During the course of any month, I pray for hundreds of people. Perhaps because of what God has blessed me to do, I get hundreds of requests from people through social media, email, text messages etc., to pray for them. I’ve pasted below a ‘Ransomed Heart’ post from John Eldredge (the ‘Wild at Heart’ man), which pretty much sums up where I’d be at! I can’t promise to pray long-term for people – I’d not have time to do anything else! – Some of you may find this a bit ‘brutal’ but sometimes, I won’t offer to pray for people as I’m doing it so much as part of my ‘job’ (perhaps I should say ‘ministry’! but it IS my job) it would be like asking someone who works 10 hours a day at their ‘day’ job, to spend their evenings or days off doing their job unpaid for you…. not that I’ve ever charged, but you get what I mean. I will sometimes pray in a private message, or a text message, phone, or ‘on the spot’ with someone…. I hope that this doesn’t offend people who ask for prayer (many of them I don’t even know!), but perhaps John’s explanation will help….
Sure, I’ll Pray For You
I’ve come to the place where I have had to stop telling people, “I’ll pray for you.”
I simply know that despite my good intentions—and these promises are almost always spoken with good intent—I know that nine times out of ten I just don’t remember to follow through. Not until maybe a week or two later, and then I feel guilty that I forgot. I don’t like promising something I probably won’t live up to. You know how these stories go: someone you care about tells you of their pain, need, or struggle, and you respond with, “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that; I’ll pray for you.” But then, most of the time, we never do. If all the prayers that were promised were actually prayed, this would be a different world by now.
So instead of promising future prayer, what I try to do nowadays is stop, right there in the moment, and pray. Right then and there. It’s funny how many Christians this actually throws off guard. “You mean, right now?” “Yes—absolutely. Let’s pray.” In the restaurant, in the car, on the plane, wherever. If it’s a text or e-mail request, I’ll start praying as I type my response, typing out a prayer for them right then and there. Not only does it help me follow through, but it helps them to agree right along with what I have prayed, and agreement is mighty powerful as we know.
John Eldredge, Ransomed Heart daily blog
It’s amazing, too, how many people think that because it’s ‘prayer’ it doesn’t cost time, emotion, energy, petrol, car running costs, car servicing, so it’s something that should be done for nothing, however many miles and hours it takes! Outside of meetings, everyone I pray for healing is prayed for in their own homes, or in the hometown in someone else’s home. Some people DO slip me a gift, for which I’m very, very grateful.
It’s not just praying for individuals, there’s often the same problem with churches and meetings. Some years ago, I was with a friend, a pastor on the south coast of England, who did a weekend of meetings in central Scotland, a round trip drive of over 1000 miles. It was a weekend of meetings, Friday evening, three Saturday, two Sunday: and as we left, the treasurer (I guess) gave him what many ministers refer to as the ‘dreaded brown envelope’, and in it was….. £0.37 pence! Ok, petrol was a little cheaper then, maybe £1.00 a gallon: the AA and Inland Revenue (then) designated the mileage costs at about 0.45 pence a mile, so the car ‘gift’ alone should have been around £500.
Those who know me know that when I began in ministry, God told me I was never to ‘charge’ – there are many who do, I know people who charge £3-500 for one meeting, one who charges high 4-figure fees for a day plus all expenses for bookings in the USA. I TRULY struggle with that, when Jesus made it so clear to his disciples, sent out to preach, in Matthew 10: ‘Tell the people the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, raise the dead. FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE’. I’ve never been able to work out where charging hundreds of pounds or thousands of dollars comes into ‘FREE’.
As a minister, what is it we’re going to give away? If it’s not from God, it’s not worth giving. And it’s given to ministers FREE by a God who uses us. Of course, we need to live: the labourer is worthy of his hire, but as a someone being ‘hired’ I believe it’s in the hands of the ‘hirer’ to determine what that amount is. I’ve been to places where I’ve got nothing: others where I’ve been blessed. I know that God has told me, over the years I’ve been in ministry, that he’s called me to the poor, the needy = people who can’t even afford to give £1 equivalent, though often they do. They’ll give everything that is in the offering, it might amount to a pound or two.
I heard of a situation where some folk in Norway, I think, invited a ‘well-known’ American speaker (I do know who it was but it’d be wrong to say who!), who wanted $5000 A DAY, plus tens of thousands for the team, first class airfares for 5, business class for everyone else, plus the whole floor of a five star hotel for the team. Oh, yes, and the whole of the offering. The invitees agreed – on condition that the minister/team guaranteed that 1,000 minimum would be saved a day, and a similar number healed…. needless to say, the minister declined to go!
I’ve no way of knowing how many ministers ‘live by faith’ (a phrase I really don’t like – we ALL live by faith, whether it’s trusting God for our job, for our business and the lives of those who work for us, for social security if there are issues meaning we can’t work) – but for myself God told me I wasn’t to charge, and in 39 years I haven’t. I’d love to say that it’s been easy, and there’s never been a time of stress. I’d be lying if I said that! My regular support income is way below what the ministry has cost over those 39 years – when a vast amount of it is airfares, and I – and the people I take with me – pay rent when we’re away, food – all expenses….. a trip to Colombia for 3 weeks, for instance, costs at least £3000. My great friend Thanney, who by trade is a builder, with his own business and employees/contractors he’s responsible for, does exactly what I do – pays his own way on each trip (he’s done 4 in 13 months) and therefore he doesn’t earn a penny while he’s away. In fact, he’s worse off than me on a trip, as I at least get some regular support. That’s freely giving what he’s freely received.
If you’re a church leader, and invite preachers, please, can I ask you to prepare for the invited minister, and give a gift that bears some resemblance to what it would cost you to do the same distance/job/time – and build in expenses that effectively is a ‘salary’? Sadly, the best ‘givers’ are small, poor churches: the big churches seem to have much more problem giving. The story of the Widow’s mite and the Pharisee is so relevant to ministry, just as it is to us as individual Christians.
I will rarely – never, I think, up until now, not prayed for someone who’s asked. I doubt very much that I ever will. I want to see people healed and saved!! But like John Eldredge, I can’t promise to say to you that I’ll pray every day/week for you, as I’d have a list of tens of thousands by now!!