Praying for those we haven't met
Let’s face it. Praying for God’s help is awkward when you’re not intimately involved in the situation. Whether it’s request for prayer from a good friend, a family member, or even a total stranger…we often don’t know what to say to God about it. I mean, He’s God, after all…shouldn’t He know what they need more than I do? How does my few moments of a mumbled, semi-sympathetic prayer really help anyone else?
Yet we often feel the same way even when we are praying for someone we do know. When someone we love and care about – even those we deeply care about – are in another town and not in our day-to-day lives, how do we pray for them? Again, it just feels awkward because God knows what’s going on better than I do.
In both these cases, I usually end up praying something like “God…please help them with their…stuff…they’re going through. I pray that they rely on You. Amen.” If I’m honest, that kind of prayer leaves me feeling rather unsatisfied and wondering if I have just wasted my time – and maybe God’s, too.
The Apostle Paul came in contact with thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people over the known world as he spread the good news about Jesus and ministered to those who believed on Him for eternal life. However, Paul didn’t talk to everyone. There were churches started in other towns by others who were also spreading the gospel.
At some point during his journeys, Paul met a man named Epaphras. Biblical evidence suggests that he was from the town of Colossae, which was about 100 miles inland from Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey. Although Epaphras was away from his hometown while he was ministering with Paul, the believers in Colossae were always on his heart. His prayers for them were full of passion and concern…so much so that Paul also joined Epaphras in prayer, and then wrote the believers in Colossae a letter of encouragement and teaching.
Before we jump into Paul’s letter, stop and think about the situation. Epaphras hadn’t been in recent contact with the Colossae church (no phones or email) and Paul has never met them. Certainly Epaphras gave Paul some ideas on what he could be praying…but what, specifically, would he say to God? What would you say? Or to ask a question that might be even more daunting – What would you write to believers who are total strangers to you? What reason would you give that would convince them that your advice is worth listening to?
Here’s what Paul had to say about his reasons for writing the letter:
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding, and have the knowledge of God’s mystery – Christ. In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.
Paul’s aim is to encourage believers, even those he hasn’t come in direct contact with. He desires for all believers to walk confident in their understanding, knowledge, and relationship with Christ. There is much to learn from his example and from what he desires to teach the Colossian church.
For now, let’s ask God to show us how to be an encouragement to others – even those we haven’t met.