Last week I introduced you to my friend Audrey and her great reminder of the value of time spent with the Lord in intercessory prayer. But, deeper to the heart of the matter, why must we pray?
As faithful Christians, we seek to follow God’s will, and we know He is sovereign. Yet, in this so often we can be tempted to think: God’s plan will be done whether I pray for it or not. “I don’t really need to pray.” Or, perhaps we know “the churchy answer,” which is that, of course, we are supposed to pray, and so we will close our eyes and think good thoughts toward a person or some issue for a few minutes (or should I say seconds), and them we move on, patting ourselves on the back for sacrificing our time and energy to remember others.
Please don’t let my tone fool you; I write in incrimination of myself first and foremost. This is how I have thought and prayed for much of my life. The reality is that my prayer life modeled my spiritual life: immature on both accounts. But God can and will open our hearts and minds to grow and mature in these areas.
Does prayer “do anything”? I will write here unequivocally yes, but… Though there are countless testimonies of prayerful believers who can share their experiences of God’s answers to prayer, our faith to believe such accounts without our own personal experience is too often skeptical. Rather, let’s look back at the foundation of our beliefs in Scripture and build from there.
Prayer is communion with God, a time we share our hearts with him. (Remember Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his arrest.) But our sinful hearts are tricky and so often confusing; our desires and emotions change from one moment to the next. Yet the Holy Spirit is our constant companion, and in times of prayer, we quiet ourselves to listen to His divine direction. Indeed, Romans 8:26-27 states, “the Spirit also helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now [God] who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because [the Spirit] makes intercession for [believers] according to the will of God.”
Intercession is pleading in favor of others, and in the first place, the Holy Spirit intercedes for believers to God the Father. It’s while we are under the Holy Spirit’s divine direction that the desires of our hearts slowly but surely become transformed to God’s own desires. So, indeed, the first point of transformation with prayer is that of the pray-er, but, the transformation does not stop there.
Over time, we begin to see God’s will for others in the Spirit-led promptings of our own hearts. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:9 that we are “co-laborers” with God. All glory and power and sovereignty is His, but He gives us work to do—in prayer and response—to bring about His will. Is this because God could not do it himself? Of course not! But because He loves us, He invites us to be part of the process, because it is in the process of co-working with God that we see so clearly what He is capable of and learn to depend on him even more.
As the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, we can also intercede for others, trusting in the promise of John 15:7-8, which says, “If you remain in me and my works remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be disciples.” At NAMS we talk often about the marks of a disciple. Our conclusion is simply that a disciple is one who is dedicated to making other disciples. Praying and interceding on behalf of others is the work of a disciple-making disciple.
Prayer changes us and it can even change circumstances, according to God’s will. Next week I will talk more about how to intercede for others and how God is calling NAMS to grow through the establishment of an intercessory prayer teams. Might you grow with us in this process?
— Mary Garrison-Ruiz
NAMS Global Prayer/Intercession Coordinator.