When I was a little boy, my Great Aunt Bessie had a placard in her living room which said, “Expect a Miracle.” Aunt Bessie wasn’t a theologian or a Bible scholar, but she had a child-like faith in the power of prayer.
I thought about Aunt Bessie today because of a request from a friend who’s a teacher in a local fourth-grade classroom. She can’t tell others the names and situations of the students in her classes, but she’s asking some of us — those who believe in prayer — to pray for particular students in her classroom this year.
She has three classes of 31 students and each desk in her room is assigned a number. She’s asking others to choose any number between 1 and 31 — and to pray for the specific three students who are assigned to that desk.
“You can pray for them in many ways,” she said, “their academics, their home life, their health, their families, their friendships, their worries, their fears, dreams, however you feel led to pray. You can pray that I am the teacher each student needs and that I’m able to reach them academically and that I’ll be able to build a relationship with them during this time with me — and that I’ll be able to encourage them and make a difference in their lives.”
Who could turn down such a loving request?
If you don’t believe in the power of prayer, that’s fine. I’ll understand. But for those of us who know it can make a difference, will you help me pray for the three students who sit in Desk 13 in this particular classroom?
We all have certain people in our lives who we care about simply because we love them, but I think it helps us to feel more human (and more humane as well) when we can genuinely care about specific people who we might never meet. This is an opportunity to put that principle into practice.
Maybe you’ll pray for them only once. Maybe you’ll put them on a daily prayer list and return to them again and again. Or maybe you’ll just pray for them a few times as they happen to come to mind over the next nine months or so. But I think it will be good for them — and I believe it will be good for those of us who pray for them, too.
If we take Jesus seriously — instead of treating him as someone to think about only at Christmas and Easter — we have to believe in the power of faith and prayer. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I was struck by the power of what Jesus said in Mark 11:22-24:
Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. I assure you that whoever tells this hill to get up and throw itself in the sea and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. For this reason I tell you: When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for.”
Either he meant what be said or else he has no power to offer us. You can’t have it both ways.
I know nothing about the little boys or girls who sit in Desk 13 of my friend’s classroom. But each one of them has his or her own issues. They might come from troubled homes. They might be struggling with friends or with academics. They might suffer from health or safety issues. They might be in dangers I can’t imagine.
My mother taught elementary school for her entire career. I know how much she loved her students and how closely she became involved in their lives. I know how much it helps a teacher for you to support him or her in caring about these young lives.
If you believe in the power of prayer, will you lift these three specific little children up to God — at least once, but as often as you feel like it? Pray for them and pray for their teacher. She has a kind and loving heart, but even a loving teacher needs God’s guidance.
Will your pray for these students — and for their teacher? Thank you very much.