April 21, 2014

But I cannot pray all day . . .

A radio preacher shared that that the prayer needs he sees create a list that would have him praying 24/7 and still not be able pray for everyone. My list is almost like that. Today’s devotional reading offers a suggestion for those in this situation, but before adding that suggestion, a few passages of Scripture help me with the overwhelming part, the part that hits me with, “Don’t pray at all . . . this is too much, go do something else.”

First of all, God notices the needs and issues as we do. His prayer list is much longer than mine. He sees issues all over the world, and at one point in history, His prophet lamented . . .  

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. (Isaiah 59:14–16)

No one to intercede. This is the way of us. We are sinners who so easily think of ourselves. Intercession is about others, and if left to my own ambitions, I might not pray at all. God knows this, and this failure and falling short is the reason He sent Jesus Christ to die for me. As Isaiah said, “His own arm brought salvation.” That points to Jesus and my response is one of awe . . .

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:31–34)

Because Jesus intercedes for me, and because the Spirit of Christ lives in me, intercession is part of the way I think. Needs and issues burden my heart to pray. People ask for prayer and I want to do that for them. Samuel felt the same way and his example offers some instruction . . .

And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel . . . And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. (1 Samuel 7:8–13)

The lamb offered by him points forward to the Lamb of God in whose name I pray. The enemy that threatened Israel points forward to the evil one, Satan, who threatens me, even as I pray. But the God who thunders and has defeated that enemy is the same God today. His hand is against my enemy all the days of my life – even as that enemy tries to convince me that prayer is too much work.

As I pray for others, I can ask for such things as “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of hearts enlightened to know the hope to which God has called them, the riches of His glorious inheritance offered them, and the immeasurable greatness of His power toward all who believe.” (Ephesians 1:16–21)

As for the solutions to being overwhelmed by a long list, it is simple: “Whenever a person or issue comes to mind, ask God: ‘Is this for me?’ and listen for the Spirit who says, ‘Yes.’ If there is no response from Him, then trust God to lay that need on the heart of others.”

God is practical. I must pray, but He also knows that 24/7 involves many other responsibilities!

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