One unique part of Sowing Seeds of Faith is our prayer ministry. We receive over one hundred requests for prayer from around the world every week through our web site. Four prayer lists are sent each week to several thousand prayer partners who pray and often send emails offering encouragement. I’m often asked: “Larry, where did you get the idea for an email prayer ministry?”
Some say problems have the potential to become opportunities for growth. Well, I had a problem.
Several years ago, I encouraged visitors to our Sowing Seeds of Faith Website to share their concerns through an interactive web page, entitled “Prayer Needs.” Over the next few weeks, I received nearly one hundred requests for prayer from around the world. For example, (Names were changed):
- Alice (Alabama) We are custodial parents of a seven-year-old granddaughter. Now her unfit biological mother is going to file to regain custody and we are devastated.
- Stephanie (California) I am a single mother raising a teenage daughter who just turned thirteen. My church is not offering much support. It’s scary and very lonely sometimes.
- Larry (Canada) I would like to change but I have a hard time obeying God’s Word. I would like to serve him and find happiness. I don’t want to fall back to the world.
- Allison (South Africa) We have been trying to have a child for almost five years. We have been through many doctors and procedures. We conceived once and lost the baby ten weeks later. We were both devastated.
I personally answered each request with encouragement and prayer but every day three to four more letters would arrive. Soon the requests for prayer became overwhelming. Increasingly, I was feeling inadequate to meet all the many prayer needs.
- Nicole (California) I lost my Mom and have a broken heart. She is with Jesus and I should be rejoicing but some days I hurt so much inside. I want to feel joy again.
- Tracy (Peru) I am 33 and mother of a 12-year-old son. My husband was unfaithful and I must file for a divorce. He has no desire to continue being married to me. I am really struggling with why this happened to me. I don’t run around. I’ve been a good wife.
- Patricia (South Carolina) My son is serving a fifteen-year sentence for something he is innocent of. Please ask God to turn his heart. Pray God’s blessings upon him.
- Colleen (Colorado) My friend was badly injured in a terrible car accident. He looks well on the outside but he’s still having memory loss, fatigue, mood swings, etc. He desperately needs help.
I wanted desperately to suggest words of hope articulating God’s love and grace but at this point the person needing help and solid scriptural guidance was… me.
Several respected leaders asked Jesus to come and heal the slave of a Roman officer who was near death. Before they arrived, however, the officer sent friends to meet Jesus who said, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all the land of Israel!” And when they returned the slave was healed. (Parts of Luke 7:6-10)
On the surface, Jesus using a Roman officer as the main character in a lesson about faith makes no sense: Unless that is the lesson… For you see, it was the Roman Officer, not the religious leaders who grasped exactly who Jesus was. “Just say the word from where you are and my servant will be healed.” While the religious experts, the insiders were conducting debates, a religious outsider; a Roman officer went from debates to faith to action.
Bad News: I am the religious insider who neglected to trust in God’s authority. Good News: It’s never too late to ask for help. Boy, did I need help. In other words: I was at a turning point.
Meanwhile, prayer needs continued to arrive by email. (Names changed)
- Marsha (Minnesota) My 20-year-old twin daughters are leaving home. They both suffer with learning disabilities. I pray their co-workers will be patient and help them succeed.
- Holly (Kentucky) My boyfriend has decided to go into the ministry. We are both seeking God’s will for our lives and hope to stay close together.
- Sharon (Canada) My son and his wife and five children. Their house caught fire and they still have no home, as they are low income. Nearly everything was lost.
- Alex (Scotland) Granddaughter has Hodgkin’s disease. She has a growth in her chest, near her heart and has spots and holes in her kidneys…
First: I needed to kick myself, hard. These prayer requests aren’t burdens… far from it. God is giving me a breathtaking opportunity to provide ministry for the needs of others around the world. I clearly must learn how to replace worry over what “I” will do with faith in what “God” can do. After all, people are seeking guidance from God, not me. I am simply being asked to pray.
Once again, God provided a “turning point” in my life. The question is: “What would I do with it?”
With renewed enthusiasm, I began to pray… really pray. When each request flashes across the computer screen, I’m learning to bow my head and say a prayer for their situation now not later. In addition, over six thousand volunteers from all over the world have signed on to join me in prayer. Three times each week we send out a list of prayer needs along with email addresses so along with prayer we can also send emails of encouragement. We have witnessed miracles!
“Thank you Larry – because of you and your cause, you have saved my life of pain and torment. I have received so many messages from folks in your prayer group and I am totally overwhelmed!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I now feel foolish for the stupid thoughts of suicide and know there are many who love and care for me! God bless you for your kindness and love!” — Flo
A thought kept nagging me. “But, what about the church I serve? Shouldn’t they be involved?”
Occasionally on Sunday, during worship, copies of the email requests from around the world are distributed to every member of our congregation. During the following week we agree to pray for those on the list. Soon everyone in the congregation is agreeing to pray for someone else.
No longer are we simply asking God to be active in national and world events. We are praying for real people around the world and their specific needs. One service ended with Communion. As people moved to the altar to receive the bread and cup symbolizing the body and blood of Jesus Christ they brought their email prayer request to the altar and received communion for two.
For us, the time-honored liturgy of Holy Communion took on a new implication, “Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood. By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world.”
What started as a problem became an opportunity for ministry. Those who asked for prayer are discovering answers. Our church has become an excited partner in a new prayer ministry. And me? I’ve changed too. When prayer needs flash across the computer, I’m no longer burdened. I know there is help just waiting to be asked. Isn’t this what being the church is all about?
William Temple wrote: “When I pray, coincidences happen and when I do not, they don’t.”