In the silence of the worship service, I heard someone whisper my name.
Before our congregation’s time of prayer in our weekly worship service, my pastor-husband reviewed that week’s prayer list, including my upcoming surgery to repair a detached retina. Following his usual routine, he read a Bible passage and prayed that Scripture over our church family. Then he paused for a silent time of prayer, allowing each of us to intercede for situations and people by name of most concern to us.
Behind me by a couple of rows, someone began to whisper their prayer. I don’t know who it was. I didn’t dare look lest I draw attention to them. Never before had I heard someone pray audibly in our season of silence. I loved it. How encouraging to know someone was actually praying instead of silently waiting for the silence to end. It was a beautiful sound.
I couldn’t hear individual words. I heard only the muffled impassioned voice, pleading with the Father. Then, in the breath before my husband concluded the time of prayer, I distinctly heard my name. Karen Wingate.
My name rose before the Father of Glory and became a glistening dewdrop in the halls of heaven, joining all the other whispered prayers from impassioned hearts, filling Heaven with their fragrance as they poured forth in praise to God. It touched me in that deep spot that is beyond expression and emotion. Someone was praying for me at the highest level of intercessory prayer.
It’s one thing to tell someone we’ll pray for them. Let’s face it, we say that and often forget to actually pray. I’ve done that, have you? Hearing a spoken prayer in our behalf fills our own souls with a sweet fragrance. Someone cares. Someone sacrificed moments of time to pray for me. Someone became Jesus with flesh on and spoke for me before the Father.
Yet there’s still a shackle on my sincerity when I pray aloud for others. Like Ivory soap, my motives are not 100% pure. I’m a writer. I love words. I get entangled in how I word the prayer, hoping I sound eloquent and well, sincere. My highest aim in public prayer is to forget about myself and how I sound. After all the scripted words matter not so much to God as the intent of the heart. My heart is right, but I still sometimes slip into the mode of me getting in the way of myself.
But a whispered prayer, ah! Not done for show but not so silent that a busy mind flits to another thought like did I turn the oven on for the Sunday dinner pot roast? A whispered prayer is deliberate, intentional, directed.
This whispered prayer was for me.
Prayer is a form of grace. Prayer admits someone has a need, a weakness they cannot fix on their own. A need that other humans cannot fix. Prayer admits that this is a God-sized job.
Prayer is an expression of compassion. “Do you see my friend, Karen, Lord? She needs Your help right now.” Prayer is telling the Almighty that you wish a better life or better health for this person regardless of the reasons for how they got in that fix.
Prayer without grace would be no prayer at all. Grace is an undeserved gift. If we refused to pray, we would in essence be saying, “You deserve the trouble you’re in,” “God helps those who help themselves,” or “If you had more faith, God would heal you.” But a prayerful plea says, “I love this person in spite of their flaws and mistakes. I want life to be better and easier for them. God, I want Your agenda for this person instead of my own.”
Prayer is an acknowledgement of faith. Like the four friends who took their paralyzed friend to Jesus, the intercessor in essence says, “I can’t help you but let me take Your need to Someone who can help.” My faith in God’s ability to handle anything is strengthened when I find I am not alone in my faith. Through their prayers for my surgery, others share my confidence that God not only has the capacity to heal my eyes but also has the desire to stay close beside me during recovery, attending to that myriad of details better than any caregiver could ever do.
When I am a recipient of intercessory prayer, my gratitude silences my voice and tiptoes out in the form of tears. I’ve been wrapped in multi-layers of God’s lavish love and embraced by the compassion, mercy, and faith of His family. The prayers of God’s people give me the encouragement I need to run the race set before me. That’s what that whispered prayer did for me.