I have a confession to make – but it will come later.
I believe in the power of intercessory prayer. I believe there are people who are blessed with the ministry of praying for others. I, myself, have reaped the benefits of intercessory prayer on my behalf. Sometimes, I have been in the midst of the “valley of the shadow of death” (or so it seemed), and someone was interceding for me and I wasn’t even aware of their intercession until after my trial had past. I don’t get on a plane to fly anywhere without calling my godsister and asking her to pray for and with me. (Unfortunately for her, sometimes this means she gets awakened at 4:00a on a weekend morning when she could be sound asleep in her bed – but she never grumbles and she always prays). I remember my grandmother telling me once she woke up at 2:00a and just started praying for me – not knowing that, at that exact time, I was driving from Atlanta GA to Huntsville AL with friends and we were almost involved in a horrible car accident. So, yeah: I believe in the power of intercessory prayer.
And as my faith and relationship with God has grown, I have come to recognize that I am called to be an intercessor as well. I am often called upon by friends, family and coworkers to pray for and with them. And while most of the time, I don’t feel worthy to do it, I strive to be faithful and pray for others as they have requested. I even started and carry around a prayer journal to list the names of the people requesting prayers…(it’s not as complete as it needs to be, and just like me, it is a work in progress). I have come to recognize that this, along with the ministry of encouragement, are the spiritual gifts that God gave me and wants me to use for His glory.
So, here comes the confession: Sometimes I “resent” the burden of these two ministries. Bearing the burdens of others can weigh on your soul if you personalize and internalize it, which is very easy for me to do. Beat down and downtrodden by my own issues, it is sometimes hard to speak the encouraging word to someone else. And when I am feeling totally unworthy of God’s unmerited favor towards me, it is really difficult to get on my knees and petition the throne of grace on behalf of someone else. I don’t want to be anyone else’s “conscience” when I know (better than anyone else) the issues that I struggle with on a daily (minute by minute – second by second) basis. And let’s not even talk about the periods of self pity, self doubt and “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms” when I wonder, “But what about me? Who is praying for me? Is anyone lifting my name before the Lord?”
I had one of these periods not too long ago and, compounded by some other stuff going on in my life, it was hard to get up in the morning, do my personal devotions and face the world with a glad heart and cheery spirit (if you get my drift). I am blessed to have a Christian co-worker and really good friend (Jacquie), who recognized that something was just not right with me when we joined one morning to pray for another friend who was facing a trial and had requested prayer. After we prayed for this mutual friend, Jacquie asked me if everything was ok with me and I confessed that I was just feeling a little overwhelmed and pressed upon and she told me that, while praying for others, we need to make sure others were praying for us – and she stopped and prayed with and for me. What a blessing she was to me that day (and continues to be every day). And then this morning, the pastor on our prayer call didn’t know he was praying specifically for me, but he was when he made a blanket prayer request to bless those who are feeling overwhelmed today, which seems to be where I am all the time lately. I know God will bring me through it, He always does, but sometimes we need someone else to lift our hands for us.
I wonder who lifts Jesus’ hands as He intercedes for us? Does He have special angels who pray for Him as He prays to His Father for us? Can we pray for His strength and power to go on as He prays the same for each of us? As I contemplated this today, it occurred to me that what strengthens me when I am discouraged is someone coming back to me with a praise report about an answered prayer or someone saying “thank you, it meant a lot what you did for / said to me in my time of distress / sickness / sorrow”. So, I think it encourages Jesus when we say “Thank you” to Him and acknowledge all that He does for us. I think when we praise Him for His goodness, love and mercy towards us, it lifts His spirits and moves His heart towards even more compassion for us. So, it is my determination to change the tone and tenor of my prayers – spend more time thanking Him for the blessings, instead of focusing on my hurts, sorrows and disappointments. And I know He will bless – He always does.
And for the record, I pray daily for everyone who might read this blog online, or this note on Facebook, or however you receive this message - so when I ask you to pray for me as I pray for you…I truly do mean it.