The Power of Intercession and Prayer

By Joe LaGuardia

Some time ago I was anxious about issues related to church.  There were things on my mind that I had no control over, things that should not have worried me but did.  I was driving myself crazy, my wife crazy, and distracting my kids from family time.

It did not take long before the Holy Spirit woke me up early one morning.  There are few times I wake up earlier than 5:00 AM, and when the Holy Spirit wakes me up that early, I know I need to listen!  That kind of movement is qualitatively different, and there washes over me a particular–indescribable, really–spiritual manifestation that captures my attention and heart.

In that moment I dumped (for lack of a better word) everything before God.  It was a combination of robust prayer–of boldness, so to speak–and honesty.  I said in my spirit, “God, you handle this!  This is your church, your ministry.  My life is yours, and you’ve called me to this.  You deal with this.”

A few minutes later I fell back to sleep in a posture of rest and peace that I had not felt in a long time.

This event reminded me of the power of intercessory prayer.  It is a type of prayer we see in Isaiah 37, when one of God’s children had more than he can handle, and he needed to hand it over to God.

Isaiah 36 and 37 are chapters that come from a time when the Assyrian nation threatened the existence of Judah.  Assyria had conquered most of the Middle East; Israel and Egypt were next.  The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, threatened Judah’s King Hezekiah with a royal letter: “You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone.  They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way!”

Sennacherib went on to say that the gods of other nations did not come to the rescue, why should Hezekiah expect the God of Israel to be any different?

Upon receiving this letter, Hezekiah became anxious.  The threat against his nation was very real, and the Assyrians had threatened him personally!  But instead of running around wondering what to do, Hezekiah’s sought the Lord.  Scripture says that Hezekiah went to the Temple, spread the letter before the Lord, and interceded on behalf of the nation.

As a result, the Lord responded: “Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, the Lord has spoken this word against him.”  God affirmed that Assyria was a mere pawn in a larger drama of salvation and that God would protect Israel.

We Christians must be mindful of the power of intercessory prayer.  We must spread our own letters of anxiety before the Lord and remember that the Lord promises to take care of us.  We need to rest assured that the Holy Spirit will pray with us just as much as the Spirit captures our hearts, and gives us boldness to bring everything before Him.

In a devotional based on Isaiah 37, F. B. Meyer states, “Let us more habitually hand over our anxieties and cares to God.  God calls us to enter his rest…to place Himself and his care between us and all that would hurt or annoy.”

Intercede on behalf of those loved ones in your life.  Affirm and ask God to protect you and keep you.  In all things, surrender unto God and trust that the Holy Spirit will bring a peace that surpasses understanding.  There is power in prayer and in intercession.

Lord, hear our prayers!

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Three Thoughts and the Redemption of Time

timeBy Matt Sapp

Yesterday was my fourth wedding anniversary.  The second day of June, 2012, I married Julie Knight and have been privileged to live in her orbit ever since. Each year we each travel 93 million miles around the sun.  So, today, Julie and I have made it 372 million miles together—an incredible journey already.

And, as cliché as it sounds, I can’t believe it’s been four years already.

Time is a tricky thing. The same moments in our lives—like wedding days—can at one moment seem like only yesterday and at other moments seem like a lifetime ago.

I spent a good portion of my three-year master’s program thinking about time and its relationship to eternity and our sinfulness.  I won’t bore you with those thoughts here, except to say that as Christians we live in a world governed by the realities and rules of time, but we look forward to an eternal future in fellowship with an eternal God.  That makes our relationship with time strained at best.

Time, like us, is part of a fallen world that needs to be redeemed.  That means time is not an unqualified good; it is not an essential part of God’s design.  When time is used wisely, it can feel like a gift. But when time is squandered it feels like a curse.

Time is a tricky thing.  So here are three thoughts about time as I celebrate another trip around the sun with Julie.

  1. Learn to live with your past.

Every previous second—even the most painful ones, the ones marked by my greatest disappointments and mistakes—contributes to who I am today.  Although I know I’m far from perfect, I’m happy with the person God is leading me to become.

I haven’t always been able to say that.  Who has?  But I’m working, as I hope you are, too, to live beyond past regrets.  Don’t let any regret about who you’ve been or what you’ve done rob you of the joy of being who God calls you to be today.

  1. Don’t fear the future.

The control freak in all of us wants to know just exactly how tomorrow or next year or the next decade will turn out.  Uncertainty—and uncertainty is always about the future—naturally breeds fear.  Worry about the future robs us of the joy of now.  Jesus devotes a significant portion of the Sermon on the Mount to this idea. We should take note.

Learn to accept the future—whatever it may be—without the anxiety, worry, tension and nervousness that often accompanies uncertainty.

  1. Prioritize the present.

Prioritize the present.  And even more, prioritize the people in the present.  The most important parts of who we are—apart from God—are the people who make up the moments of our lives.

As I think about Julie today and the four years that have slipped by us, I’m reminded that we ought to prioritize people and our shared experiences together over everything else.

There is no other time but now.  There is no better time.  There is no perfect time.  There is no future time. There is only now.  Enjoy the present.  Value where you are and who you are and what you have now. It’s the only way to be happy.

One day, we say, when I have more economic security, I’ll be more true to myself.  One day, when I don’t have to worry what other people think, I’ll be bolder in my thinking.  One day I’ll be more truthful and daring in how I express myself.  We have all kinds of excuses that keep us from living fully into the people God has called us to be.

Now is the time to ditch the excuses. Now is the time to be who God has called you to be.

So, when you’re tempted to move beyond the present moment, either to the guilt of the past or the anxiety of the future, remember the great miracle that you are right now.

Don’t believe me? Right now, you are hurtling through space at more than 33,000 miles per hour on one more trip around the sun. Feel the wind on your face, and enjoy the ride.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

“Thou shall not worry”

sleepless nightBy Joe LaGuardia

“Do not worry,” Jesus told his disciples in no uncertain terms (Matthew 6:25).  It’s one of the clearest admonishments in scripture, and it stands up there with the ten commandments as being, well, God’s Word for us today.

There are many times, however, that I have read that scripture and said, “It is easier said than done.”  I wonder why Jesus told us not to worry when the only thing most of us is really good at is worrying.

Upon reflection, I suppose that there are different types of worrying.

The first is to worry when you are anxious about something in the future.  Since the future has yet to happen and you are not sure whether your fears are founded or not, this worry can be a distraction and can keep you from seeing the blessings in life.

The best medicine for this type of worry is gratitude.  We need to be thankful for what we have, enjoy the moment, praise God for waking us up this morning, and give God any anxiety we may have about what the future may hold.

Jesus said it himself, “Do not worry for tomorrow will bring worries of its own” (Matthew 6:34); and Paul’s letter to the Philippians states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything be thankful and make your petitions known to God” (4:6).

The second type of worry is chronic worry tied to anxiety disorders or depression.  This type of worry requires intervention and resources that help people move beyond the disorder or cope with it.

Sometimes, a person can go to a therapist for a few sessions and get things straightened out.  Other times, people need therapy or medication over the long haul.

I once knew a person who struggled with an anxiety order, and she concluded that if she only had more faith in God, then the anxiety would go away.

The only problem was (as I saw it) that she already was a person of great faith.

I was able to demonstrate to her how her faith inspired my own life and encouraged so many people around her.   We agreed together that the only way for her to move into a place of acceptance and coping was to get help.

God provides us with some good counselors for a reason, and its helpful to know that all of us deal with chronic anxiety every now and then.

There is a third type of worry with which I am familiar, and that’s the worry I think all of us feel no matter how close we are to the Lord.  This is the worry that accompanies responsibility.

Unlike the first type of worry, this anxiety does not stem from uncertainty or fear of the future.  Nor is it chronic anxiety that paralyzes life.  Instead, this type of worry is that on-going anxiety you feel when you are responsible for someone or something.

If you are a parent, you know what I mean!

There are certain worries that I have only experienced as a father, and these worries do not go away.  I worry for my children’s health, safety, their little God-given spirits, and very lives.

But I also find that this worry is not all bad.  In fact, something would be wrong with a parent who did not worry about his or her child.

It’s a healthy worry because it grows out of concern, compassion, grace, and empathy.  Who wants a parent who does not worry, or an employee who does not worry about meeting a budget or a deadline?

I think that, at the end of the day, we really use the word “worry” for many different things.  Since the second type of worry I mentioned is biological and can’t be avoided, and the third type is required for relationships in which people matter, Jesus may have said, “Do not worry,” to those of us who only struggle with the first type of worry–that of the future.

But no matter the type, not worrying is certainly easier said than done.