Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A few thoughts on prayer

Sometimes it feels like the list of people for whom I'm compelled to pray is so long it's overwhelming. Almost every conversation involves some profound need, either of the person, or of one of their loved ones, which begs for intercession. And I confess I haven't always been successful at keeping all those needs people in my head. It's all too easy to be swallowed up in the pain of my own nearest and dearest.

But intercession is every believer's responsibility. To pray for one another puts us at the center of the Holy Spirit's action on earth. And it takes us out of the pit in which we wallow. Or if we happen to be in a high place, a place of rest or even joy, it puts us in touch with the weaker in His Kingdom.  I've learned this. I've learned that when I practice intercession in an ongoing, meaningful way, I'm a deeper believer, a disciple in whom He works more widely. And I have to say, there's something kind of...well, addicting about being used by Him so powerfully. It can lead to more hunger to pray because I see Him working in those for whom I pray and simultaneously gets me out of myself and my own selfish pre-occupations. It is the path on which I "walk in a manner worthy of Christ..."

So I thought this morning I'd talk about a couple of the simple practices I've used in my intercession life.When I was a young believer, I used to tell almost everyone I met that I was praying for them. Then didn't. The Lord convicted me of this years ago. So now, I don't tell someone I'll pray for them unless I intend to. In order to do this, as soon as I finish a conversation with someone in deep need, I pray for them. Even if we've ended that conversation praying together. As I hang up the phone or walking away, I'm praying. As I get into my car, I'm interceding... because often the pace of life (and, of course, my own self) makes me forget. I have the best of intentions, of course. But the road to hell is paved with...well, you know the old saying (indeed, my mother often repeated it when we made excuses for undone chores). Anyway, an instant response is instant obedience to His injunction to pray, I think. And clearly, the Holy Spirit uses it.

There have also been long seasons in my life when I've used prayer cards with names of people on them--names and their troubles or situations. These are seven  3x5 cards obviously divided into days of the week.  Some people, like family members, are permanent fixtures on the cards. Others, penciled in, come and go with request (or just observed need) and answer recorded. It can take a long time each day to pray through my list, and I admit that I've been granted the luxury of hours that allows for this. However, when my children were younger, I'd carry those cards in the diaper bag or purse, and pray along the way. I'd take them out as I was driving and peek at a name at a stoplight, remind myself of them as I was about to take a shower. It's amazing how much time there actually is during the day for prayer, if one gives herself to it.

However, (and this is a rather large however) there have been seasons when His pressed-on-me practice of praying has been sporadic. Like lately. I don't know how long that lately is, to tell the truth. Did it begin with our son's mental illness or has it crept up on me so slowly I didn't notice? It's still easy to pray after conversations. That's so deep-set, it's like muscle memory, but the more intentional daily prayer is missing from my life. Of course I feel guilty about this. Convicted. And finally, it's why I'm writing about it. Confessing and repenting. Asking God to turn me around, set me back on the path even as He forgives me.

At the same time, I suppose this post is a kind of written plea for  accountability. I believe that He understands that need and will hold my feet to the fire. You see, the huts of people depend on the prayers of the faithful. I believe this. I'd stake my life on it. I want very much to be a part of His Kingdom work. Maybe it's even my little life's work. And when I say little it's a modifier for life, and as the world sees it, NOT a modifier for work, and certainly NOT how He sees it.
A small life but a large work. Praying with Him. I hear and obey, Lord.

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