A church in another state did a very unusual experiment a few years ago. They randomly selected 80 names out of their local phone book and began to pray for these strangers. They also selected a random "control group:" 80 names that were laid aside, with no prayers lifted up on their behalf. After 90 days, church members called all 160 numbers, asking if someone from the church could come by and pray for them. The amazing result: Of the control group, only one person out of 80 was willing to receive a prayer visit. But of the group that had been previously prayed for, 69 of 80 agreed to a visit. 45 actually invited the visitors inside, offered coffee, and mentioned special prayer requests.
Intercessory prayer is notoriously difficult to measure scientifically, but it's hard to argue with those results. Paul Cedar, author of A Life of Prayer, once agreed to speak at a large evangelism conference on the topic, "Prayer As Evangelism." When he got up to speak, he noticed a typo on the program: It said, "Prayer Is Evangelism." Cedar decided that title was actually more correct than the one he had chosen.
So how often do you pray for specific non-Christians by name? What can we expect God to do when we pray that others would come to know Him? What can we do in order to pray for these people more effectively? That will be our topic this Sunday.