by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
One evening, an older Hispanic man came into the store where I used to work and began to wander around the store, clearly looking for something. After a moment, I came up to him and asked, “Can I help you find something, sir?” He replied, in bent if not broken English, something that sounded to me like “Pray for the mohitos.” “Who,” I wondered, “are the ‘mohitos’ and why should I pray for them?” After a moment, my brain kicked into gear and I realized that the man was saying, “Spray for the mosquitoes.” I showed him where the insect repellent was; he thanked me, made his purchase, and left.
Even though I didn’t get to “pray for the mohitos,” prayer is one of the most powerful tools in the Christian’s spiritual arsenal. James wrote that “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b NRSV). Paul told the Roman Christians to
“. . . perseverein prayer.” (Rom. 12:12b NRSV). And he simply told the Thessalonians to “. . . praywithout ceasing, . . .”(1 Thes. 5:17 NRSV). No matter what the circumstances, even when we can’t do anything else, we can pray. When Paul was in prison, he prayed for his friends (Phil. 1:3-7).
The Holy Spirit Will help us pray, even when we don’t know what to pray for or how. Paul told the Christians in Rome, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26 NRSV). All we have to do is pray for God’s will to be done (Matt. 6:10): God will take care of the rest. Jesus told his disciples, “‘Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.’” (Matt. 21:22 NRSV). If we truly believe, we will receive answers to prayer.
Paul told the Ephesians to “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.” (Eph. 6:18 NRSV). Prayer is vital to our spiritual health. Without regular prayer, we can’t grow. Jude told his readers, “But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit;” (Jude 1:20 NRSV). After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples dedicated themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). Paul prayed for the Corinthians’ spiritual growth (2 Cor. 13:9).
Prayer can be a powerful witness. While Paul and Silas were praying and singing in their jail cell, the other prisoners listened to them (Acts 16:25). Jesus told the people, “‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;’” (Matt. 5:44b-45a NRSV). If we are hurt or offended, instead of responding negatively or lashing out, we can pray for the persons responsible. In fact, if we truly wish to be “children of [our] Father in heaven,” we really have no choice.
The people brought their children to Jesus, so that he could pray for them and lay his hands on them (Matt. 19:13-15). They knew that his prayers could help their children. In the same way, we can offer to pray for others. If they are sick, we can pray for them. If they are troubled, we can pray for them. If they need guidance, we can pray for them. But most important, we can pray for their salvation (Rom. 10:1). Imagine the response of your unsaved friends when you tell them, “I’m praying for you.” They might laugh, they might reject you or tell you not to bother, or they just might decide there’s something to the faith we proclaim.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all—this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument;” (1 Tim. 2:1-8 NRSV.)