For My Friends, Prayer Is Just One ‘Like’ Away


(Spectrumbot) #1

Mervi Kalmus, a pastor in Estonia, opens her heart and steps out of her comfort zone, to make a difference in the lives of her friends.

I am a very private person. I am certainly not one of those people who would constantly post ’Jesus Loves You’ memes or gospel songs on Facebook. Shouting out loud about my beliefs or life circumstances is really not my cup of tea. On the other hand, I am a devoted follower of Jesus and thus, under the jurisdiction of His Great Commission. This inevitably leads to moments when these two aspects of my life clash.

Last September I could sense one of those clashes coming my way. For some time I had had it in my heart to offer my friends an opportunity for prayer. Yet the other, introverted, private part of me thought that I should not rush with it. Maybe the idea would leave if I remained quiet long enough.

It did not leave. I had to pick up my courage and act.

It was a Friday afternoon. I was on a train heading from London to Newbold and finally decided I could not ignore that little voice any more. It somehow helped me that I was on a vacation, away from Estonia, away from my usual surroundings, and away from the very people that I was about to reach out to, and whose criticism could intimidate or even hurt me.

Sitting on the train, I opened my Facebook and wrote to all my Estonian friends. I told them I would take extra time for prayer the next day. If any of my friends wanted me to pray for them personally, they just needed to like my post. If they had any specific prayer request, they could private message me. Then I switched off my phone.

I was a little scared, not knowing what to expect or how to feel about the whole thing. What happened next, I certainly did not anticipate.

Dozens and dozens of people liked and commented on my post, some of them writing me private messages and pouring their hearts out to me. And what a cross-section: young and old, Christians and atheists, close friends and mere acquaintances, straight and gay, housewives and pastors, and everything from students to one of the most acclaimed concert pianists in this country.

People who chose to write to me told me about their struggles. They shared health problems and the burden of singleness, worries about their loved ones or the desire to serve God and His church yet not knowing how to do it.

I read those messages late at night until I cried. The next morning, I dutifully wrote down all 76 names and prayed for each one of them. I was lucky to have a free Sabbath, a luxury a minister rarely has these days, because my private prayer meeting lasted for a half a day.

It was toward Sabbath evening by the time I was done (read: exhausted) with my prayer meeting and wanted to take down my post from the previous evening when I received the most touching message of all. It came from a childhood acquaintance whom I had not seen for some 20 years. She asked if there was still any room in my prayer list and told me she would appreciate my prayers for her one-year-old son waiting for open heart surgery.

She did not know how to pray so she was wondering whether I could help her. “Yes, of course,” I said. “I will pray.”

Phew! It turned out to be one of the hardest prayer battles in my life. I prayed for weeks for this little fellow who had to endure not one but two open heart surgeries and who almost did not come back to us. To this day his mother sends me photos and videos of his recovery and the ‘careless joy’ only little kids can have. I almost think of him as my own son now. While I have not been able to visit this family yet and have never seen this boy face to face, what a day it will be when I finally meet him!

This ’prayer experiment’ which I have later repeated several times (with a lot less anxiety and much more confidence) has taught me some important lessons.

First, it has shown me the general longing in our hearts for someone to care enough to pray for us personally. We — both religious and non-religious — really do have this longing in us and as Christians we do well to remember it.

It has also taught me about the potential and power of social media.

Facebook makes it so easy — can you imagine, a personal prayer just one ‘like’ away! There is no threshold lower than that! I know many of the people I’ve prayed for would not dare to set foot inside a church building, but a ‘like’! That is easy. It is doable.

I have also learned more about the power of prayer than maybe ever before. In the weeks and months following my prayer adventure, I have received many happy and reassuring messages or calls: “Yes, the diagnosis was better than feared,” “This situation has solved,” “that problem has been taken care of.” “Thank you, thank you.”

Of course, there are many people I have not heard from again. And they are probably the ones who have taught me the most important lesson of all — about the need to be persistent in prayer, whether I see results and hear the happy reports or not. God is not so much into public spectacles but foremost into quiet and invisible work in people’s hearts. And when I do not hear from the people, it just teaches me to be patient and continue praying.

I treasure the prayer lists I have from the past year. I love the stories I hear. I love the way I am much more engaged in my friends’ lives after having prayed for them. I care about them more now. I love going to a concert hall and listening to my favorite pianist with different ears (or, you could say, with a different heart) because I regularly lift him up in my prayers.

I have equally come to treasure these beautiful words written by Adventist Church co-founder, Ellen White:

I saw that every prayer which is sent up in faith from an honest heart will be heard of God and answered, and the one that sent up the petition will have the blessing when he needs it most, and it will often exceed his expectations. Not a prayer of a true saint is lost if sent up in faith from an honest heart. —Testimonies for the Church, vol 1, p 121

See also:

Church growth in Estonia — a video report prepared for General Conference Annual Council 2018:

This article was written by Mervi Kalmus and originally appeared on the TED News Network, the official news service of the Trans-European Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Images courtesy of TED.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9336

(Alice C ) #3

I wept about your experience. I need to return to being more intentional about such prayers. Yet, this week I woke up one morning impressed to pray for the father of a friend who is ill. When I communicated this to her, she said it had been a particularly bad night. I’m grateful to the Holy Spirit for placing that burden on my heart.


(Mervi Kalmus) #4

I’m glad my story touched you, Alice! And I think we all need to be more intentional about prayer. I’m learning it, too.


(Sirje) #5

PALJU TANU, from a fellow countryman (woman).


(James Wilson) #6

@MerviK, your article has confirmed my suspicion that in secular societies we can reach and touch hearts in ways that we could not have done fifty years ago. People are more spiritually, socially and emotionally isolated than they were in the past. If we showed love and compassion approximating apostolic times, we would get results equally spectacular. Jesus said we would be known by our love. A commodity desperately needed today.


(Steve Mga) #7

Here in Macon, GA we could use a woman pastor. Sit in front of the fountain at the small
park on 3rd and Cherry. Provide prayer, Bible verses to the homeless who sit there. There
is a lady who does that, and goes to the noon homeless place at Mulberry Methodist in
downtown, sits and eats and talks and hugs [those who don’t mind being touched] them.
But she is only one person. She could use a helper.
It is difficult to know HOW MANY cities and towns are like us. Just a spiritual person to
visit with the homeless. Provide them someone to talk to.


(Steve Mga) #8

For those who DO NOT like to make up their own prayers, a wonderful activity is to
take the Psalms [which are in declarative sentences] and turn them into prayers and
adoration.
It does take some thought on HOW to put the ideas on paper, but once one begins,
the 2nd verse becomes a little easier. Then when one is finished, read it out loud.
Save it. Soon one will have all 150 completed.
Then begin again [one can always select one that one liked] with a favorite and
rewrite it, read it out loud. 2 versions. Sometimes 2 completely different thoughts
appear on the paper #1, and paper #2.
I have 3 ways that I have done the 23rd Psalm on my refrigerator that I say each
time I am in my kitchen. I rewrote the Lord’s Prayer and say it also.
One that is ALSO helpful is the “Serenity Prayer” to be said at least once a day.


(James Peterson) #9

That is a strange thing to say.

The Holy Spirit does NOT place burdens on anyone’s heart to pray for another. Rather, it was YOUR SPIRIT that became burdened as your train of thought happened upon the memory of your friend. And so you prayed.

However, if you were a doctor and your friend needed your assistance, THEN the Holy Spirit would have prompted you to visit your friend, or call him up or send the money for his medical bills: to do something tangible to alleviate the pain, to heal. But merely to lie in your bed, look up at the ceiling and utter a few words, as it were? NO. God does not have need of plentiful plaintive words in order to consider a case.

The world is full of people who love the ease of words (Ah! They love to send their thoughts and prayers! See here), over the challenge of action that actually helps.

///


#10

You do not believe in the power of prayer?


(Alice C ) #11

You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I think God works on human hearts and in human lives in more ways than we can imagine. Jesus, the disciples, the early church, prayed for each other. I think we can do the same.

There is a school of thought that prayer gives God permission to intervene in areas Satan claims as his own to manage. Not sure I agree, but it is an interesting perspective. Certainly prayer expresses and develops our concern for each other.


(James Peterson) #12

I do. But the Holy Spirit does NOT place a burden on your heart to pray for anyone. The Holy Spirit has better things to do than to go around begging people to pray for somebody.

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(James Peterson) #13

That is NOT my opinion, Alice.

Jesus Christ Himself said, “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” John 16:26-27

See? He does NOT pray for us but all sincere prayers in His name reach the ear of God, Our Father. God loves every single individual and already, even before we ask, is ministering to them. But for us, on our side, because our thoughts happen upon something or someone dear to us, we pray accordingly. There is no walking around of the Holy Spirit placing burdens on people’s hearts.

That school of thought about “our prayers giving God permission to intervene in areas Satan claims as his own to manage” is on the verge of blasphemy. When God answered Job, He began with these words: “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man. I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” Job 38:2-4

INDEED! Where were you?

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(Alice C ) #14

How do you know what the Holy Spirit is capable of? Do you think his/her abilities are limited? One of the things I find amazing about the Godhead is that all parts of the family can interact and sustain the Creation on the individual (even sub-atomic) to the universal levels. So much more complex than we can imagine or learn from science.


(James Peterson) #15

I have shown you the words of Jesus Christ to His disciples and of God to Job. But all you’ve done is reply with philosophy according to the imagination of your heart about subatomic levels and transcendence.

Does THE TRUTH as found in the Bible not matter to you? Or are you in the process of evolving your own religion? Aren’t you afraid of stumbling in the dark and falling in the ditch?

///


(James Wilson) #16

I’m not sure why you feel this way. In Job 42 we see God telling Job to pray for his friends.


(James Peterson) #18

Because you read 1½ sentences of the post. Obviously, you would not see why. You don’t just read Gen. 1 and say “I’m not sure why you feel that Jesus died on a cross”, do you?

Anyway, Job’s THREE friends spoke ill against him, so God told them to go to him to ask for forgiveness. You need to read the entire conversation that preceded this command. In fact, they were FOUR friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu), but only the first THREE were told to ask forgiveness of Job.

It was NOT a case of “Job, will you pray for us please?” BUT one of “Job, we were wrong. Please forgive us. In condemning you, we spoke incorrectly about God’s dealings with His people. We are sorry.” And Job obliged.

The Holy Spirit does NOT walk about placing burdens on people’s hearts to pray for others. Talk is cheap.

///


(James Wilson) #19

I agree with your thought (act, not only pray), though not your words.

Prayer is not intended to work any change in God; it brings us into harmony with God. MYP 247

That is, prayer should lead to some action on our part.


(Alice C ) #20

I must have been drafting my last reply while you were sending the one before this. Classic case of “letters passing in the mail.”

I do not understand your tone. You sound angry and hostile that my experiences with God as a growing Christian are different from yours. Are we not both growing in Christ? And, why would you accuse me of blasphemy and wanting to start another religion when I mention the ideas of others?

In fact, I don’t read that Job’s friends asked for forgiveness in chapter 42. God told them to ask Job to pray for them because they hadn’t been truthful about Him. Apparently they did ask Job to pray and brought the sacrifices, but the text doesn’t actually say that. I’m well aware that there was a fourth “friend” visiting Job. The text doesn’t really say whether he was considered a friend or simply part of the accompanying group–in those days people traveled with animals and people to help care for themselves and the animals. There is little information about Elihu and why he felt he needed to speak at all.

As to God’s extended speech to Job, the fact that God answered Job at all is evidence of His care. Pagan gods didn’t respond to mere mortals. To summarize the several chapters, God’s message to Job was that the issues were larger than Job could see and He, God, was still in charge of the universe.

Intercessory prayer, whether or not the Bible is explicit about it being inspired by the Spirit, is evident in both the Old and New Testaments. A few examples. Moses interceded with God on behalf of the Israelites during the golden calf incident (Ex. 32:9-15). Esther interceded on behalf of her people–although the text only mentions fasting, the implication is that prayer accompanied the fasting. Daniel prayed for the people of God (Dan. 9:1-23). Other prophets prayed for the people. In the New Testament, Paul routinely closed and sometimes opened his letters with prayers for the people and for Timothy.

I’m sorry your view of God, including the Holy Spirit is so limited. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit as a guide (John 16:4-15) and in other places as a comforter. I see nothing in the Bible that suggests we can’t have a personal relationship with that person of the Godhead in addition to the relationship with the church… I’ve experienced that guidance in my life many times and have no reason to doubt that. I continue to believe that God is far more capable than anything we might imagine.


(Steve Mga) #21

Regarding Job –
42:10-- When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes.
[KJV-- Turned the captivity of Job]
Perhaps THERE IS power with God when we pray for BOTH good people,
bad people. And it has a POSITIVE EFFECT on us.


(Ikswezdyr) #22

This is a beautiful experience and one all of us introverts can do. Thank you so much for sharing it. I appreciate your inspiration.