Helpers, Gratitude, and Long-Distance Prayer

by Nancy Unks

“How will I ever repay all the people who have helped me?” The question came from my newly widowed friend. Her husband had been the ultimate do-it-yourselfer. In 50 years of marriage, they had never hired a repairman for anything. When he died suddenly, she didn’t even have the number of a plumber to call!

It’s not like she was totally alone. Her husband had had many like-minded friends who helped him with various projects in exchange for his help with theirs. Neighbors also had been plentiful and generous, freely trading work for similar favors and delicious baked goods. This was different. The needs were so many, the time and strength for returning favors or baking so limited. Profuse and heartfelt words of thanks seemed so inadequate.

But words matter to God. His word is the Bible. His Son Jesus is The Word in the flesh. Our word prayers are described as golden bowls of incense presented before the throne of God in Revelation 5:8. Words are not insignificant or inadequate. With our words, we can thank the friend who helps and also thank God who sent that friend in the nick of time.

I remember an incident when I was caring for my disabled husband. He had a particularly painful night and I overslept, precipitating a medical crisis. Later in the day, after the crisis had abated, a friend who lived upstate whom I hadn’t talked to in months called. She asked, “Are you two all right? You have been on my heart today and I’ve been praying since last night.” I could only reply, “Praise God, we’re all right now! Thank you for praying.” It’s no insignificant matter to get the urge to pray for someone far away.

Or far away in time! We thank the friend who helps in our present crisis, and we pray for their future crises—that God will send them the help they need at those times. That’s how the Kingdom of God operates. Who’s to say we’re not Christians because a grandparent or great aunt prayed for us? How do we know that the friend and helper who turns up today is not the result of someone else’s prayer for us last year?

Jesus prays in John 17 for his disciples and all future believers. That’s us. He prays that his Father “will protect them from the evil one and . . . that the love you have for me will be in them” (John17:15, 26).

Paul’s letters are full of prayers for the new Christians he writes to. We can pray those for each other. He says, “I pray that you being rooted and established in love may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Those are my prayers for you who may be reading this.