It seems to be a Western mind-set that conditions us to only pray for people when we can immediately see their physical need. This leads to prayers that concentrate primarily on healing, financial help, ‘as-smooth-as-possible’ outcomes for those we’re praying for. These are all good things but let’s try and take our praying to the next level!
John Piper once said
“It’s simply staggering that God – the sovereign ruler of the universe – would ordain that prayers cause things to happen that would not happen if you did not pray”
Simply emphasising the privilege of prayer, in light of a God who controls everything, shows how powerful it is. God is the one backing our prayers because he wants to use them as a way to bring about His purposes on earth! Surely this should stir us to pray with a wider lens!
When we look at scripture and particularly the prayers of the Apostle Paul, we can actually begin to see how we can pray for people all over the world despite us not knowing them. Let’s have a look…
Colossians 1:3-4 says
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints”
At this moment, Paul is in prison and the fact that he writes to the Church because he’d “heard of [their] faith in Christ Jesus”, suggests that he’d never met the people in Colossae! But nevertheless he was praying and thanking God for them!
Praying broadly is clearly biblical and that’s an absolute reason to do it – but how? The likelihood is we still have this hurdle of not knowing anyone particular and therefore not knowing what to pray for. Let’s look again at the scriptures…
Paul goes on to say in Colossians 1:9-10
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
In simple terms, although Paul has never made any physical acquaintance with the Colossian Church, he still knows what to pray for and it’s that the believers would get to know God more! Paul wants the Colossian Christians to grow in their faith and lets them know he’s praying that they would have the determination to pursue the things that accomplish just that!
SO, when you attempt to pray for people you don’t know, lean on these things as well as the things you might know about them! Paul prays for the spiritual needs of the believers and that’s something we can learn from when praying for known and unknown people! If we’re not praying for a person’s salvation, we should be praying for their on-going walk with Jesus!
One way to put these important aspects into practise is to pray for overseas missions! As a charity, MAF serve some of the most isolated people groups all over the world and we encourage our supporters to pray for the work using our prayer diary! Why not request one?