For the past seven years I’ve been moved in various ways to support the work of Compassion International, including volunteering as a correspondent sponsor. (This means I get the joy and privilege of writing letters to children who, for various reasons, aren’t receiving letters from financial sponsors.) My involvement with Compassion has taught me one of the most powerful ways to help these children, their families, and their communities is through prayer.
God is working in their midst and He already has an amazing plan to bring individual children, families, and entire communities out of extreme poverty. We need to invite His vision through prayer.
I appreciate so much that Compassion has created an app that gives daily prayer reminders and prayer prompts for the children I write to. I also put their photos on my fridge, so I pray for the kids and their families every time I see them.
Something else God has been teaching me to do is to pray for these children, their families, and their communities as I go about my day. Anything can be a reminder.
These hymns are examples of intercessory prayers set to music. Music is a good way to remember words, and singing helps people have words of prayer and scripture on their hearts and tongues throughout the day.
Although Wesley’s collection of Intercession Hymns represents an era different from our own, many parts of these intercessory prayers are timeless, especially given their biblical foundations. All of Wesley’s hymns are steeped in scripture, and his Intercession Hymns are no exception. Even portions of hymns that are specific to Wesley’s day can be adapted for current situations.
In 2013 I was very blessed to be teaching an eight-week course to a church women’s group. The focus of our course was on the challenges of poverty in the community and the church’s response. We worked through a book on poverty. To use with their reading, I printed up and gave each woman a bookmark containing Bible verses that focus on poverty:
I did an inductive Bible study of Exodus 32-34, looking especially at the role of Moses as intercessor between God and His people. Being an intercessor myself, I was curious what Moses could teach us today about intercession. Following are just a few of the takeaways I learned from studying this passage:
If you have made yourself available to God as an intercessor, don’t be surprised if He prompts you to pray in your dreams. I can remember several instances of prayer during sleep. When I awoke, I knew I had been praying for someone. I’ve heard similar situations from intercessor friends.
Have you ever gone through an intense time of intercession? How did you feel when it was over? Intercessors often tell me they feel “black and blue,” as if they have been in a battle. Or they feel heavy or drained after praying for someone. Intercessors often take people home with them spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. They wrestle all night over what the person is going through.
If this is what intercession is like for you, you may be relieved to know it doesn’t have to be that way. Spiritual cleansing prayers can help you be restored to yourself after a time of intercession. You will find it easier to breathe and go about your life, trusting the person or situation to God’s care.
Depending on your church tradition, you may or may not be familiar with the words of the Apostle’s Creed. I grew up in a church where we memorized the words in Sunday school at a very young age. Our teachers taught us what the words meant and why we stood and said these words each Sunday in church.
The Apostle’s Creed is still a great way for people to learn about the Christian faith. For those who are new to the faith, the words can help people learn, ask questions, and grow. For those who have been Christians for a while, it can be helpful to look over the words of the creed to remember and affirm what we believe. On difficult days and in trying times, the words of the Apostle’s Creed remind us that no matter what we are facing, it’s all worth it.
I am blessed with great friends who are intercessors. Each one is planted in a different environment for the purpose of changing the environment. I am always amazed when I hear their stories of how God moves them in prayer during their workday.
Several of my intercessor friends work in corporate environments. The situations, pressures, personality clashes, different religions represented in those environments are fertile ground for intercession. Their daily prayers at work truly change the atmosphere.
How do they know what to pray, and when? God prompts them. As intercessors, they are available to the Lord throughout their work day, in whatever ways He leads.
I remember my own experience working in corporate America, and I wish I had realized back then that God wanted me to pray. I remember flare-ups, crises, family dynamics, wounded hearts, and just plain daily challenges. At any of those moments, I might have been a vessel for God to change the atmosphere, had I known and been ready.
Are you called as an intercessor and placed in a secular environment? Ask God how He wants to use you to pray and change your atmosphere. Ask Him to tell you the reasons He has appointed you in that place, and what He desires to do through your prayers.
Then go to work every day, alert to your environment and attuned to God’s Spirit. Realize you are not just there to do a job, although your work is important. You are also there as a praying vessel, through whom God can affect the environment for His purposes. Set your heart in tune to His, the same way you would tune your transistor radio into a broadcast channel. Then listen; and be. He will prompt you.
Sometimes His promptings will not be obvious to you. You will simply find yourself praying in the spirit, and not knowing why. Just obey, and do as He leads. At other times, the circumstances will be obvious, and you will know to pray. Again, pray in the spirit, and let the Holy Spirit lead your prayers. He knows what He desires to do in that atmosphere, and He needs a willing intercessor – you! – to say, “Yes, Lord. Please do that. Have Your way here today.”
How amazing to go home at the end of the workday and realize you have lived, actively, in the kingdom of God today.
The corporate environment is just one example. I have another intercessor friend who works at a public school, where as we know, prayers are not allowed by staff. However, because she is attuned to God each day, she knows when and how to pray silently on behalf of the students. As she learns more about prayer, and the ways God works in people’s lives, she is able to pray more specifically. I know other teachers who pray for their students. They may not feel called specifically as intercessors, but there is a wealth of prayer happening at the public schools on any given day, which means God is moving in that atmosphere and changing students’ lives.
Another precious intercessor friend was led on a different path of prayer. She went through a difficult surgical procedure followed by a challenging recovery time. Before her surgery, a group of us prayed with her, and she told us, “I can’t wait for the surgery to be over, so God can start using me.”
What she didn’t realize was how much she had just ministered to us, by sharing how closely she felt to the Lord during this time. What a scary proposition she was facing medically, knowing the difficulties and the risks. She didn’t feel well to begin with, and now she had to accept a really hard road to walk with the Lord. But she focused on Him and felt His presence. She made a point to stay in His presence, and she let God bring her His strength and comfort. Whenever she felt afraid, or weak, she turned to the Lord and was encouraged. What struck me the most was her surrender, her willingness to just “be” with Him, no matter what she had to face.
Because of her peace and her surrender, she was ministering strength and encouragement to us, as we listened and prayed with her. She said she couldn’t wait for God to use her, once this was over. Yet here He was, using her right now.
I told her, “Your ministry has already begun.”
The next week, she went into the hospital for her surgery. Imagine all the ways God used her, as an intercessor, during the prep time at the hospital, with people all around her, and with her allowing the Holy Spirit to flow through her and to affect the atmosphere. Even during the difficult weeks of recovery, imagine how God used her as an intercessor to the hospital staff, to her visitors, and to those who were praying for her. So many people told her during that recovery time, “You have blessed me today.” She gave all the glory to God and told them of His constant presence and love. What a witness. All because she bloomed as an intercessor where she was planted.
When you are called as an intercessor, God intends to use you right where you are. He has placed intercessors all over the world, in every city, in every neighborhood. Some may not be aware of their calling; others may be aware, but unsure of how to step into their calling. But He has placed a network of intercessors worldwide, so that He can change our world.
This doesn’t mean God doesn’t move us around or call us into new environments and seasons. But for this moment, today, ask God how He desires to use you, right where you are.
Are you one of His intercessors? Whether you know you are, and have actively been praying, or whether you think you might be, and don’t know where to start – take this moment to talk with God. Ask Him for His vision for you as an intercessor. Realize that it starts right here, right now. Be ready to listen to Him, and keep your heart attuned to Him. And bloom, right where you’re planted. If every intercessor blooms in our own flower bed, God can truly change the world, and we will see the kingdom of God more and more, around us every day.