The longer I am a Christian, the more I discover the power of what I call the ministry of prayer. It seems as though praying is a difficult thing for most people to do. According to one professor, quoting statistics from a prayer conference, those in attendance (lay men and women) prayed an average of five minutes a day. The ministers did some 40% better. They prayed seven minutes a day. Take into account that these men and women were at a conference on prayer and you start to get the picture of how little most people pray.
No, I am not going to pontificate on our need to pray more often and more regularly. I am certainly not the person to say that even if I do believe it. However, what I have called the ministry of prayer is just that–a ministry. Yes, we should set aside time for personal prayer each day. Yes, we should set aside time for family prayer each day. Yes, we should set aside time for corporal prayer in church each week. But, that is not all.
On the flip side, we should be ready for spontaneous prayer at any moment. When you are walking around the house and you see a picture of someone, you might say a quick prayer. When you are driving, you might say a quick prayer for those next to you on the highway. When you are at a restaurant, you could pray for your waitress. You get the picture.
What I have found is that this helps to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. I am one of those that believes he means pray all day and all night. I believe Paul is telling us to live such a life of prayer that everything we do, from getting dressed to going to bed, is bathed in prayer.
Prayer as a Ministry
This leads me to a sort of pet-peeve of mine. Have you ever told someone you would pray for them only to either forget about what you were going to pray for or, worse, not pray for them? I know I have…a lot. I would get so mad that I forgot that I would actually blame God for letting me forget. Talk about a snowball of sin! I had to do something about this so as to no longer sin against everyone and God.
Now, when I say I am going to be praying for someone, I will usually stop (if able) and pray with that person immediately. There have been many times where I have stood in the middle of a parking lot or a hallway or classroom praying with someone over a particular issue. One of the neatest moments is when I asked a waitress if I could pray for her while blessing the meal. She joined my table while we prayed and then sat and listened as I explained the gospel to her. Unfortunately, I do not know what has become of her. Only God knows that. However, prayer led to a gospel message. How cool is that?
I have noticed at least three by-products from doing this. First, I am much more likely to remember what I was supposed to be praying for as well as for whom I was praying. Second, others have seen this take place and have offered to pray as well. I figure the more prayer the better. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you minister most effectively to the person’s soul when you pray for them immediately. Most people take it with a grain of salt when you tell them you will pray for them, but if you do so immediately, and with them, they usually leave much more encouraged and ready to face whatever it is they will be facing.
I am not going to sit here and challenge you to go live a life of prayer (we should be doing that already) or to begin praying for every person you run into. However, I would like you to consider the magnitude of prayer. When you pray, you approach the throne of God on someone else’s (or your own) behalf. Is there anything more honorable than that? Most people would love to plead the case of a good friend in trouble to someone who could help them. We should be more urgent in pleading these cases to the only One who can help all of us.