The Man With 2,347 Names on His Prayer List

I’ve come across the account of a man named Ding Li-Mei, whose story will inspire your prayer life. Ding and his family were reached for Christ in the 1800s by the foreign missions efforts of American Presbyterians. As a child, Ding was responsive to the Gospel and was mentored by a woman named Julia Mateer, who wielded great influence over many Chinese students of that time.

When he was in his twenties, the Boxer Rebellion broke out, which was a time of great suffering, especially for Christian believers. Ding was arrested for his faith and carried off to the magistrate, where he was given 500 stripes with a cane that left his back a mass of raw bleeding flesh. Suffering unspeakable pain, he was carried back to his filthy cell to die. But an army of prayer warriors interceded for him, and he was rescued.

Recovering from his wounds, Ding enrolled in a Chinese university where, in February 1910, during four days of meetings he conducted, 116 students offered themselves to the Lord for fulltime vocational service. As Ding saw God using his efforts, he realized the Lord was calling him to devote his life to working with students. In the summer of 1910, he was instrumental in forming the Chinese Student Volunteer Movement for the Ministry, and he became its first traveling secretary. His impact on Chinese university students was so great that Dr. John Mott said, “In recent years he has influenced the largest number of students to devote their lives to the Christian ministry ever secured by one mam during the history of the Church in Asia.” He came to be called the “Moody of China” and was said in his lifetime to be “the greatest evangelistic force that missions in China have ever produced.”

In February 1918, Ding wrote an article for The Missionary Review of the World, entitled “The Prayer-Life of Chinese Christians,” which described the prayer habits of Chinese Christians.

“The Gospel has now been preached in China for over a century, in her twenty-two provinces… Christian believers and inquirers number more than half a million. God has opened very wide the door for preaching the Word and for winning men to Him. Western and Chinese Christians alike will unite in acknowledging that the chief explanation of this is to be found in the great volume of prayer for China’s redemption…. The prayer-life of Chinese Christians has commanded my closest attention from my youth up.”

Ding Li-Mei went on to describe some of the prayer-practices of the Chinese church, including how cottage prayer meetings occurred across the nation the first week of every year; prayer retreats held by various Christian organizations; and the personal prayer habits of many godly men and women. He gave the example of an elderly woman named Mrs. Liang who lived in Shantung, and who was uneducated and very poor. When she came to Christ, she was the only Christian in her family or village, but she prayed with exceeding zeal. “Now more than eighty in her family and over twenty others in her village are Christians,” he said.

He told of a Methodist woman in Peking, Miss Pan Yuan Ying, who was much given to prayer. Every morning she prayed for at least 135 people by name. “She has a weekly cycle of prayer which she follows day by day….”

Then Ding wrote:

“That brings me to my own personal testimony. From boyhood I have taken delight in conversing with my friends on prayer and Bible study. Even when in school I joined two or three of my most intimate schoolmates in secret meetings for prayer and the study of Holy Scripture…. I spent three years in theological studies, giving myself wholly for a search for Truth. During these years the number of fellow-pray-ers grew, until by 1899, my prayer list included 105 names. This list has continued to grow until now, in 1917, it numbers 2,347….”

“As I think back over twenty years of experience in intercessory prayer, the longer I practice it, the more its importance grows on me. I do not know all the benefits which others may have received through these prayers, nor does it matter that I do not. I cannot refrain from enumerating ten out of the uncounted blessings which I myself have experienced in the practice of this habit:

  1. I am so much with the Lord that He seems my closest Friend.
  2. My spiritual life is refreshed like the sprouting grain with rain.
  3. Justice, peace and joy constantly fill my soul as the light fills the heavens and I get uncommon strength.
  4. When I study the Bible, I seem to see heaven opened, and realize that I am having communion with the heart of Christ Himself.
  5. When I talk about the Gospel in private or in public, I have an unshakable confidence that the hand of the Lord is supporting me.
  6. My love has steadily expanded until I now am conscious of no man in the universe whom I cannot love.
  7. When I fall into sin, whether secret or open, whether great or small, I experience an immediate rebuke of conscience, which drives me at once to confession and repentance.
  8. In all my work for the Lord, although the results are not alike evident or immediate, I do not know of any effort that has been in vain.
  9. Intercessory prayer has greatly enlarged my circles of friends among God’s co-workers, and through the Lord’s kind care these friendships will never cease…
  10. And best of all, I am not the only one who is trying to persevere in intercession. Others in my own and in other Christian organizations, both men and women, in church school and ministry, have likewise banded together in similar covenants of prayer these same twenty years.”

A Presbyterian tract about Ding’s life said, “What is the secret of his influence and power? It is neither scholarship nor rhetoric, but prayer. Hours every day does he spend in prayer. He has a book he ever carries with him, in which he has the names and addresses of over 2000 persons, with whom he has covenanted to pray each for the other by name every day. While sitting on the platform during a service, walking on the street, riding in a rickshaw, boat or car, he uses these otherwise unoccupied minutes to pray for these 2000 people…. While in my home, I had occasion to pass his bedroom; it was long past midnight, and I found the light of his lamp still streaming through the transom. When, the next morning, I playfully chided him for keeping such late hours, he replied, ‘When we separated last night, I still had 500 friends for whom I had not prayed yesterday, and I could not go to sleep without first carrying them, by name, to the throne of God in prayer.’”

In reading about this man, I don’t feel compelled to have 2000 people on my prayer list. But I am powerfully motivated toward greater faithfulness toward those who are on my prayer list and to maintain ever-closer constancy in my walk with God. I’m eager to meet Ding Li-Mei in heaven, though I suspect I’ll have to wait in line a while.