“How can I pray for you?” How many times over the years have faithful friends asked me that question. To be honest, it often put me in a bit of a quandary. Shall I share extremely personal needs, trusting that they will be held in confidence? Or, do I explain that my day-to-day needs are similar to women everywhere? (With cultural variations, of course.)
One of the ways my husband and I have reaped rich prayer rewards as we’ve prepared for short term mission opportunities has been through sending a detailed calendar of our “proposed” itinerary. You know, of course, why I use the word “proposed”: Robert Burns said it this way, The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, or more profound and biblical, In their hearts human beings plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9 TNIV)
While using our accurate-as-possible timetable of events and activities, friends have specifically partnered with us in ministry through prayer. By using their “sacred imagination”—i.e., one informed by the Holy Spirit—they can sense when we might need renewed energy or relational wisdom or logistical abilities. In a very real sense, they are “with” us no matter how divided we are by miles and hours even though they may be unaware of specific details. Instead of a bless-the-missionaries prayer time (God knows the details so even that is important), new spice and vitality is added.
This week I’ve been praying for a team from our church ministering in Egypt. A calendar such as I’ve described gives excellent information about what they—many who are personal friends—are doing. Or at least what is planned. The other day, for example, they celebrated the Orthodox Christmas and I prayed that they would be absolutely soaked with joy. Imagine: two Christmases in the space of just two weeks! Today they donned work clothes to labor alongside Habitant for Humanity brothers and sisters: I asked that electric tools work well and fingers and toes be protected.
But two other very practical exercises were part of my prayer plan this week. First, I checked the time in Egypt: eleven hours ahead of my Mountain Time here in Colorado so before I drift off to sleep each night, I pray that they are awakening well rested and ready for the busy day ahead. But I’ve added this one fun aspect to my praying. With the internet I easily discovered current weather conditions in Egypt. How nice that most of their time in the Cairo area will find them enjoying weather in the high 60’s and 70’s (F). Great temperatures for building that house! But as they travel to another part of the country, I see that temperatures will be higher and I pray that they will adjust quickly to the change.
With imagination and willingness to be involved at a deeper level with people in ministry, new vitality—spice!—can be added to our prayer life.