I love and greatly value praying for others. I believe that prayer makes a difference in people’s lives, and I’ve seen how God teaches me to love others through praying for them. But I’ve also found that it can be a huge challenge. I often feel like I’m just rattling off thoughts about a given person or a laundry list I’ve written down. Or worse, I don’t really know what to pray for and I feel this pressure to make my prayers interesting and profound, but they all kind of end up sounding the same after a while.
I was struggling with this recently, when David shared a quote with our church staff from Ruth Haley Barton regarding intercessory prayer:
“[I]ntercessory prayer is not primarily about thinking that I know what someone else needs and trying to wrestle it from God. Rather, it is being present to God on another’s behalf, listening for the prayer of the Holy Spirit that is already being prayed for that person before the throne of grace, and being willing to join God in that prayer.”1
Talk about a refreshing perspective on what it means to pray for someone. It is so liberating not to have to come up with all these great things to say. But perhaps more importantly for me, personally, I realized what the missing piece was in my prayer life. I had slipped into the trap of my prayer life becoming an exercise, rather than fundamentally being a time of communion with God. I was talking about people and things I cared about, but not really thinking a whole lot about the one I was talking to. I wanted to listen for that prayer without learning how to listen to the one who was doing the praying.
It’s funny how such a basic concept can fade to the background of our hearts and minds. I was so focused on “praying right” that I was kind of missing the point of prayer (it makes me thankful that the one I was pretty much tuning out is the God who sits on the throne of grace). But what a difference it makes to structure my prayer by first spending time meditating on and praising God for an aspect of who he is. Having been refreshed with the beauty of God, I can intercede for someone so much more effectively since I’ve caught a glimpse of what this kind of God would desire for that person’s life.
With all the change that’s going on in our church, there’s never been a better time to intercede for our brothers and sisters at Restoration. Let me to encourage you to sit before God and listen to the prayer that the Holy Spirit is praying for them. But first, allow yourself to be captivated by the character of this God who cares more deeply for you and for those you wish to pray for than you’ll ever know.
1. Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, p. 146.