It was a season of great burden with no sign of relief: our family was in the thick of stress due to unexpected unemployment, and living where we did—in a rural area—made it even more difficult to find work. As the weeks turned to months, the financial, emotional, and spiritual strain felt unbearable at times.
Our friends called to offer us support. Some of them expressed concern. Others attempted to "fix" our situation, but ultimately realized how helpless they were to do so. Often by the end of our conversations, I felt an unshakable aloneness, even though I was trusting God as never before. What was missing?
One day, while driving alone, I blurted out, "I wish I had a prayer partner!" It was as if a light went on: that's exactly what I was missing—someone to pray with me regularly. Jesus promised, "Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20). I needed his presence now as never before.
Still driving, I wondered which of my friends could be my prayer partner. Though caring, all of them were busy. And since I live in a rural area, it was unrealistic to think of getting together every day. But every day was what I needed!
Then a new option dawned on me: Why limit my choice to local friends? Why not ask one of my out-of-state friends? We already communicated regularly by e-mail; why not pray together online? I could share needs as they occurred, and my friend could pray at her convenience.
I had just the friend in mind. Linda, my former roommate at Moody Bible Institute, is now a pastor's wife in Pennsylvania. We still recall our heart-wrenching good-bye in the college parking lot. But deep inside, past the tears, we sensed our friendship wasn't over that day. Although it's been more than 25 years since we shared a room, we're closer today than we ever imagined we could be.
Through the years, e-mail has been a significant factor in keeping us close. We write often, sharing news and struggles, dreams and disappointments. Through her words, I see her smile and sometimes her fatigue. Because our personalities and gifts are complementary, neither of us proceeds too far on a project without bouncing ideas off the other, whether it's one of my writing projects or a retreat idea for her church.
The great experiment
I arrived home, immediately logged on to my computer, and composed an e-mail asking Linda to be my e-prayer partner for at least a month. As I clicked "send," my heart filled with anticipation for what daily prayer could do for my current situation.
The next day I received Linda's reply: "Yes, I'll pray with you. Your message was timely. I've been thinking about you and how much I need you." Wow, this isn't just for me. It's for Linda, too. As a pastor's wife, she needed a confidante outside her church for prayer and accountability. Then, to show her readiness, she sent the first prayer.
We began to send daily e-mails, just one- or two-sentence prayers. From sign-on to sign-off, it took less than 15 minutes. We prayed for specifics—"Please give wisdom in the decision next week." We prayed Scripture—"God, please guard her heart and mind with your peace." We were honest with God—"I'm discouraged today, Lord, and don't know how much longer I can go on." We questioned—"Sometimes you seem far away, Lord." We praised—"Thank you, God, for the reminder that you keep your promises." We spoke to God from our hearts, and kept each other's concerns confidential.
Though my circumstances remained unchanged, it wasn't long before my burden began to feel lighter. Instead of turmoil, I now felt comfort and peace. My prayers began to reflect quiet rest in God's presence rather than preoccupation with my concerns.
Still, there were days when the needs were so numerous and my focus so scattered, it was difficult to pray. I couldn't seem to find the words. Those days, Linda became my voice. Her prayers for me were a tangible example of the Holy Spirit's intercession on my behalf (Romans 8:16-27).
God used that initial month of daily e-mails to quiet my heart in the midst of turmoil. I began to recognize that walking with God in the middle of the woods is more vital than finding a way out. With him, we find stability, rest, and hope, no matter what path we're on.
Not only did I draw closer to God, but also to Linda. After the first month, it was natural to continue our prayer partnership. After the first year, God was working in so many of our requests we were excited to continue. We're now beginning our fourth year.
Bonding and blessings
An e-prayer partnership grows a friendship despite busy schedules and geographic distance. Here's how it can bless your relationship with your friend—and with God:
Closeness. Several years pass between visits, but Linda and I are involved in each other's daily life. Even though our prayers are only a few sentences long, they hold pertinent concerns. Today's concerns. While I prepare dinner, I pray for the neighbors Linda invited to her house tonight. And tomorrow morning, I'll log on to see how it went.
Focus. Just as journaling a prayer provides clarity, so does composing an e-prayer. Written words help crystallize what we need from God: "Lord, you've always taken care of my needs. I ask for peace as I trust you to guide us in paying for this unexpected bill."
Writing out prayers—and God's responses—is also a good way to record his individual attention. Not only can we see a pattern of God's work in our life, but the entries also serve as reminders that our requests are with God. He holds them in his hand. How often we need that reminder!
At the beginning of each year, Linda and I send each other a list of the areas in our lives that need fine-tuning. Throughout the year, we save copies of our prayers as a record of how God worked. It's as easy as cutting and pasting from the e-mail message to a file in a word-processing program. By the end of the year, the electronic compilation is a clear testimony to God's faithfulness.
Accountability. The commitment to pray together builds accountability. As we remind each other of areas for growth and change through e-mail or instant messenger, we can make immediate course corrections. For example, one of my goals last year was to show grace to a friend with whom I had frequent conflicts. When a new conflict arose, I expressed my frustration both to God and Linda. Linda reminded me the conflict was an opportunity for God to help me grow and for him to be reflected through me. The next time I had an encounter with my difficult friend, instead of reacting, I paused, knowing I was upheld by Linda's prayer earlier in the week, "Please give Connie patience and love beyond her own."
Immediacy. E-mail provides immediate access, an opportunity for instant pleas. I often think of the missionaries 100 years ago and their urgent prayer requests in the midst of serious hardships. Their requests, sent by boat across the seas, sometimes took months to reach their faithful supporters. Today when my friends share requests, not only do I reply immediately with a word of encouragement but also with a prayer.
Praying by e-mail is one way to stay connected to an out-of-town friend. But what if the Internet isn't available? Consider what another friend and I did before either of us had e-mail. Carole worked at home in Texas; I worked in an office in Illinois 1,100 miles away. We mailed each other a list of our prayer concerns. At 10:00 every Tuesday morning, I dialed her phone number and let it ring once to signal I was available to pray. Then we each took a 15-minute break alone in a private place. Separately, we joined together before God's throne. Each Tuesday morning the miles between us disappeared as we prayed for our concerns at the same time. Though we weren't together in person, Jesus kept his promise to be present when two or three gather in his name.
With both Linda and Carole, I've shared the joy of many answered prayers. Needs have been met, rough places smoothed, relationships healed, circumstances changed, and faith strengthened. When the answers came, my prayer partner was the first to know. In the meantime, the load was lightened and the waiting was easier.
Constance Fink lives in Illinois.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.
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