In response to a friend’s recent question about for others, I shared something that I do not always remember myself: Part of being on mission means accepting the invitation to pray and intercede for others (1 Thessalonians 5:9, Ephesians 6:19).
“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”Colossians 4:3
I both want to share in others’ burdens by thinking about how they might be feeling, but also turn these burdens over to the Lord (Psalm 55:22, Galatians 6:2). We catch glimpses of the early church doing this regularly (Acts 12:12, 20:36). These prayers are also an opportunity to gain humility as we pray prayers often ones no one even knows about.
This could lead us to a different question, “Does it really matter that I pray for others? What difference will it make?” It deeply matters. Prayer increases our trust that He hears us, allows us to participate in the body of Christ, and reduces the size of our self-kingdoms. Ultimately, prayer grows our love of God and love for others.
If I believe this about prayer, then I should fervently intercede for the salvation of those I love and care for. I often cry out for others to have a radical encounter with God’s presence. I believe in Him more as I pray for this.
I imagine Him at their door:
He stands at the door and knocks. (Revelation 3:20)
At their window peering in. (Song of Solomon 5:2)
Sometimes I want others to know Christ on my own time, though. I find myself frequently wishing I could just push my way into the scene, frantically waving my arms from inside their house. “Don’t you see this world cannot satisfy?!” I want to yell. This impatience is not of the Lord. my internal dialogue of excuses causes me to be silent, rather than prayerful.
So too, our sins can be revealed in prayers for others. How beautiful is it that He can both hear our prayer for others and convict us at the same time?
Our Desire to Control Reveals Our Limitedness (The Irony!)
I read a beautiful commentary recently on a well-known story in the gospels of the Loaves and Fishes I never noticed before how it follows stories of Jesus healing the sick. It is below. Read verse 15 bolded a few times, then the whole paragraph.
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”Matthew 14:13-21
Think about this: As a disciple, they’d already seen Jesus do all kinds of miracles. If he were going to feed them that day, surely he would have done it already. Tick-tock, time’s a-wastin’! Instead, the disciples take matters into their own hands, rather than asking Jesus to provide.
…So it goes with me. I know the solution to this problem! As the disciples reason it out, it sounds all too familiar: “It will take this long to get back into town before sunset, the markets will close if we wait much later, and nothing is going to happen by sitting around here waiting.” Translation: “Listen, I know how to fix it. I am good at listening to people and relationship building, after all. A gift from the Lord. Alright, let’s go!”
“Do we imagine that the only proof of God’s love is that a problem immediately goes away? Or can we see in our own hunger, our weariness, our limitation, the moment to run to Jesus, to be even more dependent on Him?”Fr. Peter John Cameron
Perhaps this is an eerily recognizable series of sinful thoughts for you, too. “Let’s go!” is a life mantra I am trying to turn over to the Lord. I am limited in what I can accomplish. He is not.
I remembered back to all the lives of those I love, who I hope would have a radical encounter and union with Him. I realize how important it is for my faith – and for the faith of these souls – to see this beautiful opportunity we have in prayer to choose to run to Jesus while we wait for them to answer the door and behold His limitlessness.
In your next prayer time this week, focus on interceding for others. Ask yourself: Who has been on my heart lately? Who has shared their struggles with me recently? For those that come to mind, ask God to:
- Increase the ability of the person(s) to see and hear Him knocking at their door with his limitless love.
- Show you how to be present with that person in their struggles, only saying what is necessary and praying through all else.
- Reduce your self-kingdoms’ size and join Him in caring deeply for others and participating in His mission.
- Heighten your listening skills so that the person feels His Holy Spirit present in your conversations, knowing that we have limitations and will not do it perfectly.