My prayer list seems to be growing. Maybe it’s a function of getting old(er) and keeping company with folks even older than I. This week I have been praying for a friend recovering from surgery and two others having surgery this week. I have also sent prayers heavenward as I read on Facebook of friends and family who request prayer — sometimes without knowing any specifics.
The three disciplines of Lent are fasting, giving and praying. The first two seem to go together naturally: we “give up” something and what we save by doing that we give away. That’s the economy of ‘self-denial.’ I suppose a similar kind of thing surrounds the discipline of prayer. Time we would spend on other things is devoted to prayer instead; but, I confess, my prayer time seems to expand or contract based largely on the length of my list or the depth of the concern I’m talking about with God. (And I don’t keep a timer running during my devotions, anyway.)
Intercessory prayer has always seemed a boring topic to me. I’d rather do it than talk about it or listen to others talk about it. And here I am blogging about it. That’s because, like I said, I’m doing more of it these days. And it got me thinking …
First of all, the idea of intercession seems a bit cheeky. We tell someone, “I’ll pray for you” as if that alone means something. But apparently it does mean something. As I have prayed aloud for a hair stylist or a waitress, her burden seems a bit lighter just by hearing someone else voice her concern to the Almighty on her behalf.
I remember when friends were going through the darkness of grief following the death of a child, they spoke of their prayer life as an enduring habit but one without warmth because of their anger with God. They said that initially the trite assurance “I’m praying for you” seemed almost to be annoying, but by the grace of God they began to hear the words differently. They started hearing it this way: “When you cannot bring yourself to have a civil conversation with God, know that I am praying FOR you. I’m praying the prayers you cannot articulate in your grief. I’m putting words to your guttural cries of pain.”
I have come to view intercessory prayer as a way in which we incarnate Christ to others. Truth is, human intercessors are not needed because Christ is every Believer’s Great Intercessor (Romans 8:34). But praying for others is a way we can help bear the burden of someone going through difficulties.
And I have been the beneficiary of intercessory prayer. My husband uses two words to describe the value of prayer on our behalf. He says he feels “buttressed” by the prayers of others in a “palpable” way. I know what he means — in a real way (palpably) we rely on the added strength we get (buttress) from intercessors.
If you wonder what I mean, listen to this beautiful song.