“I can’t pray for everyone”

If I kept a list of all the things people ask me to pray for, I’d have several binders full by now, and it would take me hours every day to pray for them all.

But people keep loading more prayer requests on me! “Please remember us in your prayers” is the favourite expression, and usually at the end of another heart-breaking story. I feel awful if I don’t do a quick prayer, but how effective is that? Surely, I need to pray longer, but how can I pray longer when there are hundreds of requests just like theirs, and just as heart-breaking?

I can’t pray for everyone, so should I be selective, praying only for those I know, or only for those that touch me the most? And what exactly am I praying for, anyway? Am I praying for all their pains to be removed, or simply for the strength to endure? And how do I know what God wants in their situation? I have no idea. So how do I pray to be effective?

I thought of the crippled man begging Peter and John for money in Acts 3:2-3, another heart-breaking situation. And Peter’s reply? “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you (verse 6).” And what did Peter have to give? The name of Jesus Christ: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” he told the cripple, “walk.” And the lesson for anyone reading this? Verse 16, “It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him.”

Peter knew that a call on Jesus’ name would take care of the man’s need – completely. And how long did that call take? About 10 seconds. Clearly, then, it’s not the time spent calling on Jesus that determines my effectiveness, it’s knowing and believing what a call on Jesus’ name does. It carries the power to bring exactly what a person needs – in full.

Like Peter, when someone asks me for help, I don’t have much to offer, either. My mind’s on other things, other needs, and with most prayer requests I have no idea what’s best for the people asking, so I’m most likely praying distracted and for certain praying blind! But I know from Peter’s example that a prayer in Jesus’ name, even if it’s only a few seconds, is guaranteed to help that person walk, as completely in whatever situation they’re in, as the cripple walked.

It’s not the time, it’s the name, and knowing the power and the love that name carries: when Jesus’ name is called upon it’s a guarantee of needs met – completely.

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The power of patience

She drove at 50 in the 60 zone, sped up to 60 in the 50 zone, and then slowed down to 40 when the traffic light ahead turned green, so by the time we both got to the light, it was red again. “Give me strength,” I muttered, as I ground to a halt behind her.

It was all quite normal for her, I imagine. She probably drives like that all the time, but I’m a Christian so I’m supposed to be patient, right? But why? Why is it so important to be patient?┬áBecause patience changes people. When Paul realized God’s patience, for instance, it blew him away. “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man,” he writes in 1 Timothy 1:13, but, he continues, “I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” So had that lady driver, right? She didn’t think there was anything wrong with her driving. In reality it was horrible, and how she passed her driving test is beyond belief, but here’s where the power of patience comes in, because when it dawned on Paul how terrible he’d been and he realized how patient God had been with him, it totally changed him.

“Here is a trustworthy saying,” he writes in amazed response to God’s patience. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst” (just like that lady driver!) “But,” verse 16, “for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience.”

How could Jesus do that, be so patient when Paul had been so bad? It had an enormous impact on Paul. “Now to the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God,” he writes with flourish, “be honour and glory for ever and ever.” What “an example (Jesus had shown through him) for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” No matter how bad our sin is, Jesus has the patience to bear it.

And seeing patience like that changed Paul. Do I carry that kind of power with me if I’m patient too, then? Yes, 2 Corinthians 4:10-12, because that’s what I’m here for, “so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” When I’m patient with a lousy driver, it’s a perfect illustration of Jesus’ endless patience, and when people see his patience that’s when they “believe on him and receive eternal life,” 1 Timothy 1:16.

Patience has the power to change people, maybe not their driving, unfortunately, but at least their view of God.