Last week on my day off, I took a nice afternoon nap. After about an hour's sleep, I awoke and a name immediately popped into my mind. It was the name of a woman who graduated from seminary several years ahead of me, some twenty-eight years ago. I've not had contact with her in about ten years, have had no conversations about her, and hadn't even heard her name in all that time.
"Why did I think of her name?" I wondered.
No matter, I decided. This was a good reason to pray for her and, if I could find her address, send an email to her way just to let her know that, as the result of the strange emergence of her name in my sleep-fogged brain as I awoke, I had prayed for her.
I prayed, "Lord, whatever it is that X needs, provide for her needs. Bless her and give her a sense of Your love for her." That night, I also included her in my bedtime prayers.
Then, I sent an email to X.
A day later, I received a reply, "Thanks for the Prayers, God never ceases to amaze me!" She went on to explain that over the course of three years, she'd suffered from six light strokes and that, because she also suffered from diabetes and other maladies, she had taken what's known as "continuing disability" status as a pastor. She was no longer physically able to do parish work day-in and day-out. She went on to explain though, that she had missed working with youth so badly, that she was now tutoring students part-time in a local school system, in addition to filling in for pastors who had to be away from their congregations on Sunday mornings. Beside dealing with her own issues, she also is helping her mother, no longer able to drive after suffering from her own more serious stroke several years ago.
It's possible that God planted X's name in my brain, knowing full well that she needed help and seeking the invitation of some intercessor on her behalf. (In fact, I believe that God did exactly that!) South Korean pastor, David Yonggi Cho, has said that "the Holy Spirit is a gentleman," meaning that God never forces Himself into any situation.
Like the anxious underclassman on the sidelines of a football game who begs, "Send me in, Coach," God wants to be invited into our world and into the lives of people to bring wholeness, healing, comfort, guidance, and hope.
The Bible makes it clear that prayer isn't really something we do at our initiative. Unbeknownst to us, our prayers really start with God's Holy Sprit. Paul writes in Romans, "...we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, Who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27).
But even if you can't believe that the thought of that nearly-forgotten name flashing across your brain as you wake from a nap was put there by God, what harm can there be in responding to that strange occurrence by offering a simple prayer, something like, "Lord, in the Name of Jesus, help X"?
It can't do any harm and it just might do some good.