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I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

INTERCESSION

The power of prayer. There have been any number of studies, magazine
articles and occasional newspaper articles that report on the
usefulness of intercessory prayer and medicine. If you are a believer
you will find more reason to believe. Skeptics are rarely converted
but may be impressed by some reports. Much depends on the personal
experience of prayers answered or not answered. Unanswered prayers
that have ended in death can lead some to the loss of faith and
bitterness.

Not all religions encourage intercessory prayer. Muslims are
encouraged to surrender and acceptance thus finding peace in God's
will rather than trying to convince God to pay attention to a need.
Buddhism teaches a person to let go of such desires and seek an inner
peace beyond our physical or emotional desires.

Christianity however, stands above the rest in asking for prayer and
forming prayer chains for any number of requests. Their lists can be
long. Christianity believes God actually cares about the small stuff
in a person's life and has a hard time answering why the really big
stuff, like healing doesn't always work when all the prayers are done.

Jesus paints a powerful picture of the persistent petitioner who
finally gets their way. He also encourages us to trust a loving God
who counts the "hairs on our head". So Christians are really put on
the spot in answering the questions regarding "unanswered prayers". It
is a profound dilemma for any Christian.

Once upon a time, when I was in Morocco and attending a retreat with
other priests but all in French, I had an inspiration that changed my
view of intercessory prayer. My French at the time was too poor to
follow the talks, so entering into silent meditative prayer an amazing
question got formed in my soul. Was my prayer trying to inform God
that He should pay more attention to a particular need, or was God
trying to get MY attention regarding a need? Was the "burden on my
heart" because of my love or concern for someone or was it God sharing
HIS "burden" with me? Pondering this question I was deeply moved to
reverse my understanding of intercessory prayer. Rather than my
clamoring for attention to be paid to my prayer request, I was to
enter more deeply into the heart of God drawing me to pay attention to
His concern His love for someone or situation.

Consider the difference this makes regarding the efficacy of prayer.
Instead of questioning God as to His attentiveness to my plea I now
turn in wonder at His concern for someone or circumstance by sharing
His love for them with me. God is actually including me in His
providential love. "Standing in the gap" representing that God has not
forgotten or abandoned those for whom I pray. This is a far more
peaceful and encouraging space from which faith can be strengthened
and built up. Perhaps this is why the Black Church bears such strong
and enthusiastic testimony to standing in the gap. This is a church
born in the womb of suffering. Whereas my cultural inheritance born
out of privilege is more easily discouraged and disappointed by
intercessory prayer. My weak "Amen" cannot compare to the strong
"Halleluia" of an African American church.

The answer to such prayer may not be what I would imagine or pray for.
The answer may be sharing in the suffering and pain, the wounded heart
of God who expands my heart and understanding for those He loves but
who still suffers and die. Intercessory prayer may be more about
bearing witness that God is drawing near.

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