Prayer is a multifaceted activity that cannot be limited to a single expression. It adapts to our needs and situations. Crisis provides fertile ground for prayer.
There is an example of prayer which extends beyond my needs, that is, intercessory prayer. Simply defined, intercessory prayer is praying forothers.
It sounds elementary, but it’s an integral part of our prayer life.
Intercessory prayer is sharing another person’s burden by bringing it to God on their behalf. As we do this, we are imitators of Jesus, who is interceding to God on our behalf, Romans 8:34.
The Bible has several examples of this form of prayer. We are to pray for:
- All believers 1 Timothy 2:1
- Authorities, 1 Timothy 2:2
- Pastors/Ministers, Philippians 1:19
- Peace in Jerusalem, Psalm 122:6
- Friends, Job 42:8
- Enemies, Jeremiah 29:7
- Those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44
In Acts 12, Christians are being heavily persecuted, Peter is arrested, but James and others are killed. James’ death leads us to address the elephant in the room.
Why does God rescue Peter but not James?
- Was no one praying for James?
- Did the church not like James as much as they liked Peter?
- Did God like Peter more?
- Was Peter just lucky?
Answered prayer always submit to the will of God. His will for your life is going to be different from the will of God for my life.
Hebrews 9:27 says that it’s appointed for man to die once and then face judgment. This is an unavoidable part of life, but as a Christian, death is not the end.
Jesus prophesied that James would die a martyr’s death in Mark 10. Knowing that death begets us all and that a martyr’s death was foretold of James, even if prayer was made for James, it would not have altered this outcome.
Now King Herod Agrippa sees how it pleased the Jews that he violently rounding up followers of Jesus and killing James, so he goes straight to the top and has Peter arrested.
Herod is aware of the disciple’s mysterious methods of escaping imprisonment, so he orders 16 soldiers to guard him. Two are chained to Peter, and the others are surrounding his cell at all times.
Peter is as good as dead. His delay of execution gave the church added time for intercessory prayer.
Delays are opportunities to pray.
The church prayed “earnestly” for Peter. The word “earnest” in Greek (ektenos) means continual or intense.
Think about the answers you are currently waiting on? Are you praying or panicking? Who are you casting your cares on? Other people? Social media? Or on God, who cares and can meet your need?
When we don’t turn to God, we are inviting worrying into our lives and are consumed by what-if scenarios that raise our anxiousness.
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
Anxiousness is easy to start but hard to stop once it gets rolling. To counter anxiety, we bring EVERYTHING by prayer to God with thanksgiving.
Giving thanks to God translates into “the joy of the LORD” becoming your strength. Delays in answered prayer require the strength of the LORD to get through.
Have you noticed how God’s timing is often vastly different from yours?
- Lazarus was dead three days before Jesus raised him up.
- Jarius’ daughter died before Jesus made it to her home and raised her up.
- Isaac was on the altar, bound, and Abraham had his arms raised before God stopped him and provided a ram in the thicket.
- Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den before God closed the mouths of the lions.
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace before God rescued them without a hint of smoke on their clothes.
If you have time, pray. Don’t stop praying because you think it’s too late. When you pray, you are establishing God’s will on earth as it is in Heaven. Nothing can impede the will of God.
We may not always perceive as we pray what His will is, but we know what He can do, so we pray. Take up the burdens of your friends and family and be imitators of Christ by interceding for others.