A couple of days ago, I was asked by a random person on the internet whether I would pray for their ministry. No sooner had I been asked by one guy than another popped up on a different chat function to ask exactly the same. In both cases, it was an odd question given that I neither knew the person nor their ministry. I hadn’t heard of them before and I didn’t know anything about what they were doing. There wasn’t really much I could pray for under those circumstances even if I were inclined.
So, trying to be kind but honest, I sent the following message back to him:
Well, with respect, I don’t know anything about you or your ministry. And whilst it may be a very good and godly ministry, I am also convinced the Lord has given us particular mission partners to whom we have committed to pray and specific people in our circle of influence whom we uniquely know to pray for too. I have always been keen not to short change people by promising to pray for everyone and everything when, meaningfully, we simply can’t do that. So, I don’t want to promise you I will when, in truth, I can’t say that I can.
This, however, appears to have been misinterpreted. It was taken as an opportunity to tell me all about the ministry, with lots of photographs. And, as far as I can tell, this was a brother in Christ trying to honour the Lord in what he was doing. But despite receiving a request to pray again, having given me some meagre information and a lot of photographs, I said this:
That sounds very noble and god-honouring. I trust you have prayer supporters already. But my previous comment remains true.
If I commit to praying for your ministry, and I do so for everyone who asks me to pray for their ministry, I will spend all my day praying for ministries with which I have no connection to the detriment of the specific people and ministries the Lord has given me uniquely to pray for that other people (like you) don’t know about too.
The fact is, through Facebook and Twitter I get a lot of these requests. I have lost track of the number of people whom I don’t know and have no knowledge of their ministry who ask me, out of the blue, to pray for them and their work. Even if I was inclined, I simply couldn’t commit to praying for them all and it seems more honest to say ‘no, I won’t pray for your ministry’ than to promise something I know I am not going to do.
In the end, the Lord has uniquely placed me where he has placed me. I have family and friends within my inner circle whom I believe the Lord has given to me for prayer. My church also has mission partners whom we are committed to praying for too. In the same way, I am sure there are others who are uniquely placed to pray for these other ministries too. But nobody is served well if we take on all these others and, in the process, short-change those we are uniquely given to pray for.
We took a decision a long time ago to ensure that all our mission partners were people with some connection to the church and were church-based. We also wanted to limit the number of partners. As a small church, we have limited resources to share and we – like everyone else – have limited capacity. We determined to support a few as well as we can rather than spread ourselves thin and end up supporting nobody very well at all.
If we took on all the requests for prayer and partnership, we simply wouldn’t be able to pray for everyone whom we made promises. I certainly don’t want to be in a position where I am lying to people about taking an interest in their ministry and praying for them when I know I am not. That doesn’t seem right at all. Likewise, I don’t think it is right to short-change the people we have committed to pray for because we have promised to pray for lots of people we have no real commitment to at all.
I don’t have any desire to stop people praying for the things the Lord has laid on their heart. If the Spirit is prompting you to pray, then pray. If other forms of support, then support. We have people who have heard about our work who support us from afar and we are extremely grateful for them. There is usually some connection, or there has been an awareness of the ministry going on, before that happens. If people are led to do that for particular ministries, and to be an active support to those ministries the Lord has prompted them to support, then I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t. But we equally have to accept that not everybody will want to do that and, the less people know about my ministry and without any sort of connection, we can’t be that surprised if we aren’t the people that the Lord has laid on that particular person, church or organisation’s heart.
So, no, I probably won’t pray for your ministry. But I trust there are people uniquely placed who will, just as I have been placed to pray for other things.