I’m sure you’ve heard of intercessory prayers. I’ve always heard of it too, and once in a while I pray for my friends .Or stand in the gap for my country or family. And such kind of stuff.
But I will not lie, me I never understood the core of it. Like it was just that topic I’m vague and shallow about. And having many problems of my own, and being spiritually not so mature, I sincerely never bothered about it. It included things to do with others, and here I haven’t even sorted out quarter things to do with myself.
But this book ; With Christ in the school of prayer by Andrew Murray, has placed it right in the middle of a conversation about me. Let me explain it this way, I used to think intercessory means knowing what other people’s prayer requests are, then praying for them. If they get their prayers answered, glory to God, if not, again glory to God. But we already saw that God will give us all we ask for here. But from a parable Jesus gave, praying for others is way more personally involving than that.
To paraphrase the parable, Friend A visits friend B at night. Clearly friend A is hungry. So friend B, gets up and goes outside, at night mark you, when all shops are closed and knocks at friend C’s house. Friend C is asleep, but wakes up and gives B food, not because of their friendship but because of B’s importunity. Importunity means persistence to the annoying side of things.
Now what do we learn about this friendships here in?
Friendship between A and B.( visitor and visited)
A is hungry. And most probably needy. Why didn’t they pay for an inn or hotel? And as we see, the fact that A was on a journey but didn’t have food speaks to a lack of some sorts, I mean people carry food while travelling. And A is also tired.
A also knows B to be a friend. How many of us, especially ladies can crash at someone’s place at midnight and from a long journey? You just don’t go to anyone, you go to someone you trust. Someone you know who cares for you and can take care of you. Someone in whom you won’t be a burden. You won’t have to excuse your hunger or pain or neediness, you’ll be frank with them, and they won’t make you feel uncomfortable for not sugarcoating it. You’ll say it like it is. A and B share a friendship based on vulnerability. Each one can be vulnerable to the other. And A seems to trust B. That B loves them and will take care of them.
But who is B?
B does not seem poor or in need. B’s family didn’t sleep hungry. B seems to have enough to survive on. But then, B doesn’t have even a loaf extra. This means B has the daily bread but not enough for a visitor, just enough for the family. But we see B as kind and welcoming to A. B has a heart of compassion.
Friendship between B and C( the one visited with no bread and the one with the bread)
What we know about C is that C is rich. Has many extra loaves of bread and has fed the family.
Why would B come to C’s house at midnight to ask for bread? Because B first of all knows that C has more than plenty. And they are friends. And also because B seems to know what buttons to push to make C bring out that bread. Persistence. Annoying persistence.
Now how does the above relate to intercessory?
To answer that requires us to find out who we are in that parable. We are B. The friends on earth with maybe enough to go by but with needy friends suffering from hunger and afflictions and a rich friend up there with everything. And this parable allows us to see the kind of friendship God wants us to have on earth, and the friendship we should have with Him and how to mix the two.
First of all, we can’t wait for when we have plenty to give out. Whether its plenty of money or experience or skill or knowledge or even spiritual maturity. We don’t wait to accrue much to be a blessing to others. Not when we have a rich friend in heaven. Who can give us to give to our friends.
Two, God is our friend. And we can approach Him as thus. And who is a friend? We say that birds of the same feather flock together. Jesus said that if we do these things( obey the word of God) then we become his friends. In simple terms, friends have same conduct and mind. Whereas a father and son can differ in behavior and character, with the son working towards being more like the father, friends are more alike. They have with time come to be in harmony. They may not always agree, but friends know each other well and intimately. They know your dislikes and likes and things you are passionate about.
Jesus refers to God as our friend in this case. When we intercede for others, we don’t go to God like we are facing a military general. No. We approach Him as a friend knowing that by the mere fact that He is my friend means He understands my friendship with others and how dear I hold them to heart.
Which brings us to our third point, we intercede for others from a friendship point of view. They stop being ‘others’ and move to ‘friends’. Imagine going to ask for bread for some acquittance of yours. If your rich friend refuses, will you even ask twice? But imagine asking for that close friend of yours? Can you imagine going back to the house empty handed for your friend to sleep hungry? I’m sure some of you here will even consider stealing just to see your close friend not starve in your empty house.
For me this challenges me on the friendships I have. Have I created a safe place for my friends to come hungry and tired? What kind of friends do I have? Or are they all self sufficient? Do I have friends in need( and not just materially)? Can people with different needs face me and request them?
What about that persistence? Did you notice that C only gave B bread because of the persistence? Not because of their friendship, because of this guy’s annoying persistence. B came to C because they are friends. But C gave B bread of the character’s continuous askance.
Is there anyone I have ever gone to God for, and insisted that much for that person’s need to be granted by God? Like you literally camp at God’s door, not for your sake but your friends?
This is a new lesson for me. Something the Holy Spirit will have to work in me. To work in the friendships I have, in the person I am that attracts those friendships and to work in my relationship with God to be more ‘friendly’ ( no pun intended) and also for me to have a heart for others just like Christ.
Think of it, if Christ had to undergo such intense prayer for the people he healed to be healed and for God to have mercy on people, then when we say we want to be more Christlike, doesn’t that mean, to also have the same heart and boldness and compassion as Him when facing God for others?