(Basically, if you send us your photo, you end up in our prayer basket. After writing this, I'm hoping for a new onslaught of Christmas photos from you all this year!)
But here's the problem with collecting these pictures and prayer cards over the course of almost two decades: we've lost touch with some of these people. Some of them we never knew to begin with, admittedly, because we attend a lot of churches and at each one, my children faithfully pick up prayer cards from all the missionaries they can. (And I have six children. And, like I said, we attend a lot of churches.) Also, some of their families have changed. They've added another child or two. They've retired. Some have had spouses pass away. Several that we know of have changed mission fields. Possibly, all of the above.
So how can we pray specifically for them if we don't know their specific prayer requests? If we don't even know their family that well? Or if we don't know where they are currently ministering?
1. Look them up online.
Social media is one possibility. But many missionaries also have a website these days. You are reading ours. It's getting easier all the time to set one up online, and you don't even need much in the way of technical skills. (If being techy was a requirement, our family wouldn't have one.) When you look them up, you can at least find out how many children they have and where they are currently located. Most missionaries don't post personal prayer requests online, for obvious reasons. But it's a good start.
2. Sign up for their prayer letter.
Often their prayer card has an email address on it. Depending on how old it is, it may or may not be current. But if it isn't, you can also run your request through their mission board, which is probably also on their prayer card. Missionaries won't put all of their prayer requests into their prayer letters, but you will at least get a feel for their publicly-stated needs.
But even if you never do either of those things, here is another possibility:
3. Pray Paul's 7 Scripture-based prayer requests for them.
Paul, in his NT epistles, gives seven specific prayer requests he wants the churches receiving his letters to pray for. These are exactly what missionaries, pastors, and your loved ones need prayer for too. In fact, these are often the basis of the prayer requests that missionaries won't feel comfortable sharing in detail. Missionaries have to be careful about sharing names of those they minister to, or specific details about their ministry. But these seven prayer requests will cover many of those details.
Download a printable poster of these Seven Gospel-Centric Prayer Requests.
We should all be praying for our fellow believers, whether they are our neighbors, church members, loved ones, or friends. We should also be praying for our pastor, our missionaries, and others who are on the front lines of ministry.
If you don't have your own prayer basket for your family, start filling one today. Begin by praying for your family members and pastoral staff. Slowly add other people you are burdened for. Consider printing the list of Paul's seven prayer requests and using it to pray specifically for other believers.
"Brethren, pray for us" isn't a cliché. It's a heart-felt plea.
We need to take it seriously.