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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A Christmas Prayer

untitledBy Matt Sapp

At a recent Wednesday Bible study group at my church, we spent time talking about what we would pray for if we really believed that God came to earth at Christmas to redefine justice, righteousness and peace.

I organized the group’s thoughts and wrote them down. What follows is our collective prayer:

God who comes to us at Christmas,

We honor you with our focused attention as we pray for your growing presence in us and in our world this Christmas season.

As we wait for your arrival, we remember the power you have to redefine our world. We pray that you will bring us new definitions of justice, righteousness and peace.  We pray that we can receive and apply those definitions with hope, joy and love.

JUSTICE
Lord, show us true justice.  Show us the justice of the Bible, and help us understand how that justice is different from the world’s justice. Show us a justice marked by equity and fairness and compassion and mercy.  Teach us that care for the vulnerable—the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, the poor, the sick—is a central element of the justice represented in the manger of Christmas.

Open our hearts to the needs of others.  Make us consistent bearers of your image, and give us eyes to see your image in everyone else, too.  Give us the courage to represent you every day—even when it’s hard, even when it’s dangerous.  Give us the courage to name injustice when we see it—racism, discrimination, bigotry and hatred.  Give us compassion and empathy for people who are different than us.

We pray for justice in our nation and in our court systems.  Raise up fair and honorable judges and prosecutors and representatives in our court system who seek and distribute justice evenly, impartially and equitably.

RIGHTEOUSNESS
On this Christmas we pray not only for the world around us, but also for ourselves. We pray that you would lead each of us to new understandings of righteousness.  We pray that you would change us.  Change our hearts and our minds and our attitudes.

Help us find more space to focus on the needs of others.  Give us a spirit of neighborliness and friendliness to share with all in our communities.

Make us more tolerant and more forgiving.  Make us more accepting of differences.  Help us to be people who listen to others, who pray for others, and who have the right words and the right helping hands for others.

And in all these things help us to overcome the fear and mistrust and selfishness that often prevents us from doing the good we know we should do.

HOPE
As we wait for the arrival of your justice and righteousness, we do so with great hope: Hope for health and contentment and peace in our families and in our hearts.   Hope for a renewed faith that reminds us we can trust in you no matter what. We wait with hope for balance and harmony among all people, and with hope for spiritual rejuvenation and vitality here and all over the world.

We pray for our church with hope, too. We pray with hope for spiritual and physical growth, with hope for the courage to speak together with a prophetic voice and with hope for the wisdom to know what to say.

We pray with hope for a continued and expanded ability to look after the marginalized and the poor in our community.

PEACE
We pray for peace–for a new attitude and a new feeling in our world and in our hearts. We long for a peace that is more than the absence of hostility. We pray for a positive and active peace that itself represents the enactment of your justice in this world.

Help us find peaceful ways to express our differences.

Rid us of violence, anger and fear. Remind us that kindness doesn’t equal weakness. Help us create a world where tough exteriors are not required and where gentleness is celebrated and admired.

Help us to remember that our eternal security lies in you, that war is never in your will, and that one day you will reign on earth in peace upheld by your justice and your righteousness. We pray for that day to come.

JOY
Heavenly Father, even as we look toward an eternal future, we take joy in the assurance of your presence with us now. We pray with joy at our ability to be distributors and champions of your justice today. We pray with joy in our responsibility to reach out and speak out. We pray with joy in doing what is right. We pray with joy in our call to reach future generations for you. And with pray with joy in our salvation.

LOVE
Fill us with love this Christmas–love for you and love for others as we passionately pursue your justice in our world and your righteousness in our lives. Give us love that lasts even when we don’t get our way.  Give us love that endures through fear.  Give us strength to love even when we don’t feel like loving.  Give us love that helps us realize we always have more to give.

Help us remember that your love in us is only multiplied as we give it away.  Give us a love that is as perfect and innocent and holy as the baby in the manger and a love that is as transformative and self-sacrificing as the Savior on the cross.

We pray with hope, joy and love for your justice, righteousness and peace to come to earth with Christ this Christmas.

May they and we be made perfect in your name, AMEN.

Five Ways to Encourage Children to journal

Writing - Girl in CarThere is little doubt that keeping a journal has long been considered a spiritual and personal discipline.  Even the Bible have hints of the journal genre–from parts of Jeremiah and Nehemiah and the psalms to first-person accounts in the book of Acts.

Christian history is also fraught with examples in which the act of journaling has connected the people of God to the movement of the Spirit.  St. Augustine, Julian of Norwich, and Thomas Merton immediately come to mind.

If journaling is such an effective way to grow spiritually, therefore, why not teach our young people to do it as well?

In fact, if a young person is called to be a disciple of Christ and can write or draw, there is no reason for that person to not journal.  Sometimes, they–like us–simply don’t know where to begin.

Here are five ways to encourage children to journal:

1.  Provide writing prompts.  Too often, we hear children say that they don’t know what to write about.  If we want to encourage them to experience God, however, it would be wise to give writing prompts.

Some prompts may include having children write about what they learned in Sunday School or church.  Others may be more general, like having a child write about how nature or a church season (like Advent) can help us see God’s amazing creativity.

2.  Show children how to write their prayers.  This is helpful in two ways: First, writing prayers help a child communicate with God in concrete ways that are familiar and fun.  Second, writing prayers will widen a child’s perception of what prayer is all about.

Prayers are more than mere words we say at the dinner table or in church; they are conversations with God in which we can be honest and open with all of the feelings, experiences, and circumstances that we face.  Writing prayers down help us memorialize those conversations.

3.  Let children copy a few verses from the Bible and have them write about what they think they mean.  We are often surprised at how much children listen and learn when we think they are not paying attention; just imagine how much they will learn if they engage the scriptures in a way that is intentional and reflective.

Scripture tells us to “meditate upon God’s Word” daily.  If I remember correctly, there is no age-limit to this challenge–all of us, young and old, need to learn how to meditate on God’s Word.  Writing God’s Word can be just as important as reading or hearing it.

4.  Let children draw as a part of their journaling experience.  When I had my first-born, I was delighted to find that stores sell kid-friendly journals that have a blank spot on the top half of each page.  Children write on the bottom half and then draw a picture to accompany what they wrote.

Sometimes self-expression is best portrayed in picture form than in writing.  Our children should explore every facet of art and journaling in order to experience and learn about God.

5.  Keep project-specific journals.  Children can keep more than one journal in their arsenal of spiritual disciplines.  A child can keep a missions journal, a travel journal, or a prayer journal.  This encourages children to recognize that they can “meet God” in places beyond their church.

It also encourages children to “join God at work” in the world as we adults point out ways we’ve met God along the way.  Taking a vacation, for instance, doesn’t mean we vacation away from God.  We vacation as a way to be on mission for God, and a child can record those points of contact where–guided by intuitive adults–God shows up to be at work in the world.

A christian is never too young to start implementing spiritual practices.  Journaling, as one such practice, is good for the brain, heart, and soul.  And, as St. Augustine once quipped, it encourages all of us, no matter the age, to tell our story “for the love of Your love.”