TONY ELDER: Praying for others does make a difference

Recently, a longtime member of our church was facing the prospect of being without a job. She works for a company similar to a temp agency, although some of her positions have turned out to be far from temporary.

After seven years at the same place, her agency's relationship with that particular business was coming to a close, leaving her without a job. So as that time drew near, she asked the church to be praying about her upcoming unemployed status.

The Sunday following her final day at work, she reported in our worship service that a new position had already opened up which she would begin within a few days. While she thanked God for answering prayer, she joked that she should have been more specific when requesting prayer from our congregation.

In a way, our prayers were too effective and the answer came a little too quickly. She had figured on having at least a couple of weeks off from work and had already made some plans.

Isn't it wonderful that God hears and answers prayer. It's rare that He responds more quickly than we would have preferred. More often we find ourselves having to ask, seek, and knock for an extended period of time, impatiently wondering what's taking the Lord so long to give us the answer.

For example, earlier this year someone else in our church was looking for a job and it didn't materialize until after months of praying and searching. But when God did move, she received three job offers in one week.

Sometimes I'm afraid we lose sight of the great privilege God gives us to help other people by praying for them. Certainly there are situations in which we should do more than pray -- when we have the ability to assist the person in a tangible way ourselves.

But at the same time, let's not downplay the value of interceding for people before a powerful and caring God. In some circumstances, there is nothing else we are able to do to help the person other than pray. We are bringing his need to a God who can see the whole picture and can work in ways that we can't.

We don't even have to be physically present with people in order to pray for them. You can minister to people who may be hundreds of miles away or clear across the other side of the world. Through interceding for them, you can have an important impact on their lives.

Prayer is more than our way of fellowshipping with God, talking to Him, and bringing our own needs to Him. Prayer is also a ministry. It's a way to serve others. It's not just a special gift or function for a few select individuals in the church. It's something we all can do and are called to do as believers.

The Bible refers to all followers of Christ as priests. One of the truths that title suggests is that we each have been given the privilege and responsibility to use our access to God to intercede for other people and their needs.

A ministry of prayer is something any of us can do. Some of us may not have the talents or resources to serve in other areas. Some may be physically unable to get out and do other forms of ministry. But we can all pray for other people.

Will you commit yourself to becoming more involved in interceding for others? If you need someone to pray for you and your concerns, just send an e-mail to prayer@wesleycommunity.org and a group of people committed to prayer will intercede for you.

So let's pray for one another and watch what God does.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.