By Cec Murphey
When I was a pastor, nearly every Sunday morning at the end of the service someone approached me to say, “Please pray for me.” Sometimes they followed up with a one- or two-sentence explanation before hurrying out of the building.
I didn’t know if the person truly wanted my prayers or if it was a way of saying, “I’ve got problems, and I want you to know.” Each week, I would struggle over how to best respond to those hurried requests, only to receive more the next Sunday.
One Sunday, a woman named Suzy came up to me and made a similar statement. That time words popped out of my mouth that I knew were the response to the prayer requests that I had been looking for. I said, “Tell me exactly how you want me to pray and for how long.”
A surprised Suzy said she didn’t feel her present job used her talents, she had the opportunity to take a different position, which entailed moving to another city, and she was scared to make the transition. Within the next 30 days she had to decide.
“For the next 30 days, I’ll pray each day for God to show you what to do,” I promised, and I asked her to keep me informed, especially if the situation changed. I have responded similarily to many others in the thirty years since that day with Suzy, and with few exceptions, people have been eager to keep me abreast. They also share exciting and insightful transformation in their lives.
I don’t do that for everyone, but when I sense the person is serious and open, I commit myself to a long-term commitment—a month, six months, or a year of daily prayer for divine guidance. I also make sure each person knows that my commitment is for them to hear from God to find their own answers.
Nothing I’ve ever done for hurting people seems as effective as that simple gesture. They usually respond with statements like this: “No one has ever offered to pray for me every day.”
I often write aphorisms or maxims for myself, and this one came out of those prayer commitments: My role is not to solve others’ problems. My role is to love them while they solve their problems.
Perhaps that sounds simplistic, but I figured out that I’m not wise enough or insightful enough to advise people on how to manage their lives. My commitment to pray is also my way to help them rely on the Holy Spirit to guide as they struggle with issues that tend to overwhelm them. They learn to rely more on the Lord, and I’m encouraged when I hear how God has spoken to them.