There is a radical shift going on in my mind and, better yet, in my heart. Well, it may not be radical for some people and certainly, what constitutes radical to me is a far cry from what others think of as radical. Nonetheless, I am approaching the throne of grace in an entirely new way these days and, I have to say, it is quite refreshing.
Loren and I had one of those wonderful theological discussions the other day that start out as one thing and build and build until you are talking about something entirely different and, instead of it being something that affects some small part of your life, it ends up being something that affects the way you see everything. Let me just stop here and say how incredibly blessed I feel to have a husband who loves the Word of God. He is a student of it and I benefit in every way. I love that we have these kinds of discussions and that we challenge each other to dig deeper. I love that he lets me read, out loud, to him passages that I feel must be read out loud, lest my heart explode with the wonder of it all. I am overcome with gratefulness that I snagged this particular prince.
Now, onto the radical shift. Okay, we have had quite a lot to pray about lately and that got us to talking about how, when you start to pray for others, it can seem almost overwhelming. There is so much need and, at some points, it starts to feel like we should quit everything else we are doing and just stay home and pray, with maybe a couple of bathroom breaks for good measure. Oh yeah, and then there are the kids, who, in spite of their new found ability to entertain themselves for a good half hour or so, have not learned to cook or clean or make money to pay bills and would thus be very little help, practically speaking. Needless to say, the intercessory thing feels like a full time job. This spurred us on to talk about how we pray, or rather, what is required of us when we pray in order for God to answer. No, the radical shift has not made me become a “Name it and Claim it” kind of gal...but stay with me.
There seem to be at least three things (this is not exhaustive, since we don’t yet have the whole bible memorized) required for God to answer our prayers. First, we must “believe and not doubt,” according to James 1. Second, I John 5 says that “if we ask, according to his will, we will have what we asked of him.” Third, James 4 tells us that we “have not because we ask with selfish motives.” So, we must believe, we must ask according to his will, and we must ask with pure motives.
The first thing I noticed, right off the bat, is that most of the stuff I pray for either falls into the category of selfish motives, or it is hazy as to whether it is in God’s will or not. “Lord, let me get that job….heal my sick friend…let the car start this morning, etc.” You get the point. I still believe that it is good to pray for these things. Phillipians 4:6 tells us, “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” He is perfectly able to sort out motives and to accomplish his will in our lives even if our requests miss the mark. We make the requests because we are engaging in relationship with God. I also know that I have to hold on to these particular desires loosely.
I think where the real radical shift comes is that, before last week, I might have said that I have to hold on to all my desires loosely. I don’t believe that anymore. What I do believe is that there are some things, things that are unselfish and things that are, scripturally, according to his will, that I can cling to with everything that I have and that I can ask for, believing that he has set in motion all that he needs to accomplish this purpose.
Finally, it occurs to me that one of the most powerful things about intercessory prayer, as it pertains to these things that are unselfish and according to his will, is that we pray because those in need of our prayers sometimes haven’t the faith necessary to pray in a way that will accomplish the undivided attention of our Lord. Does this make sense to anyone else? We pray because we, who aren’t in the middle of the devastation, who aren’t being battered every day by the flaming arrows of the evil one, who aren’t so raw with the grief of it all, are perhaps more able to believe the promises of the Everlasting God. We pray, believing, on behalf of the one who can’t quite muster up the faith to envision the beautiful, restorative ending to their story…which is really a beautiful beginning. We intercede on their behalf. We believe on their behalf. And we pray.