The point at which I take a break during my walks in Norfolk, Virginia, is at a wooden bench with peeling paint that looks out at Edgewater Haven and the piers, houses and trees that line its banks. Most days I sit for quite a while, watching the water’s surface; hoping to catch sight of jumping fish and enjoying how the cries of gulls flying above meld with the sounds of the gently lapping water. On Tuesday, I sat looking out and began to honour a commitment I’d made, and then discarded, 13 years ago.
I was 18 years old and I can’t say exactly what sparked this, but I was suddenly curious about a celebrity. I’m a little embarrassed to admit, but I read all the quotes that IMDb had compiled for him up to that point. At the end of my investigation, I had the bright idea that I was going to pray for him - for his life and that he’d become a Christian. I felt an affinity towards him - a compassion that I haven’t felt for anyone before or since. What followed that idea was a commitment to fast and pray for him once a week until he was saved or until God told me to stop. Tuesday was my day - or rather his day. I prayed and fasted for him every week.
In August of 2010, my stomach deteriorated following a bout with Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. A portion of my stomach wall suffered a thinning of its lining, and this made it impossible for me to fast with any regularity - fasting food had become detrimental to my health. I could have easily switched to another type of fast but I struggled with being disciplined. Without the focus inherent in fasting from food, I couldn’t redirect it to praying diligently. But Tuesday remained his day and I prayed, even if I did so less fervently.
Finally, in 2014, I saw an article in which he professed to having become a Christian. I was ecstatic! My prayers got reenergized following that - after all, he was young and would need the covering more than ever before.
A year later, some alarming reports started cropping up about him. It was typical Hollywood antics but I wondered - was he going crazy? At the time, I was going through my own trials and my family was going through its own trials. I was discouraged and I didn’t rally myself quickly or strongly. With the barrage of reports that were coming to me, I felt guilty that maybe it was my fault he was going off his head - like somehow I’d put a target on his back and the devil was taunting me. My discouragement shortly turned to disgust. I threw up my hands and told God, “Well I don’t know why I decided to put this pressure on myself to pray for this guy. All those years of consistent prayer can’t have gone to waste, so I wash my hands of him and leave him to You.”
And I stopped praying. I still remembered him every Tuesday, because after 8 years of being dedicated to someone, I couldn’t help it. I had to harden myself from praying - my growing disgust for him was useful on that front. And the years passed. If something brought him to mind I would feel sadness, but I always went back to putting him firmly out of my thoughts. I even stopped watching any movies he was in.
Last year a friend reached out to me with another saddening report about him. She had long known that I’d been praying for him (but didn’t know I’d stopped). She encouraged me to continue to pray and I said all the right words to not prolong the conversation (yep, I lied) but my heart remained hard where he was concerned. I soon returned to forgetting all about him.
Then last Monday, during my weekly prayer meeting, we were discussing intercession (petitioning God in prayer for a person, group, etc. until the prayers are answered). We read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 which says,
”Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
My aunt, who leads the prayer meeting said three things:
Honour people’s humanity. God doesn’t take away our right to our choice. Respect people’s journeys and love them enough to persevere in prayer until God gets through to them.
Perseverance is an act of love and an act of humility.
Intercession is directed from above based on the intel that God gives us.
When she said those things, the guy came back to the forefront of my mind. The hardness shattered immediately and fell away to reveal my beating heart - a heart newly sensitive, hopeful and compassionate towards him. God told me at that moment that He’d been the one that sparked my desire to pray for that guy all those years ago. He told me I still had some work to do. I apologised to God for washing my hands of him.
It was not a difficult next step to set my reminder for the next day - Tuesday was his day!
So as I sat looking out at the gently swaying water, praying for this man that I probably won’t meet until we’re in heaven and can run and hug each other - like that gif of those two little boys being reunited after a long separation - tears clouded my vision.
How can God love us so much? This guy doesn’t know that some random girl in Jamaica started praying for him over a decade ago, has shed tears for the pain in his life and is now ready to pray for him for as long as it takes, maybe for the rest of her life, or even for his (whichever ending comes first). This guy doesn’t know that God asked her to pray and has been directing her on how to pray for him.
Why does God ask us to pray for each other anyway? Why does He want or need our help? I wonder if there could be some random person halfway across the world who came across me somehow and God asked them, “Will you pray for her until I tell you to stop?”
Has God put anybody on your heart to pray for? Have you given up before He said to stop or felt tempted to? Love them enough to persevere in prayer.
“Love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
So what good things happened to you this week?