First year missionary Zach had had lost sleep over Scott, the student who he met during Fall outreach. We all have Scotts in our life…the ones who indicate they know they need to make changes and that they are even ready but then they disappear! Scott had been on Zach’s heart every day as he called, texted, Facebooked, and looked endlessly for Scott while he walked on campus. Yet, he never connected. About six weeks had passed since Zach and Scott met, and there was no movement. Then, Zach’s Team Director invited Zach and his fellow missionaries to begin praying together every morning for the students they had met on campus. The first morning Zach prayed with his team: “Lord, I met Scott and I don’t know what you want for him, but if you want me to share life with him and introduce him to you more deeply, bring him back into my life. Amen”
The next morning as Zach sat in the chapel for his daily prayer, Scott walked in to the church and sat down in the front row. Scott stayed the full hour all the while Zach sat stupefied that he had not prayed like this sooner.
The work of mission will never be done, at least, not until we see Jesus coming on the clouds in his return to judge the world. Every waking moment we could consider, what can I do next to bring this person closer to God? We could spend every day on campus reaching out to the lost or sharing the vision of evangelization with our disciples. Then, each night we would lie awake in anxiety or concern for what still needs to be done. The reality that comes to light is that we can never fit the sheer volume of work into our measly 24 hour day. Let’s be completely honest about this: “Lord…you have accomplished all we have done.” Is. 26:12
According to Isaiah, we cannot even take credit for the work that we have done. This reality should come to us as a relief. God doesn’t need you! He doesn’t need me! We so desperately need him that we can accomplish nothing without Him. Jesus drives this home: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”
He doesn’t say you can do a bit or get things started or even move things forward one step. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. Nothing, absolutely nothing.
At first we could be a little freaked out by this, but this is a great relief once we adjust our vision just a little.
Here are a few brief reflections that can add some perspective and even excitement about this:
1. This undermines the sin of pride. I am always tempted to think, “Now God can begin to work in this person’s life” when I meet someone new. That’s a lie from Hell. God tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Before he formed them in the womb, he knew them. God has never ceased working out their salvation. When we meet them, He is inviting us to witness what he is doing in their life, sometimes He might even use us…a little.
2. Sometimes the most valuable thing we can do for a person is to pray for them. Actually, prayer is always the most significant, vital, imperative, essential, critical, crucial…take your pick. The one thing prayer never is, is a waste. We like to walk a fine line when we talk about what we are doing in someone’s life and then make sure to add statements like: “But, of course prayer is the most important thing, I’m just saying ….”
3. When we pray, something always happens. Sometimes God pours grace into our lives to be able to accept the outcome of another person’s choice to walk away from God.
4. When we pray, we offer sacrifice to God. We are a priestly people, and the priesthood is all about offering sacrifice to God. We offer our time and mental and emotional investment to God in prayer, so he can do with it as he pleases. If we pray for others, we can help to merit for them graces for conversion, atonement for their sins, and God’s help to see how He is revealing Himself to them.
5. When we pray for others, we acknowledge the reality that God is responsible for the soul of another, and He lets us contribute!
How we pray for others is less important than that we pray for them. Praying truly is the most important activity on mission.
I would love to hear from you:
What are some of the fruits or amazing things that you have seen in the lives of those you have been praying for? (Please be prudent about sharing personal information about someone else online.)
What fruits in your life do you attribute to the fruit of someone’s prayer for you?