You’ve seen those little tea candles you can buy at almost any store anywhere. They come in bags anywhere from twenty to two hundred and they are not very impressive. They don’t last very long, they aren’t that bright, and if you let it burn for longer that five minutes that little tin cup becomes a miniature kettle full of boiling hot wax that’s just waiting to terrorize your fingers and carpets.
If you light one candle, you might not be impressed by the light that it produces. I wouldn’t want to have to rely on one of these little guys if I was stuck in complete darkness. But they aren’t sold individually, and maybe there’s a reason for that. If you light one tea candle it’s sad; but fifty tea candles? Magical.
Recently I’ve been pressing in to prayer with a greater sense of intensity and expectancy. I want to be a man that God can use, and I know He uses men who pray. As I’ve been praying, it has been interesting to see what things God brings to my attention. One of these happened recently and has to do with the need for our prayers to be personal.
When we pray for people we know, for our churches, or for our ministries, we have the tendency to pray using words like “them,” “the people of this community,” or “the people of our church.” Without getting too caught up in the specific way we say our prayers (not advocating we script them all out), I think that this generic language tends to create a separation between us and what we are asking God for. It is very hard to clearly identify with a vague idea of a group of people. We need specifics to help motivate us.
God has challenged me to pray more specifically. Instead of prayers for “them,” how about prayers for John, for Carol, or for Aaron? And, even more specifically, how about asking God to do in me what I want Him to do in my community and in my church? I don’t know about you, but when it becomes about me, when it’s personal, the things I pray for start to connect on a much deeper level.
E.M. Bounds wrote that, while we spend much time trying to come up with better methods, programs, and organizations, “the Holy Spirit does not flow through methods but through men…He does not anoint plans, but men –men of prayer.” If we’re looking for God to move in our churches and our communities, what we’re asking for is simply that many individuals would respond to God’s call to yield to Him in obedient worship. That means it isn’t just them, it’s me, it’s my story, my obedience that matters.
You might already know that there is great power in your personal testimony. But maybe we need to take that concept one step further and start letting God use our testimony in our everyday prayers and conversations, not just in our evangelistic conversations once in a blue moon. A good friend often says that God doesn’t do anything in you for you only; He does it so that He can work through you for others.
So I encourage you to make it personal. Pray for that friend by name who is struggling, not just the people who are struggling; pray that God would awaken you and change you, not just all the people around you. We might just become like a bunch of little tea lights that together light up the vast darkness around us.