“Intercessory prayer is less about changing God’s mind and more about participating in His mercy” shereadstruth.com
“It seems the secret to real success is not found in a public place of power but in a secret place of prayer.” Jesse D. Lane
Have you ever been asked to join a prayer team? I was asked. I signed up! This is what I learned from years of intercessory prayer.
Please, don’t take that request lightly. Don’t think that praying for other people is easy and your participation on the prayer team will be the “piece of cake” action that makes you feel better about yourself and your “service in the church.” Intercessory prayer is not easy. If you think praying for others is easy and random, then you aren’t really experiencing the work of intercessory prayer.
Making a commitment to pray for others is arming yourself to work hard for people whom you may never personally meet. Intercessory prayer requires a discipline of time, discipline to show mercy, discipline of thought…put yourself into their story…to envision yourself as their “mat carrier.”
A mat carrier is one that helped to carry a friend to Jesus. Do you remember the story in the Bible about a man who couldn’t walk and was confined to life on a mat? I’m sure he was a real likable guy because he had four friends that would do just about anything for him. I imagine they may have carried him to the temple to worship or perhaps the market to buy food. Perhaps they took care of his physical needs at home. The four friends worked together to lift up the four corners of his mat and carry him from place to place. I imagine them struggling to fight fatigue and being surprised that interceding for a friend would beckon them to work hard…to get messy in the process.
The four mat carriers interceded for their friend…they would do anything to help him receive peace, grace, healing…they carried him to Jesus. They believed Jesus was the answer to satisfy the needs of their friend. They hoped Jesus would heal him. They knew Jesus would take care of everything their friend needed. The friends brought the needs of this man to Jesus (literally) and left him there…in front of Jesus. And Jesus saw their faith.
Do you know how this amazing chapter in the life story for this paralyzed man ends? Jesus, is compassionate and kind and changes the man’s heart with speaking the only words of truth that will grant real forgiveness. And then Jesus tells the paralyzed man to get up and go…walk out of the house and show people that he was completely healed inside and out…and “don’t forget to carry your mat, too!” (I embellished this story in my own words. Please read the full bible text here.)
I find this act of service and love by the four friends amazing. Wherever Jesus was, a crowd was sure to gather. The homes were probably small and it was shoulder to shoulder “standing room only” inside. I imagine the over-flow lot was full of people too. Pressing in close and tight to one another just to hear Jesus, to see Jesus, to try to touch him. It was hard enough for one person with healthy legs to manage the crowd…much more harder for four people carrying their friend on his mat.
I appreciate the friends were also creative problem solvers. Their friend needed to meet Jesus right then and now! So they devised a plan to hoist and carry their friend up to the roof of the house. Then they started digging their way through the roof of the house, creating an opening large enough to lower their friend safely down to where Jesus was. The “mat carriers” were willing to get dirty and messy and take a risk. There were persistent to help their friend.
In conclusion, this is what I learned about intercessory prayer:
- Don’t take prayer lightly
- Intercessory prayer is hard and it requires discipline
- Ask God to help you to show mercy and love through prayer
- Put yourself in their story
- Imagine their sorrow or anxiety or loss
- Talk to God about their needs.
- God is never annoyed by “debris”
- Trust God to do what God will do
- Celebrate the answers of prayer
- Be a mat carrier. Period.