“When was the last time you prayed for your community? For your church? For your city?”
I straightened up in my seat as my pastor raised these questions with the congregation last year.
“Are the only prayers you offer up to the Lord ones where you ask him to work in your own life?”
Unfortunately, this was true for me.
In the past month, I had never forgotten to ask God for help as I moved into a new apartment and started another semester at college. However, I couldn’t recall the last time I prayed the same for someone else, even when my peers were going through similar transitions.
Throughout the drive back home from church, my pastor’s words lingered in my mind. I felt convicted and wanted to do better. As Scripture states in 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul urged “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” and not just for myself.
So I gave myself a challenge.
A Challenge for Me
That weekend, I committed to praying for three new people each month, two members from my InterVarsity chapter and one non-Christian outside that network, every night before I got ready for bed. If praying for others didn’t come naturally for me, then I wanted to at least start heading in the right direction by developing a habit out of discipline.
I started brainstorming names by digging through lists of ministry members in my Facebook group chats and quickly found that I’d forgotten how large my InterVarsity chapter was. I remember lying down on the floor and praying, Lord, who are you calling me to serve today? He answered by placing three names in my mind.
I grabbed my phone and started messaging these three for their prayer requests. The challenge had begun.
Then after each month that rolled around, I would restart this process, asking God for three new people to pray for.
Throughout the past year, God has moved in many ways as I’ve continued to do this prayer challenge. Specifically, (1) God defied my expectations with a receptive audience, (2) God showed me why prayer for my community was so crucial, and (3) God grew my relationships with the people I prayed for.
1. God defied my expectations with a receptive audience.
It was difficult at first to ask people for prayer requests. I had never talked to many of them before on a deeper personal level. I wondered if they’d be too put off if I asked them to tell me what was on their hearts.
God surprised me with how they answered. Not once did anyone respond as if I was being intrusive or awkward, but, rather, some people were even grateful that I had reached out to them and went beyond small talk.
2. God showed me why prayer for my community was so crucial.
When I pressed in more about how these people were really doing, I realized that while many of them were facing trials, others had rarely checked in on their true mental or spiritual well-being. Neither had I . . . or at least not until I started intentionally praying for them.
Since then, I’ve tried to invest more effort into praying and caring for my peers, not just to help me grow in good prayer habits, but because I’ve come to see the great value it has in building stronger connections with my peers.
3. God grew my relationships with the people I prayed for.
I began praying for one of my sisters from church during the fall, and over the course of the past year, we have grown much closer. Now she prays for me as I do for her, and we walk with each other through life’s obstacles.
I came to realize that asking people how I could pray for them was not the finish line but a springboard into meaningful follow-up. After an honest, compassionate conversation about their struggles, inviting them to meet up one-on-one suddenly didn’t seem as daunting as it used to.
A Challenge for You
Challenging myself to pray for others has been a profound journey for me. As I approach the one-year mark since starting this journey, I am excited to see how God will continue to work through this spiritual discipline and help me grow stronger in prayer.
If you’re reading this, I ask you the same question my pastor asked my congregation: When was the last time you prayed for your community? If you also can’t remember, I challenge you to join me in this spiritual discipline. Let’s pray for our friends together.
InterVarsity has resources to help you get started. Click here for the 2-Plus Prayer Cards that can help guide you as you pray intentionally and meaningfully for non-Christians from the communities around you.