Consider the following situation…
Let’s say you’ve been asked to pray for someone, and he or she is very specific in asking you to pray for “this” or “that”, or that God will “work in a specific way” or “bring about a specific answer”…
- Do you agree to pray for them?
- Then, do you ACTUALLY pray for them? (I mean, really, do you do it?)
- And then, do you actually pray specifically what they asked you to pray for them?
As Christ-followers we are often called upon to INTERCEDE for others. But what, exactly, does that mean?
What is a Prayer of INTERCESSION?
INTERCESSION is the act of praying on behalf of others. But it’s also more than that…
Intercession means that Christ-followers align themselves with God’s will, claim it and hang on to it, and then refuse to stop praying until His will has come to pass.
Do we do that? As Christians who promise to pray for or on behalf of others, do we really dig in and intercede on their behalf? Do we take it that seriously?
This begs another question, before we move on….
Is Social Media the Best Place to Seek Prayer?
Social Media can be a wonderful thing if used well. It can provide us with a community, of sorts, in which we can both share and find all kinds of requests. We can seek advice, ask opinions, search for goods & services, transact business, solicit donations, beg for assistance, and even request prayer.
The trouble with this is that it’s not always easy to discern which of the above are actually legitimate and trustworthy concerns.
It’s true that there are no shortages of opinions and advice on social media. The same can be said of requests for and assurances of prayer, as well.
Of course there are many who share their woes publicly early and often, looking for sympathy, or empathy, or even just a listening ear. Sometimes folks just seem to be shouting their problems out into the universe, hoping something positive will come back their way. Many are NOT looking for our prayers because they “aren’t praying people” – they’re just asking to see some “good vibes” bouncing around on their walls, instead of the usual gloom and doom that is apparently the staple of the social media diet.
However, for those of us who “are praying people”, it’s just not enough to “send out good vibrations into the atmosphere” for others. We don’t believe that achieves too much of anything, but we DO believe that there is actual power and purpose in prayer.
To answer the question above, yes, in some cases, social media provides us with an excellent venue for communicating our concerns and needs, and to ask for prayer.
But then the other questions might start to kick in, and it’s totally realistic to start wondering if others are actually praying, or are they simply offering platitudes to make us feel better?
Are You REALLY Praying for Others?
Christ followers believe that prayer matters, that God inclines His ear to listen to us, that He hears us, and that He answers us according to His plan or purpose for us.
So, for those of us who ARE those praying people, how are we supposed to handle it when we are asked to pray?
Do we just type out a platitude of, “Praying, my friend!” and slap the “prayer emoji” 🙏 on there with it? Does THAT constitute a “prayer” of some sort? Or is that the Christian equivalent of “sending out good vibes into the atmosphere”?
Don’t get me wrong – it’s really okay to post that to acknowledge that you are praying for them, or if not praying, then just say “thinking of you” and slap a “thinking emoji” on there instead 🤔, or the kissy-kiss-loveya face if that’s your thing 😘.
When I tell a friend that I’m praying for them, though, I make a point to actually pray. Usually, I pray right then and there, wherever I am, anytime of the day. This is something my dad does extremely well, and has led our entire family to do together often. We don’t need to be in church or in our “prayer warrior closet” on our knees to talk to God (though those are awesome ways to pray!). We don’t have to wait for the most perfect circumstances or locations or private time to get this job done.
It is possible to pray without ceasing – which we are called to do – and if that is the case, that means that we must be able to talk to God anytime, anywhere, and in any position. On our knees, sitting, or standing. Silently, aloud, singing, crying, or shouting. Hands clasped together, raised to the heavens, holding a baby, changing a tire, or doing the dishes. Eyes closed, eyes open. With others, or by ourselves. God is listening. He hears them ALL. He does not rank them nor listen first to the “most holy” or “most perfect” or the ones with the most “thou”s and “thy”s and “thee”s.
If I can’t pray right away, I make a note of it on my prayer list, and refer back to that in the mornings and evenings when I spend quiet moments alone with the Lord.
But Does it Matter WHAT I Pray?
If the prayer request comes “with instructions”, do I pray exactly what I’ve been asked to pray?
This is a bit confusing, so bear with me.
I believe that the Lord wants to hear our requests… and by that I mean the unfiltered, unedited desires of our hearts.
The problem is, however, that sometimes those unedited desires are really nuts. And selfish. And just downright wrong.
We’ve been told that we can cry out to Him, “Abba, Father!”, which means “Daddy…!”, and that He is listening to our requests, and that He WANTS to give us the desires of our hearts….
But, be careful, little heart, what you desire, and what you seek!
God’s Plan is Always Best
It is important that our prayers, whether for ourselves or for others, are in alignment with God’s will.
Even if they seem truly altruistic and we truly want “what’s best” for ourselves or someone… what we want and desire may NOT really be the best that could possibly be.
God, the Creator, holds all the plans in HIS hands. Only HE knows what is truly good and best for us all. As His followers then, as believers, we must always trust and believe this.
This means that, above all else, above ALL of our own personal desires, GOD’S WILL is what we most truly want and desire and trust to be the BEST answer in all circumstances.
HIS plan is the best plan. Even when the outcome is not what we think we want….even when we don’t understand…even when it looks to our limited vision like His plan is not what is “good”…even when nothing seems to make sense and we cannot fathom what is actually happening at all.
It truly does matter WHAT we pray, whether for ourselves, or in intercession for others.
This means we can’t always ask for what our own human, limited hearts and minds think we want.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
And that’s the tough part – realizing that when we pray in intercession for others, “we may find that our obedience to God is going to cost other people more than we thought” (- Oswald Chambers, from “My Utmost For His Highest”).
Sometimes this means that these personal desires and pleas are not the best, if they are not in alignment with God’s will.
In other words, though we may speak and plead the personal requests (of ourselves or others) to God, we should also say, and truly mean, “But in all things, above all, THY will be done, Lord.”
Let It Go
We need to ask for God’s perfect will in faith, in trust, believing that His will is perfect, and that when we trust and live in obedience to His will, then order ensues…
…“and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
This means that THE BEST is happening, for the good of all, and to the glory of HIS NAME.
And, as we mature in our faith, we learn that this is what our hearts truly desire – the glory of HIS NAME – because our true joy is only found when our lives are lived in Him and for Him.
Does this mean personal prayer and voicing our personal desires is useless?
I don’t believe so, not at all.
I believe that God still wants to hear all of our true feelings and desires, directly from our mouth to His ears. And I believe He will take it all into consideration and that He can make things come about in such a way that our prayers might be answered and yet still remain in accordance with His ultimate will for humanity, even if they weren’t to begin with.
But that’s not the main reason He wants to hear what’s on our hearts and minds….
If you have children, or a spouse or any loved one, really, don’t you want to hear, directly from them, what they truly desire? Don’t you want to know them, and don’t you want to know that they trust you with their desires, and more importantly, with their hearts?
Of course you do. And so does God. He wants to be in communion with us. He wants more than obedience, He wants a relationship with us.
Prayer is one of the most beautiful ways to live out our relationship with Him…pouring out the desires of our heart, letting Him know us in the most secret rooms of our heart and mind… but always doing so with the intent of letting Him COME IN, and letting Him take over those spaces and clean out the old worn out, lackluster desires we have inside and replace them with HIS instead.
What God Says About Your Heart’s Desires
Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Now, before we jump to conclusions about what this verse means, let’s step back and really consider it. Think about what I said just before it…
Do you really believe what you might think this means at first glance? Do you think, “Hey, if I am delighted in the Lord, He’s going to give me everything I want!”???
Well, if that’s the case, do you believe, conversely, that if you’re not getting everything you want, you must not be delighting yourself in the Lord enough?
This is not true, because God does not require us to live out a “works-based” faith. In other words, there is absolutely nothing we can do to “earn” our salvation OR God’s favor, OR to “get our prayers answered the way we want them”.
Salvation is a gift, given through the gift of God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself, died on the cross, defeated death, and rose from the grave so that we do not have to achieve or accomplish anything. He did it ALL for us. He bridged the gap between God and sin. He IS the bridge, the way into relationship and communion with God the Father. All we have to do is believe by faith in what He has done for us, on our behalf.
Our “good works” are simply the “fruit” of our faith – what we do in response to the grace and love that our Lord has lavished upon us. And these good works are the “evidence” of that faith…good works are not the requirement.
So, back to Psalm 37:4… let’s talk about what this REALLY means…
True Love’s Desire in Prayer
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone where this inexplicable phenomenon happens – that things that you really didn’t like before, but that person your in love with loves? Things like country music and spaghetti westerns and chicken-fried steak – all the sudden become YOUR favorites, too?
I mean, now you find yourself inexplicably, completely happy, satisfied, and content with all those things you couldn’t stand before, simply because the one you love delights in these things so strongly. Therefore they now delight YOU. How incredible!
So, you find yourself cooking chicken-fried steak while listening to Hank Williams right before watching “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” and there is truly nothing that makes YOU happier, because you know the one you love is going to be so happy, too….right???
SO, take another look at Psalm 37:4 now.
Could it be that it means that if you are truly seeking the Lord FIRST, with all of your heart, all your mind, and all your soul, and if you are living in relationship with Him, HIS DESIRES FOR YOU BECOME YOUR OWN?
And then, as you realize and understand that His will for you is perfect, and you trust Him more and more, you are becoming filled with joy and becoming greatly content in knowing that your desire is IN HIM and FOR HIM.
THEN you will find perfect contentment, satisfaction, and joy in HIS WILL for you, the things HE wants and delights in FOR YOU, as they have supernaturally become your heart’s greatest desires.
I love that – I love being so deeply in relationship and in love with God that the things HE wants for me have overtaken the selfish desires I once held for myself and now become the desires of my own heart!
And this happens over and over, more and more, and deeper and deeper throughout my entire life!
I believe that what God wants for me is far greater than I could ever imagine with my own fickle, nearsighted, unimaginative little mind.
Experience has taught me that as I grow in relationship with the Father, He shows me more and more exactly what it is that HE desires for me, and I come to want THAT more and more.
Those rooms of my heart and mind that were so full of MY SELFISH DESIRES are cleared out and are becoming filled with the stores of treasures HE has for me!
Sometimes frustration sets in – I admit it. I believe this is because He often waits to give me what He desires for me because I am not in close enough communion with Him during those times. Sometimes I’m not praying for His will because I’m lazy or too selfish, and unable to let go of the tight grip I have on what I think should be my dreams.
Sometimes he knows I’m not even ready to handle all that He has to offer me! Perhaps that’s because I would think I deserved it or earned it somehow, instead of understanding that I received it as a blessing or gift that comes from Him alone.
In James 4, the Lord says, “You do not have, because you do not ask.”
This doesn’t mean that we get everything we ask for. Rather, it means the Lord is sometimes waiting for us to ASK HIM, delaying to answer us until we have asked because He wants us to KNOW that these good and perfect gifts come FROM HIM.
Another awesome thing about this relationship with Him is that He continuously pursues us and draws us closer to Him. He is relentless in His pursuit of us! He loves us that much! Even when we have turned our backs on Him, He never turns His back on us.
And as we yield once again to Him as He pursues us, it becomes very natural to go to Him in prayer and supplication (asking Him earnestly and humbly).
It becomes natural to voice the hopes and desires of my (or the person’s for whom I praying) heart, but in the spirit of being able to LET GO if it is not in alignment with HIS will.
In each and every case of prayer and intercession, I want to be sure and rest assured that my spirit is identifying completely with His.
I pray that God will take whatever the circumstance or need is in every prayer and answer it in such a way that it lifts all of us up to a completely different level – especially the one for whom we are interceding. I pray it lifts us to a place that is so perfect that we can’t help but realize that it has been out of our own ability to imagine or understand it.
And I pray that as we intercede for one another, we will continuously grow and learn as we live in agreement with God’s plan as the answer to that prayer!
So, my friend, if you’ve asked me for prayer, and I’ve answered that I will pray for you, I hope you will take comfort in knowing that I truly AM praying for you. Not only that, but my goal as a Christ-follower is to truly pray prayers of intercession on your behalf, always praying in Spirit and in Truth, “not our will, Father, but Yours!”, following through, continuing to pray and trusting in Him until His answer comes and He is glorified.