As I journey through a season of unemployment and seek God wholeheartedly, I enjoy God teaching me things that I have not slowed down to think about and contemplate intently. One of these things is intercessory prayer.
If you are anything like me, seasons of difficult trials and waiting on God can sometimes leave you feeling as if you are not praying hard enough, long enough, or effectively enough. These times can also leave us feeling very alone, and even feeling like our victory hangs solely on our own personal spiritual disciplines. Recently, as I prayed, I felt tired and empty; I could not find words to offer to God in prayer. I felt defeated because I felt like I should be praying, but I did not have the words or energy to pray. It was during this moment of self-conviction that God graciously spoke encouraging, comforting words to me that gave me peace, hope, and joy.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:26-28 NIV)
Many Christians are familiar with Romans 8:28, but what the apostle Paul states in the two verses prior to that is astounding and should be contemplated thoroughly. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us! Paul goes on to remind us that no one can condemn us; we are more than conquerors, nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God. Jesus died, rose again, and is now at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us! (Rom. 8:31-39) Jesus prays for us! I encourage you to take the time to carefully read through all of Romans chapter 8; it is incredibly encouraging for the believer.
God reminded me that when I am not praying, other people are praying for me. This is so comforting and liberating to think about. I can stop striving and stop feeling like I need to pray longer, harder, better. God gently reminded me that when I stop praying, He has other people praying for me where I left off. The situations that we labor in prayer over are not solely dependent on our effective prayers. God and others are praying on our behalf. This is called intercession. We would be wise to stay mindful of this.
But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their (our) behalf (Heb. 7:24-25).
We do need to pray earnestly, but we can also rest and be at peace knowing that when we are tired, when we are overwhelmed, when we stop praying, God the Holy Spirit, God the Son, and other believers are praying for us. Someone is interceding on your behalf for your difficult situations. This is such good news. This is one reason why it is so important to be involved in a community (small group) of other believers. We need to pray and intercede for one another.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16)
God reminded me that intercessory prayer could be likened to a relay race. Think of an Olympic relay race where the runner with the baton runs hard for a distance, and then hands the baton to the next runner, and so on. Think of the baton as our prayers that we run to the Lord. We do not run the entire race on our own. We run as a team. We run as best as we can, then the next runner takes the baton, and the race continues after we have stopped running. Our prayers are continually being carried to the Lord through intercession, through the passing of the baton so to speak. The race is still being run even when you stop running, and you can rest. When the Lord brings a certain someone to mind, take the baton and run in prayer, intercede for that person!
We should desire to be disciplined, and should train ourselves to be better prayer warriors, better interceders. But be encouraged today, knowing that the Lord has other people praying and interceding for you. Let’s not beat ourselves up with feeling like it is up to our prayers alone to get through to God to change our situation and to see our prayers answered. Let’s continue to intercede and pray for one another and rest in this truth.
I do not know what you are up against today, what you are challenged with or struggling with, but I do know that Jesus is your friend who cares for you and is praying for you. He most definitely understands, and He is for you. I know it might be very painful, messy, complex, and even impossible, but God has a plan for you, a good plan, and He and your friends are interceding for you.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:14-15).
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jer. 29:11 NIV)
Let’s shoulder one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2, Rom. 12:15, 2 Cor. 1:3-4).
Pray for your friends. Moreover, let’s aspire to be spiritually mature believers and even pray for our enemies too (Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:28).
Remember, someone is praying for you. In fact, it is very likely that someone is praying for you right now. Think about that!