing me to see even the smallest efforts as seed for his kingdom. Then in March, as the pandemic was really taking off in China, South Korea, and, oddly, Italy, Mark prayed this:
Hi Mike. As I have fasted and prayed I have found myself praying for the pressures you are facing, the giants that are pressing you both personally and as you serve in the Kingdom. I have used these words of Hudson Taylor to pray for you drawing you close to God’s heart. ‘It does not matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where the pressure lies — whether it comes between you and God, or whether it presses you nearer His heart.’
The giants that are pressing in on you? What an image for this year!
Hi Mike. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to give you creativity in your influence at this time. Personally, ‘I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Romans 15:13. I pray that you will be a non-anxious presence on social media.
Hi Mike. I prayed for you and your family this morning to be protected from sickness as you navigate this season. I prayed for calm, compassionate, and clear leadership for you at the moment where you need to lead. I prayed for you to have fresh connection with these words. ‘For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.’ Philippians 4:13
Hi Mike. I read these words and thought how ministry, mission, home and work can feel very fragile right now. I prayed that our fragility would only enhance God’s power. I prayed this would be your experience. ‘We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.’ 2 Corinthians 4:7. On another note – I agree with some of your posts on how this time could dangerously make the church even more Sunday-centric. I am praying and working with our pastors to look for missional moments and not get seduced by ‘likes’ and ‘views.’ Many are doing a great job listening to the Lord right now.
Hi Mike. I had this prayed for me by one of my intercessors and I am praying it forward to you as you seek God’s leading. I prayed you would wear God’s clothes. I have prayed today Colossians 3:12-14: So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, be content, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Live Loved, live Love.
Hi Mike. I prayed for fresh motivation in life for God and his purposes for you. I am praying these words for everyone this week as we enter the second half of the year. I prayed for this reality for all of us and a journey of renewed strength for you. ‘So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.’ Hebrews 12:12
Take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. That’s a word for those of us in the midst of a global pandemic.
I can’t say I fully understand intercessory prayer. But I believe the apostle James when he wrote, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) And I’m so, so grateful to have a righteous person praying for me every Wednesday morning.
So, let me challenge you, as I challenge myself also: for whom are you interceding like this? Who have you committed to pray for every week? And could your encouragement for that person be enhanced even more by you actually sending them the prayer God prompted you to pray?
In these difficult times we all need all the encouragement and empowering we can get.