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February 12, 2013

Intercede, Pray, Love

Moving past good intentions and into real community with the power of prayer

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Too often when I encounter someone's desperate need, I offer a quick "You're in my prayers" without slowing down enough to make good on my word. Any "real" praying I do consists of a hastily muttered sentence during my busy day, as if I'm merely checking off my to-do list or making God aware of a situation he might've missed.

But the responsibility to pray for others deserves serious attention, as the abundance of biblical examples indicates. Moses regularly spoke with God on the Israelites' behalf because of their sin (Numbers 21:7). Esther requested her people to fast three days before she faced a volatile king (Esther 4:15-16). Paul asked early church members to pray for his speaking ministry (Ephesians 6:19-20). And Jesus spent most of his longest recorded prayer in passionate intercession for us (John 17).

Intercession—derived from the Latin words inter (between) and cedere (to go)—is an intervening or mediating between two parties with the goal of reconciling differences. And the key to a spiritual intervention is prayer. We need to move past good intentions and make interceding a vital part of living in Christian community. It moves us from being self-centered to being God-centered and other-centered.

I also discovered the motivation for the sacrificial, risky, and sometimes exhausting business of intercession: God's love (Romans 8:34-9:1). In his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, Philip Yancey explains love's effect:

"When I pray for another person, I am praying for God to open my eyes so that I can see that person as God does, and then enter into the stream of love that God already directs toward that person. Something happens when I pray for others in this way. Bringing them into God's presence changes my attitude toward them and ultimately affects our relationship."

Learning to love one another the way God loves us moves us to do what we've never before considered. It bubbles up in kindness when we lack ability. It stirs up compassion when we'd rather stay detached. It frees up our busy schedules when we see that a friend—or even an enemy—needs us to intercede. If we fear we don't have enough love for such a task, we can ask the author of love to pour a bit of overflow from his heart into ours as we open it up to a passionate ministry of gap-standing prayer.

Adapted from TCW article "I'll Be Praying for You" by Michele Cushatt

Related Tags: Challenges; Friendship; Prayer; Love

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