Importance of Intercessory Prayer

How important is intercessory prayer? Do our prayers for others actually help?

Study Jesus in Gethsemane (Matt 26:35-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). In His time of greatest agony He asked his friends to pray for Him. Think of it. The God who created all the universe was hurting so much He asked for the prayers of his closest friends.

But before He asked for their prayers, He asked for their companionship. He asked them to go a little farther, stay awake a little longer, pay a little more attention, give a little more of their energy and time on his behalf.

And they did so, for awhile. Then they went to sleep.

All too often we say to a hurting neighbor or acquaintance “I’m sorry things are so tough for you right now. I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Then we turn and walk away, unwilling to give a bit our our time and energy to help ease their pain. Our lack of action shows how we refuse to let the problems of others intrude on our own comfort zone.

Oh, such prayers do help, if we actually remember them. We can certainly be of assistance by praying. But if we, like the disciples, are called on to go a little farther and give practical aid and comfort, are we willing to do so? In our Christian growth have we allowed God to develop in us a sense of “disruptive compassion” – the willingness to let the needs of others disrupt our normal pattern of life?

Bits & Pieces, Odds & Ends – 12

What does God most want to give me? Himself. Is that what I most want to receive?

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Sometimes God’s provision for hungry people gets stuck in the pockets of middle-class Christians.

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In the operation of a church, efficiency and respectability must never over-shadow compassion.

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Where will obedience to God today lead me tomorrow? I don’t know. If I  trust Him enough I won’t care.

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The cross is the proof of God’s love. The empty tomb is the proof of God’s power. The invitation to enter his kingdom is proof of God’s mercy and grace. Do I really need to know any more about Him?

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The way Peter talked (Matthew 26:73) convinced strangers he was a disciple of Jesus.  Does the way I talk tell people the same about me?

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The main goal of prayer should not be “God, hear me.” It should be “God, help me hear you.” I am not praying effectively if I am not hearing God clearly.

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Are praise and meditation mutually exclusive? Is “…shout to the Lord…”(Psalm 32:11) permission, a suggestion  or a command?

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Jesus was the Father’s translator and interpreter. He heard a voice men could not hear in a language they could not speak. His actions and miracles were the audio-visuals of his teaching ministry.

Specific Repentance

Many people believe (and I agree) that when we pray for God to bless others, our requests are more likely to be granted if we pray for specific blessings. Rather than “Father, bless Johnny today” we should pray “Father, help Johnny pass his math test and behave in the lunch room and remember to bring home his dirty sweat socks and feed the cat after school.”

The same principle holds true when we pray for forgiveness for ourselves. Instead of “Dear Father, forgive me for all of my sins today” we should pray “Dear Father, forgive me for snapping at my kids and for the name I called the driver of that black pick up and for criticizing my boss and for laughing at that crude joke I heard during the coffee break at work.”

Specific sins call for specific confession and repentance.

But what if no specific sins come to mind while we are praying? Then our prayers should be “Dear Father, show me the exact ways I disappointed you today. Make me aware of them so I can confess and repent. Give me the wisdom and strength to resist them tomorrow.”

Such prayers will no doubt prolong our prayer times. When we linger and allow the Holy Spirit to be bring specific sins to mind we are more likely to achieve intimacy with our God, which is the main purpose of prayer.

Prayer Request Challenges

Ephesians 6:18 tells me I am supposed to “…keep on praying for all the saints.” (NIV) Because of physical proximity these saints are most likely to be people in my church and Bible-study group. It seems my prayers for them should begin with their spiritual condition and then expand to physical health and family relationships. But too often that’s not how it works.

When small groups of Christians (10-15) meet, their prayer requests are more likely to be “My son needs a job” or “My neighbor is in the hospital” than “I’m having trouble loving some of the people in my church.”

As a child of God I tend to be ashamed. I don’t want to admit to other Christians that I have spiritual needs such as lack of faith, fear of the future or a tendency to criticize. I fear that such expressed needs will become gossip fodder rather than prayer topics. So I don’t request prayers for the really important issues in my life.

If I have such lack of confidence in my brothers and sisters, they probably feel the same way about me.

And once again I have done a better job of identifying and isolating a problem than offering a solution. Do you have any ideas?

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My stumbling, bumbling, simple prayers are accepted by God for the same reason that parents value their first-grader’s art work…LOVE. Do you suppose God sometimes puts our prayers on his refrigerator door?

Thought Provokers

When dealing with sin, American Christians have a problem over-using “We”  and “Us” and “Our” while too seldom using “I” and  “My.”

Statements such as “We  have wandered away from God” or “Our churches have forgotten God” are common. But admissions of “I have let God become second place in my life” and “My time with God has been neglected” are rare.

I call this corporate confession and it seems we have allowed it to replace the personal, intimate aspects of a soul-searching relationship with our Father.  We too easily can see the lack of Godliness in others (society, culture, government, education) but refuse to admit our own sins and request forgiveness.

I don’t think God’s anger and disappointment are assuaged if we confess only the sins of others. He wants each of us to come to Him on a personal, face-to-face basis to confess and repent.

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Those of us over sixty years of age have experienced perhaps the most prosperous fifty years of our country’s history. As Christians we have donated enormous amounts of money to our churches.

What have our churches done with it? We have sent missionaries, built children’s homes and hospitals, preached, taught, fed the hungry and spread the good news about Jesus. Certainly all these are good things. But we have also built humongous buildings and parking lots that require the efforts of large full-time staffs.

Twenty years from now, who will pay the repair and maintenance bills? Who will be responsible for meeting the payroll each month? Have we created brick-and-mortar albatrosses that will hang around the necks of our children and grandchildren?

 

Pray Because?

Do the prayers of God’s children actually produce specific changes in the circumstances of our lives? Do our prayers really move mountains, heal the sick or provide jobs? If so, can we identify the exact changes that occurred because we prayed? And if our prayers do not have such results is it because we (A) did not pray enough or (B) because we did not pray correctly or (C) we did not have enough faith or (D) some combination of the above?

This is not an issue of “Does God bless me.” Every day he blesses me in hundreds of ways I never think to pray for. (My body keeps making white blood cells. My house did not collapse yesterday. Our military did not have a nuclear accident last night.)

It is an issue of specific changes as a result of my prayers.

It is not an issue of “Has God granted any of my prayer requests.”  My family remains healthy, my country is safe from terrorist attacks and my church leaders continue to make wise decisions.

But my friends are not cured from Parkinson’s, my grand daughter still does not have a job that will provide her economic security and my governmental representatives can not seem to make reasonable decisions.

My greatest fear is that when I get to heaven I will find these, and other specific changes, did not occur in my earthly lifetime because my prayer life was inadequate.

I suppose my attitude should be “God does not make specific changes I request because He plans to give me something better.”  But if He is hearing, and ignoring, my requests for the less-than-the-best , then my praying is having no effect at all.  (Except perhaps on me.) And the answer to the original question is “No.”

Does this mean that the secret to having prayer requests granted is to first correctly discern what He wants in the first place? Does that mean my ONLY prayer for change in this world should be “Father, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven and give me the strength and wisdom to accept it as adequate and complete?”

When I have heard preachers/teachers extol the value of Christians asking spiritual questions, I have always wondered if such activity can sometimes cause problems for the listeners. I pray this has not happened for you as read this.

Have A Good Day ?

“Have a good day” is an almost universal greeting in our society. When we consider those words we always think about things that might happen to us. But as Christians maybe we should consider that phrase in terms of what we do, say or think that would cause us to have a “good day.”

When we go to our Father in prayer at the end of the day, the standard for a “good day” should be based on how often we prayed, how much we praised, who we served and how sincerely we loved.  If He should ask us “Did you have a good day” I could answer based on what I “did” rather than “what was done to me or for me.”

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Our progression from “baby Christians” (1 Corinthians 3:2) to mature children of God should be evident in our prayer life. We should be consistently moving from “Now I lay me down to sleep” toward “Nevertheless not my will but thine.” (Luke 22:42)

A change in our opening line from “Dear God, please_________” to “Dear Father, I thank you and praise you for _____________” would be an indicator of greater Christian maturity.

The same would be true in the areas of confession and repentance. Rather than a general “Please forgive me of all my sins,” a prayer of specific confession and repentance would be something like “Dear Father, I recognize that my attitude toward my boss and co-workers, my constant complaining and griping, are not pleasing to you. I’m sorry. Thank you for forgiving me. Please change me.”

The “who” of our maturing prayer life would also be affected. We all are familiar with requesting blessings for our friends and family. But when was the last time we offered a sincere prayer for our enemies?


 

Helpless Praying

Being fully and accurately grateful to God requires that I understand and recall who He is, who I was and who I am. He is the creator and sustainer of the universe, perfect and omnipotent. I was a sinner, by choice and nature God’s enemy. I am his child, the recipient of his mercy and grace. (I need to allow the Holy Spirit to remind me of all this several times each day.)

             If we are immersed in the realization of these things then prayer for others becomes more intense and frequent because we want them to have what we have. It also places us in a position to live in an “attitude of gratitude” praising and worshipping Him at times other than on Sunday morning.

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           When I acknowledge I am helpless I should feel hopeful because acknowledged helplessness opens the door for God to use his power on my behalf. This lowly attitude should accompany all my prayers.

This is true when my praying stumbles (Romans 8:26) if my prayer problem is lack of wisdom, not lack of discipline. (The passage says when “I do not know” how to pray, not when I am too lazy or rushed to pray.)

The Holy Spirit knows God’s plan for me and has the responsibility for showing me how to pray so that his will is carried out in my life.

I Sinned

I sinned…again. I know it. My family knows it. My friends know it. My church knows it. God knows it. I know that God knows it.

It was a huge, ugly, stupid, selfish, no-excuse-for-it, hurtful, Satan-directed sin.

I went to God in my prayer closet and the sin was so large and fresh that it dwarfed all else in our relationship. It was just God and me and my sin.

I tried to pray, but all I could say was “I’m sorry.” After the first time it just rolled off my tongue in a continuous cry “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

I was almost ashamed to stay in His presence. I was too repentant to say anything else, but I was too hopeful and desperate to leave.

I started to say “I didn’t mean to do it,” but realized it would be a lie. I did mean to do it, but I went ahead anyway. I knew it was a sin and I knew what I was doing.

I added “Please forgive me.” Part of my mind understood that He had already done that, but part of me needed to ask again and again. (Is it a waste of time to ask for something you have already been given?)

I wasn’t sure there was any grace still available for me. Had He already dismissed me as a hopeless case? I tried to let myself believe He might someday want to commune with me like we did before the sin.

Finally, I slowly began to realize that God never gives up on me. The Holy Spirit made me aware that God had forgiven me and he would teach me to forgive myself. Only then could I leave my closet and take my place in His kingdom as a beloved child of the King.

Claim God’s Promises

2 Corinthians 1:20 “Christ says “Yes” to all God’s promises. This is why we have Christ to say “Amen” for us to the glory of God. ” (CEV)

As children of God, why do we continue to ask Him to do things for us rather than thank Him for doing what He has already promised? We should “thank you” more than we say “give me.” Everything He has promised will happen.

It seems there are three reasons:

EITHER

We are unaware of what God has promised. We don’t know exactly what He has said.

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We don’t think God can do what He has promised. We feel our problems are too big and complicated for God to fix.

OR

We don’t think God wants to do what He has promised. After all, as creator of the universe and holy beyond our comprehension why should He bother with puny, sinful folks like us?

This situation is evident in the childhood prayer we learned years ago. (And we still frequently repeat it in more fanciful, complicated language.)

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”

He has already promised to keep my soul (John 10:28). It would be more appropriate to pray “I know you are going to protect my soul and I thank you for that.”

“If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

He has promised to welcome my soul into His presence after my death (John 14:3). More appropriate would be “Thank you that I have an eternal home in heaven with you.”

Should we request God’s protection when we are awake? Or do we perhaps we feel we can take care of ourselves then?

Maybe the sixteen hours of wakefulness each day should be an item of prayer similar to

Night time is over. I’m awake. May I live today only for your sake. If this should be my final day, I dedicate it all to The Way.

John 14:6