Have you ever promised someone, “I’ll pray for you” …and then forgotten to do it? I have! Sometimes, I say that I’m going to pray for someone…but amid the busyness of life and ministry…I forget! Then a day later…I think of that person for whom I was going to pray…and my face turns red! So…I decided to adopt three habits that help me keep my promise. Maybe you will consider trying these habits too!
Habit #1. Get Specific. When I ask someone if they would allow me to pray with and for them, I ask them specifically what they’d like me to pray for. The specificity of their request has helped me enormously. Instead of offering “a general prayer” for someone, my prayer is in tune with the desires of their heart. And, when they give me something specific to pray for, I feel commissioned by them to pray… and I remember to do it! I also write their request down…that helps too! ☺
Habit # 2. “A Prayer Bundle.” One of my spiritual practices is to keep a daily prayer bundle of people for whom I pray. Here is how it works. I pray for some people every day… my wife, two sons, two daughters in law and our grandchildren as well as the members of our Macedonian Ministry staff team and other friends. They are in my daily prayer bundle no matter what. And, I sometimes ask one or more of them specifically, “where do you need prayer right now? “They always seem to appreciate my asking. In addition, if I am working with a pastor on their preaching, leading a retreat for a church, or meeting with a cohort of Macedonian Ministry pastors, I put them in my prayer bundle. And… I take people in and out of my bundle as circumstances change.
Habit # 3. Checking in. I check in with the person for whom I am praying and I ask them about the specific things for which they asked me to pray. That way, I not only update my prayer bundle, but it reminds me to pray for them. I may send the person a text, an email, or give them a quick phone call to check in. Checking in means a lot to people…and to me!
When I mentioned my “prayer bundle” concept at a retreat recently, two men introduced themselves to me whose lives have been radically changed by prayer. Bob and Jim had been roommates in college. After spending several years in the business world, without keeping in touch, they met again in an MBA program. After getting their business degrees, they both moved to Washington D.C., got married, started families, and have significant careers in our nation’s capital. Although their lives were quite similar, there was several major differences…Bob was a person of faith who had admitted the fact that he was an alcoholic and was getting help…while Jim was not a person of faith and, to be honest, he had not yet faced his drinking problem.
In a time of crisis, Jim reached out to Bob for help…knowing that Bob was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. As Bob shared the brokenness of his life with Jim, and how he painfully came to the realization that he was powerless over alcohol… Jim realized that he had called the right friend. Jim shared his pain with Bob…pain that he had not shared with anyone. For the first time in his life Jim said these words…and meant them…” I am an alcoholic.” That very night, Bob took Jim to his first A.A. meeting. As they talked after the meeting Jim said to Bob, “Now comes the hard part. I have to go home and tell my wife.” Jim had actually tried telling her a few years earlier, but the words wouldn’t come. “ .
Bob asked, “When are you going to tell her?” Jim said, “I think I’ll tell her after we take the kids to school tomorrow morning. Bob said, “Jim, is there any time that you will be alone between now and then?” Jim said, “The only time that I will be alone between now and telling her is when I get into the shower in the morning.” Bob said, “What time is that?” Jim said, “I can set my watch by it. I get into the shower at 10 minutes of 7:00 every morning.” Bob said, “Ok, when you get into the shower and the water pours down on your face, imagine that the water is the healing power of God. I know you have doubts about the God thing…I understand that…but trust me that whoever God is will be there to give you the words to say to Ann. And, remember…I will be praying for you at exactly 10 minutes to 7:00.”
The next morning at 10 minutes of 7:00, the water came down on Jim… and nothing special happened. No lightning bolts… no voice from God. However, Jim did feel an inner assurance that he was doing the right thing by being honest with his wife. When he stammered out the words that he was an alcoholic… Ann got up from the table, came right over to Jim, and hugged him. She said, “Honey… I’ve known this for a long time, but I didn’t know whether you knew it.” Ann had been secretly going to Al-Anon meetings for spouses of alcoholics, but now Jim and Ann could face this challenge together. For the first time in his life Jim thought … “there may be a God.”
At the retreat, Jim told me that he believes in God…and he has been free of alcohol for over two years. He is starting to feel much better, but he knows that he has to say “no” to alcohol… one day at a time! Jim also told me that the key moment for him was when Bob told him that he was going to pray for him at 10 minutes of 7:00! These men have been praying for each other at 10 minutes of 7:00 each morning for the past two years. They pray and check in about everything…their lives, their marriages…their roles as fathers… their careers. Everything.
The truth is that they are in each other’s prayer bundles! They did not know what to call their practice…and I gave them a name for it…prayer bundles! That’s why when I mentioned this at the retreat, they were eager to tell me their story. And, they wanted to tell me why it is so meaningful to them to meet every morning….at 10 minutes of seven…in their hearts! Tell me….do you have a prayer bundle?