It has been written that problems have the potential to become opportunities for growth. Well, I had a problem…
Recently, 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. Here are a few examples (Names have been changed and requests were edited):
- Alice (Alabama) We are the 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 (Maryland) 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. I was beginning to feel inadequate to meet the 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.
- (No name) 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 now but he’s still having memory loss, fatigue, mood swings, etc. He desperately needs help.
I wanted desperately to suggest words of hope that would movingly articulate 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.
The Bad News: I am the religious insider who neglected to trust in God’s authority and help readily available.
The Good News: It’s never too late to ask for help. For me, that was a turning point.
Last week, overwhelmed by email requests for prayer, I desperately needed help and scriptural guidance. That’s when I discovered the story of a Roman officer who taught the Jews a lesson in faith, “Just say the word from where you are, Jesus, and my servant will be healed.” (Luke 7:6-10) His trust in Jesus helped me learn that it’s never too late to ask for help. Faith is my willingness to trust in God’s answer. 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 (California) 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 (Virginia) Granddaughter has non-Hodgkin’s, T-cell lymphoma cancer. 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 weren’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. On the Sowing Seeds Ministry website, I asked volunteers to email me at Sowseeds@hovac.com and pray with me. Hundreds have responded. Each week, I email them a list of “prayer needs.
A thought kept nagging me. “What about the church I serve? Shouldn’t they be involved?”
On Sunday, March 5, 2000 our little church in Keysville, Virginia devoted a worship service to healing and prayer. Copies of the nearly 100 email requests from around the world were distributed to every member of our congregation. As each prayer need was read aloud someone holding that particular request would stand and agree to continue praying throughout the week. Soon, every man, woman and child in the congregation was standing and praying for another.
No longer were we simply asking God to be active in national and world events. We were praying for real people around the world and their specific needs. Somehow our prayers became more significant. The worship service ended with Holy Communion. Groups of people moved to the altar to receive the bread and cup symbolizing the body and blood of Jesus Christ. But this time, each person brought their email prayer requests 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 soon became an exciting opportunity for growth and ministry. Those who asked for prayer are already noticing changes and discovering answers. Our church is excited about being an active partner in a new prayer ministry. And me? I’ve changed too. When new prayer needs flash across the computer screen, I’m not burdened anymore. I finally realize there is plenty of 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.”