I asked a good friend, “When should I stop praying for someone?” His reply was pretty standard, “NEVER!” and he quoted 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing."
Some of my more evangelical friends are always talking about praying for others to be “saved”, to “find God”, or to be “rescued from the snares of the devil.” Many times, I find out the person being prayed for is hundreds of miles away, and the person doesn’t even know that their well-meaning friend is praying for their “salvation”. In some cases, the two have never even met!
I’ve been guilty of long-distance praying, too. After I divorced my husband four years ago, I prayed every day that he would find peace in the Lord. But six months ago I decided to stop just praying and to take action. Instead of just praying for my ex-husband who had re-located to another State, I reached out to him hoping that I would find the stumbling block that was keeping him from his Lord. I called and left a voice message and sent an email, but I never heard back. I’d like the story to have a happy ending, but it doesn’t. My ex-husband passed away from cancer a month ago. Only then did I realize how inappropriately I had judged his faith. I hadn’t seen or talked with him in almost four years; how could I know that he wasn’t faithful to God? Was I critical of his faith just because he didn’t want to talk to me? I vowed to quit being so judgmental about a person’s faith and instead to take the time to sit down and talk with them. As much a sinner as I am, I might need their prayers!
God enjoys a conversation with us through prayer, but he is glorified more when we act like His son, Jesus. I’ve vowed to quit praying for people I don’t know to be “saved”. Praying for a distant stranger is easy; it is harder to sit face to face and listen to someone tell you how their church has hurt them, that God is distant, or that they have doubts about their faith.
Quit praying and start doing. Call the person to have coffee or meet over a meal. Listen first. After you’ve developed a relationship with them ask about their relationship with God. Act like Jesus: don’t judge them, love them.
When you reach out, you may find that you are the stumbling block that is keeping them from God. Feeling Christ’s love through you may be exactly what they need.