Intercessory prayer is the privilege of partnering with God to strengthen others for His Kingdom work. Prayer requests are only the beginning of that partnership.
Lots of prayer requests flood my Facebook page every day. That’s a good thing. I love praying for other people!
My friend, Bev, repeats often that it is a privilege to pray for God’s Saints. I agree. We get to walk right up to the Throne of Grace and intercede for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It really is an extension of God’s grace to pray for each other. You can’t pray effectively for someone else if you hold ill will in your heart toward them. Intercessory prayer shows the strength of my compassion for others as I bring their needs to the One who can be part of the solution.
Recently, words failed me when I heard of a friend’s need. This dear friend, as close as a sister in the flesh, lost two blood relatives in one day. I felt so bad for her. What could I possibly to do to help bear the burden? A card? In the mailbox, but it seemed like such a small effort. A meal? I live 15 miles away and I can’t drive. What else?
There’s always prayer.
How could I pray for my friend?
The typical prayer points came to mind:
- Family harmony as they worked through funeral arrangements
- Reminders of the hope they have in Heaven
I still wasn’t satisfied. In desperation, I cried out to the Lord, “Show me how I can help my friend!”
Most likely, He was waiting for me to ask.
I’ve heard it said that our prayers are often self-focused, filled with expectations of what we want God to do for us. That’s not such a bad thing. At least, we are admitting that we cannot handle life on our own and we want God to come on board with us. Asking for His help admits we are willing to relinquish the driver’s seat to Him.
Intercessory prayer goes a step further.
By praying for someone else, we’re getting out of our own bubble and acknowledging that others face life issues too. We’re inviting God to work in the middle of their messes and reveal His glory so bystanders might see the glory and presence of our Lord.
Show me how I can help or, to tighten the phrase, Use me, elevates intercessory prayer to yet a higher level. It’s telling God that I’m willing to set aside my day’s agenda to become the hands and feet of Jesus. Instead of standing at arms’ length, I’m willing to step in close and see the details of someone’s need. I partner with God when I make myself available to be part of His solution to someone else’s prayer. I’m yielding my agenda and my ideas to let Him choose how I can best help.
Go ahead. Dare to pray it.
“God, show me how I can help.”
When you do pray that prayer, be willing to respond to those Holy Spirit nudges. The Lord might ask you to do something you feel ill equipped to do, something out of your comfort zone. That’s okay. Step out in faith and do it. When you extend yourself into the difficult and impossible, you’ll know from the results that God was in that moment.
What if I don’t get any ideas?
Maybe the Lord is telling you, He’s got it covered. This time, He doesn’t need you. Relinquish the need to Him and move on to the task for the day to which He has called you. As much compassion as I felt for my friend, there really was nothing I could do. Yet God redirected me to help someone else in our congregation that week, someone who had no family to care for her. For the next few days, we became family to her. We became the answer to her cry to the Lord.
What if I don’t know the person?
That’s the frustration I feel over Facebook requests. I don’t even know these people! Is my intercessory prayer for strangers enough?
I’ve heard our ability to help described in this way. When we hear of a crisis situation, we belong either in a sphere of influence or a sphere of concern. I may be able to help directly if I know the people involved. What if I am only in the sphere of concern? What if the prayer request comes from someone on Facebook half a continent away? Can I do anymore more than pray?
Who is making the request? How well do you know that person? Do they, in turn, know the people involved? If so, how can you help your friend who is closer to the situation and who does live within the sphere of influence? Your ministry may be to the helper, not the one in crisis.
As a minister’s wife, I am often at the front lines of ministering to crisis needs up close and personal. Believe me, it means so much to have the encouragement and prayers of church members. We’ve had times where church members, knowing our schedules were extra heavy with frontline work, have brought us meals, babysat our children, and taken me to the store or doctor’s appointments when Jack has had to be out of town for hours on end. Helping the helper is as crucial as actually doing the work yourself.
If there is still no strong connection, pray once and let it go. Ask once again, Lord, where do You need to use me today?
Making myself available to God takes the focus off me. Instead of demanding God fill my requests my way or planning out what I can do to help someone, praying the prayer, “Use me” shows I’m willing to buy into God’s plan. Instead of approaching prayer with, “Here’s what You can do for me,” it focuses on, “Lord, what can I do for You? How can I serve You?”
Servant hearted intercessory prayer is, after all, the best kind of God’s Grace on Parade.
Who has God put on your spiritual radar today?