Intercession: how love prays

The Baroness Blixen, whose life the movie Out Of Africa dramatized, stood politely fidgeting in the receiving line waiting to greet the new Governor of Kenya.

His VIP reception, which featured all the area’s prominent socialites, dragged on with bland predictability. But what the Baroness was planning to do … well, nobody could’ve predicted that.

Changing times hadn’t been kind to her. She once owned a massive coffee plantation, including tribal lands of the Kikuyu people, but lost it during the financial bust following World War I.WhyGodWaitsCover

Certainly that loss stung her, but what really burned was the new owners’ attitude; they planned to throw the Kikuyu off their ancestral lands.

And this once-wealthy aristocrat had no money to buy back the land. She had no political clout and she found no sympathy when trying to work through government channels to help the Kikuyu.

Distraught, discredited and broke, she now saw the new Governor’s reception as a last chance, a shoestring tackle to save the people she loved. As the receiving line crept ahead slowly, she saw her opening.

The Baroness collapsed to her knees right in front of the Governor and began begging him to save the Kikuyu. Shocked onlookers tried to pull her away, but it was too late. She had ditched a lifetime of social correctness and “prayed” for the people who owned her heart.

She begged the Governor, “Please look into this matter! Please give me your word!” At that, the Governor’s wife stood. “You have my word,” she said.

Like a rose growing in a garbage dump, Baroness Blixen’s selfless love glistened in contrast to the empty social phoniness of her time. She really cared.

That quality – caring – is the golden heart of intercession; truly love on its knees.

-From Why God Waits For You To Pray – Chapter 13

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Avoiding disappointment in prayer

Just a decade or so before his death Charles H. Spurgeon, the famous 19th century London preacher, granted an interview about his long career. The interviewer asked if Spurgeon, well-known for his strong belief in prayer, had changed his mind about the power of intercession.Spurgeon

At that, Spurgeon told of a woman who came to his office distressed and needing advice. She had heard the preacher speak and his sermon so touched her that she thought he was aware of her problem – her husband had deserted her, leaving her penniless.

Spurgeon assured her that he had known nothing of her misfortune, but agreed to pray with her.  “There is nothing we can do but to kneel down and cry to the Lord for the immediate conversion of your husband.”

After the prayer he said, “Do not fret about the matter. I feel sure that your husband will come home, and that he will yet become connected to our church.”

Several months later the woman asked to see Spurgeon again, this time with a man whom she introduced as her husband. He had returned home as a converted Christian.

When Spurgeon and the woman compared notes, they found that the very same hour they had prayed together her husband, on board a ship at sea, had picked up a stray copy of one of Spurgeon’s sermons. When he read it, his heart melted. He cried out to God to save him, and made plans to rejoin his wife as soon as possible.

He and his wife both became members of Spurgeon’s church and never doubted the role of prayer in their reconciliation. As Spurgeon put it, “That woman does not doubt the power of prayer. All the infidels in the world could not shake her conviction that there is a God who answers prayer.”

Spurgeon also reminded the interviewer of the orphanage that the preacher’s ministry supported. The annual cost was 10,000 pounds, with only 1,400 pounds being guaranteed each year by endowment. The other 8,600 had to come in answer to prayer.

Speaking of the annual shortage of funds he said, “I do not know where I shall get it from day to day. I ask God for it, and he sends it. Mr. Muller, of Bristol, does the same on a far larger scale, and his experience is the same as mine.”

“The constant inflow of funds – of all the funds necessary to carry on these works – is not stimulated by advertisements, by begging letters, by canvassing… we ask God for the cash, and he sends it.”

After a lifetime of praying and seeing answers Spurgeon said, “It is not a matter of faith with me, but of knowledge and everyday experience. I am constantly witnessing the most unmistakable instances of answers to prayer. My whole life is made up of them.”

Did you catch that last phrase? It’s the key to avoiding disappointment in prayer. Make prayer a way of life, expecting answers, and you’ll see the larger picture of how God works when we ask.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2 NIV)

(See Touching Incidents & Remarkable Answers to Prayer)

Will Prayer Always Be The Last Resort?

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12 NIV)

A Yellowstone Park Ranger herded his group of hikers toward the fire lookout tower. They almost didn’t make it alive.

Along the trail, the Ranger got so caught up in telling about Yellowstone’s unique wonders that he switched off the two-way radio on his belt; the squawking and crackling distracted from his lecture.

But as they came within sight of the fire tower, a breathless park employee ran toward the group: “Grizzly bear! We’ve been up in the tower, watching him stalk you … we tried to call you on the radio … what’s wrong with your radio?!”

The moral of the story? Things get dangerous when you stop listening, especially when you stop listening to God.

Have you ever done that? Ever gone off making decisions without listening, without asking God’s advice, and then regretted it later? I have.

Have you ever set your course (“Here’s my plan, God … now please bless it”) and then pulled your hair out trying to bail out a sinking project that didn’t have Divine backing? You and I both know you have … so have I.

What’s wrong with that approach? It’s pre-packaged disaster, that’s all. That’s why Jesus never conducted ministry that way. Notice how he kept contact with his Father, especially when fork-in-the-road decisions had to be made:

About the middle of Jesus’ second ministry year, he started getting hateful opposition to his work. Because he claimed to forgive sins, and because he healed people on the Sabbath, his enemies decided to have him killed.

On top of that, he had another dilemma. Since his days on earth were numbered, someone would have to inherit his ministry. He would leave earth and leave his work behind … in human hands!

The gospel would have to be preached by flawed, finite, corrupt people… people without much experience at being Jesus. Which onJesusFacees should he choose? And how would they ever get enough training and spiritual knowledge to do a decent job of replacing Christ!?

Packing these two hot issues (First, how to handle Satan’s plot to murder him and Second, whom should he choose to inherit this ministry) Jesus climbed the mountainside to pray.

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12 NIV)

Be careful. We’re standing on holy ground. We’re witnessing something of the Divine mystery.

The Only Begotten Son of God. The Alpha and Omega. The Holy One of Israel. The Lion of Judah. The Prince of Peace. The Word, who was with God and was God. He is praying. He asks for his Father’s help. They converse all night long.

The next morning Jesus chose the Twelve.

Do you realize that the leadership plan of the church itself emerged that night in prayer? Before he began to transfer any authority to his followers, Jesus spent the whole night praying. It all began with prayer.

Why? Did the Son of God need to pray? If not, what he did was a sham, an empty exercise in deception. If he didn’t truly pray and his Father didn’t truly listen and answer, then the Bible is a lie.

Yes, Jesus needed prayer. He needed it because of his kinship with us as a human being. Do we need prayer any less? The Father’s ordained way of working with human issues on this planet is by prayer.

Whatever the project and however small its beginning, it needs prayer first. I’m trying to learn to pray more at the beginning of things, rather than later after the wheels have come off. Why not just pray for the church (as Jesus did) rather than wrangling over church politics, programs, or the latest gimmicks to inspire church growth.

Is it because we pray so little that we have such meager results … and such shallow leadership?

-Excerpted from Chapter 5 of Why God Waits For You To Pray by Keith Roberts