“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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