Prayers in an Empty
by Lygia Lovelace
Every summer, when we get out
our little plastic pool, we think of Mr. Steve. He was our
mailman for many years in Texas. He would often see the
children out playing or walking and stop to talk to them.
He's a believer, and he always had a ready smile and a word
of encouragement for any of us. Many times he ate his lunch
parked in front of our house. And one day, when Jonah told
Mr. Steve that he, too, wanted to be a mailman, Mr. Steve
gave Jonah a mailman's patch for his sleeve….
So what does Mr. Steve have
to do with a plastic pool? You see, every summer, we felt
sorry for him. He would drive in his UNair-conditioned mail
truck, delivering mail. He would also walk up and down our
neighborhood streets in his hot mailman's uniform. His face
at times would be purple with sweat and heat. Our children
would bring him water bottles when they saw him pass.
One day, the heat was just
too much for him. As he drove by our house, he saw the children
out playing in our little plastic pool. He slammed on the
brakes of his mail truck and jumped out at full speed. The
children stopped their swimming to watch him.
"LOOK OUT! HERE I COME!"
yelled Mr. Steve, as he ran full-speed into the yard. The
kids squealed with delight as they dashed out of the pool.
Our sweaty mailman pulled off his mail hat and stuck his
whole head down in our little plastic pool, drenching his
face and head with cool water!
Then, he put his hat back on,
ran back to his truck, waved, and drove away.
Mr. Steve's head drenching
became a habit after that. Often the kids would put fresh
water in the pool just before they knew Mr. Steve would
This year, when we got out
our little plastic pool in St. Louis, Missouri, Grayson
thought about our Texas mailman. "I wonder how Mr.
Steve's doing," she wondered out loud. As I thought
of him, I felt compelled to pray for him.
Do you pray for others?
The apostle Paul said often
in his letters to the believers:
pray for us. (I Thessalonians 5:25)
also for me…(Ephesians 6:19)
brothers, pray for us…(II Thessalonians 3:1-2)
me in my struggle by praying to God for me…(Romans
You see, Paul knew the importance
of prayer. There's something about lifting others up to
the throne of God that lifts us up as well. And it is certainly
God's will that we intercede for others. We are invited,
encouraged, and even commanded to partner with the
Father in this way.
We do something in our church
on Sunday mornings called prayer circles. During each Sunday
morning worship service, we take time out to form small
groups of five or six people. One by one, each person from
the small group is asked to express a need or to share a
prayer request. The next few moments are then spent praising
our Father and bringing these requests before Him.
Watching others' reactions
to these prayer circles has been interesting. I've seen
people moved to tears as little groups of our church family
have encircled them and prayed for them. And one lady a
couple of weeks ago, as Ken was announcing our prayer circles,
jumped from her seat and vaulted to the door. The closeness,
or perhaps the invasiveness, was evidently too much for
her. We spent our own prayer circle time that morning praying
Once during our prayer time,
a woman asked for prayer for her 3 sons.
"All of them need a job!"
I ventured to ask, "Do
they know the Lord?"
"Well, no…" she responded.
Isn't it true that in our conversations
with the Father, we must not forget to make "the main
thing the main thing"? More than a job, these boys
need a Savior!
So when you bow your head to
pray, do you think eternally? Are you praying, according
to His Name? (In other words, are you living and praying
according to His will?) Do you see this person in need as
God sees him or her? God's heart and will are in eternity.
What if someone asks for prayer
for some sickness -- this seems to be the most common type
of prayer request. How do you pray? Do you pray that God
would physically heal this person, as quickly as possible,
or do you pray that in whatever God chooses to do in the
illness, that He would bring salvation, or comfort and grace
and GROWTH to this individual?
What about if someone asks
prayer for a family member who is suffering through the
death of a loved one? Do you think of this person's spiritual
condition before any other problem in his or her life? God
does. What about when this person dies? Is he
a child of God? Are her feet in eternity?
Do you know the story of the
paralyzed man and Jesus? Several of the Gospels mention
this man's plight (Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26).
There is much to learn from this man's affliction in regard
First of all, the man's
friends brought him to Jesus. Was the man willing to
go to Jesus, or was he just a captive participant, unable
to walk away? We can't be completely sure, but each of the
Gospel writers do say,
Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic,
"Son, your sins are forgiven."
This man -- obviously precious
to his friends -- was healed because of THEIR faith. Was
Jesus including the paralyzed man's faith in this statement?
Well…maybe, and maybe not.
Do I mean that praying for
others, in faith, truly helps them? Of course! These friends
clearly went to a lot of trouble in their desire to help
their friend. It was inconvenient! It was hard work! It
But they persevered and presented
this man to Jesus.
Because of their faith,
Jesus healed him.
Do you pray in faith? Do you
truly intercede for others? Do you care? Are you willing
to go to all the trouble? It's true! Intercession is inconvenient,
exhausting, and time consuming. But because of your faith,
your loved one can receive the best treatment ever -- whatever
the Father determines. And that is the most you can
There is another aspect of
this story that begs to be understood. When Jesus determined
to heal this man, because of the faith of his friends, what
did He heal? Did Jesus say, "OK, your legs are healed,
get up and walk?" No, not yet. Jesus healed this man's
most pressing need first. Jesus said,
"Son, your sins are
Jesus knew that the man's spiritual
illness was his most pressing need. When Jesus looks
at someone, He is looking at the possible illness within,
not the sickness without. The illness within -- choosing
to live life in sin, and without Jesus -- is always terminal.
If Jesus had stopped there,
not healing the man of his paralysis, would it have been
Yes, it would have been enough.
Would the man's friends have thought so? Would you?
You see, sometimes God's healing
is just different than what we expect. If we are praying
for God's best, and praying in Jesus' Name, then we can
rest (and even rejoice) in His promises and in His mysterious
ways, no matter what the outcome.
When Grayson came to live with
us, she spoke a different language. She learned our words
quickly, as long as we spoke slowly and clearly. But at
three years of age, she was hesitant and insecure in public.
As I took little Grayson to
her doctor's appointment one morning, I pushed the button
to the elevator of the large office building. I had baby
Jonah in the stroller, and the doctor's office was on the
top floor. We were the only ones waiting to get on the elevator,
and when the doors swung open, Grayson stepped inside, looking
back for me to follow. Before I could even get myself and
the stroller into the elevator, the doors shut hard -- firmly
closing the iron mouth of the elevator -- and Grayson was
quickly launched up to the next floor of the building! My
mouth fell open! I couldn't believe it!
I pounded on the elevator doors.
"GRAYSON!" I yelled.
"GRAYSON, DON'T GET OFF THE ELEVATOR! STAY ON, OK HONEY??
CAN YOU HEAR ME?! STAY THERE!! MOMMY WILL FIND YOU!!"
Over and over I yelled these
words to her as I frantically pushed the down button on
the elevator wall. A crowd began to gather behind me.
I didn't even know if Grayson
was understanding me! What would she do?! I considered taking
Jonah out of the stroller and dashing up the stairs, floor
by floor, but would I make it? What if she DID stay on the
elevator, like I told her to? What if when she got back
down to the ground level, I wasn't there waiting for her!
Could I trust these people standing around me?
What seemed like hours later,
the elevator returned. As the doors opened, I held my breath.
There was little Grayson, a look of shock and abandonment
on her face. Relieved, I scooped her up into my arms. All
she had done was "go through the motions." The
elevator didn't take her anywhere.
Praying without considering
God's will is like this! It's a waste of breath! What is
God's purpose for the one for whom you are interceding?
Do you put thought to your prayers? Are you living a life
pleasing to God so that He will listen to your prayers?
Are your prayers focused? Are they truly meeting the need
that God knows this person has? Or are your prayers going
nowhere -- in an empty elevator with no purpose or destination?
Pray always, on
Pray in His Name…
© 2010. Faith Matters by Lygia Lovelace. All rights