Sunday, April 08, 2007

Intercessory Prayer

While I'm at home, I like to get together with my friends, catch up on what they are doing, and just enjoy spending time with them. Over the last few days, I've gotten to spend some extended time with friends I don't always get to spend much time with in my short time frames at home. My friends are diverse - some from my current church family, some who have been part of my church family in the past, some from school days, some from Girl Scouts. But in my get togethers over the last few days, there has been a common thread. As I visit with each friend, I found that I could better pray for them after our visit. I knew more what is going on in their life now. And unfailingly, there were issues that need God's special touch. I found myself repeating the phrase: "Hum, now I know better how to pray for you."

I've read two books, Maxie Dunham's Workbook of Intercessory Prayer, and The Workbook of Living Prayer that have helped me in my prayer life. One I did as part of my devotional time, the other I taught at Ladies' Bible Class several years back. The study on intercessory prayer was powerful and compelling. I even got compulsive . . . if I don't pray about it, God can't answer. I've rejected that theme inpart because it puts too much pressure on me, and it gives me the possibility of taking credit for what is really God's work. I learned to pray regularly for people, but I don't feel called right now to pray for anyone every single day. Sometimes as part of my meditation and prayer time, some one's name comes up in my mind, and I do take time to pray for them. I also regularly make a written list of people around me - family, friends, neighbors, etc and pray specifically for the needs that I know about. The written list helps me focus my thoughts about what I want to pray for each one. It also gives me a history to look back through later and see how God has worked in their lives to answer those prayers.

But the people I've been around the last few days have not been on that list. I will take time this week to pray specifically for each of the needs that I could see.

I looked up the word intercessory at

Intercessory: Entreaty in favor of another, especially a prayer or petition to God in behalf of another.

Intercede: to act or interpose in behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, as by pleading or petition: to intercede with the governor for a condemned man.

I think intercessory prayer does a number of things. First of all, when you take time to talk to people, asking about what is going on in their lives right now, they know that you care about them. When they share things that are concerning them with you, it takes some of their burden and allows you to share it with them - making it lighter. Sometimes, God uses those times so that you can share an insight or another way of looking at the problem. Sometimes, all you need to say may be: "Wow, that sounds like a painful thing to be going through." Or perhaps, "that is a difficult thing . . . anyone would be having problems with that."

But human problems don't always have immediate solutions. Human illnesses may stump doctors or have no permanent cures. I believe that God exists, that he cares what happens to us, and that he is still active here on earth. Therefore, prayer is important. Yes, God knows everything before we ask, but Jesus tells us: "Ask and ye shall receive, knock and the door shall be opened, seek and ye shall find." Medical science cannot explain it and is divided over the studies, but there are scientific studies that have shown that patients that are prayed for have statistically better outcomes than those who were not prayed for. (Correction: "Surveys have shown that millions of Americans routinely pray when they are ill or when someone they know is. A growing body of evidence has found that religious people tend to be healthier than average, and that people who pray when they are ill are likely to fare better than those who do not. Many researchers think religious belief and practice can help people by providing social support and fostering positive emotions, which may produce beneficial responses by the body." Rob Stein - Washington Post ) I can't explain it, but I've had difficult times in my life when people were praying for me. As the crisis ended, I could feel it somehow when the prayers tapered off, and it was time for me to walk less assisted.

Will I know and actually see the answers to the prayers I will make this week? Possibly not. But I know that in some mysterious way, my prayers will make a difference in the lives of these friends.

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