Legacies of Prayer

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Preparing to serve in the nursery at a Southern church on Easter Sunday is like prepping for battle, except army camouflage is subbed for pastels and seersucker, and the only explosions are found on the inside of a diaper. This is where I found myself at 7 AM, appropriately caffeinated and ready for the onslaught. It was on this Sunday morning that I met, let’s call her Reza, a one-year-old little girl from a family in Central Asia. She did not speak any English and was distraught, understandably so, as her parents handed her off to people who didn’t look or talk like her family in a place she was not familiar with. Reza clung to me like a lifeline, though not at all happy with me. I began to pray over this baby, for the Lord to comfort her and keep her. The combination of songs, bubbles, and prayer yielded peace between us at the end of the battle. Over the next few months, I saw Reza each Sunday and had the immense privilege to pray over her and watch her grow, from crying nearly the whole time to crying just a few minutes to comfortably being passed off. Her progress filled me with pride, and each week as I saw her grow my prayers changed. Recently, I’ve been praying that the Lord would lead her to salvation one day.

Why do I tell you this story? Because, while this connection is so special to me right now, I know that Reza will grow and move into a different nursery room and may never remember me. But my prayers for her salvation are heard by the Lord. How will they make a difference in her life? It has caused me to reflect on my own spiritual life:

  • Who prayed for me before I was born?
  • Who prayed for me as a child?
  • Who prayed that I would receive salvation?
  • What does the Spirit pray for us?
  • How do legacies of prayer matter to the Kingdom?

Theologians have proposed different theories on the nature of prayer throughout history. The Fatalist view on prayer suggests that prayer does not affect God at all. The Openness view asserts instead that God doesn’t know all the details of what will happen in the future, only a general idea. So, our prayers are ordained by God to greatly affect and sway His will. Yet another view on prayer, the Redemptive Intervention view suggests that since God is outside of time, he already knows every prayer from all of time, and took those into account to form his will. Lastly, a view that came out of the Reformation states that God created prayer as the method by which He affects change in the world. Not only does God ordain people to pray, but he also ordains the prayer itself to be the way change is enacted. He further ordains the effect of that prayer on a person, even an unbeliever, through His will. So when someone is prompted to pray for another’s salvation, God is at work. When that prayer moves the hand of God, God is at work. And when the Holy Spirit convicts an unbeliever, opens their eyes, gives them the grace to believe, and does the work of salvation, God is at work.

One day we will see clearly the impact of others’ prayers for us, and our legacy of prayer for the world.

A personal illustration of this last view, the Calvinist view, the view I hold, occurred when I had the privilege to prayer walk with some college students and young adults in an international outdoor market. We spent a few hours praying for those working and shopping and asked the Lord’s spirit to move. As we debriefed the experience together, and I asked the students to share what they saw and heard, a young Filipino man opened up. Growing up, he had worked at a similar market in the Philippines, and the main focus of each day was making enough sales for him and his family to survive. He said the next sale was all he could see during those years. But then, God moved in him and brought him to salvation, opening his eyes to the spiritual world around him. He has since gone to college, moved to the United States, begun to establish a career, and was sent out on this international trip to share Good News. He found himself in an outdoor market, praying for God to save people without spiritual eyes, who might only be able to see their next sale. He then wondered out loud if it was possible that someone had once (or more than once) prayer walked his market and asked the Lord’s spirit to save him. What if that had been what moved the hand of God to extend salvation to him? We were all deeply humbled to think how the prayers of others have most certainly benefited us. We were also humbled to learn the prayers we had just offered up might actually have made a difference. And so, we return to our questions, with a slight change of focus:

  • Who will you pray for even before they are born?
  • What children are you praying for?
  • Who are you praying for to receive salvation?
  • What does the Spirit pray for those that do not look, think, act, or believe like us?
  • How will the things you pray for today matter to the Kingdom?

Second Timothy 2 calls us to “call on the Lord from a pure heart…” so that the result of our faithful lives is that “God may perhaps grant [our opponents] repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil” (2 Tim. 2:22-26) Just as we cannot fully see or know the mark our words, our love, our families, and our actions will leave on the world, we cannot fully see the impact of our prayers. But they do leave an impact, and one day, in heaven, God will reveal all to us and we will finally see clearly. One day we will see clearly the impact of others’ prayers for us, and our legacy of prayer for the world. When that day comes, will we be proud of our legacies?

A special thank you to a SEBTS student, whose Theological Integration Paper helped guide me during the writing of this article.

  • Prayer
Charlotte Murphy

Charlotte is originally from Louisiana but moved to North Carolina after serving a Journeyman term in Europe working with Muslim peoples. She loves connecting with cultures of the world through food, by both learning and trying new recipes with other people. Charlotte is also interested in history, art, and architecture.

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