Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Intercession

After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Jobhas. So now ... go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Jobwill pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job's prayer. After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. Job 42:7-10 NIV

For those who don't know the story of Job, Satan challenged God to ruin the man in possessions and health to prove that Job's righteousness was only because of the blessings he had. In one day, Job loses everything he owns and his seven children are killed. Not long afterward he is struck by a disease that made him wish he was dead. The bulk of the book contains the words of Job and his friends as the friends insist that the only possible explanation for Job's suffering was because he was an evil man and Job arguing against that. In the end, God speaks and when he is finished, he tells Job's friends to go to Job so that Job could pray for them.

Curious thing, that. God was already talking to them, and they obviously heard him because they obeyed, and yet he wanted them to go through Job instead of directly to himself. Why? Why would he accept Job's prayer for them but not their own prayers of repentance? One could say that it was because Job was righteous and they were not but there are many other places in the Bible where the unrighteous call out to God and he saves and forgives them. Perhaps it was to illustrate in a concrete way God's acceptance of Job and his nonacceptance of the friends' diatribes. I don't really know.

What I do find interesting, however, was that the return of Job's wealth and the birth of new children did not come to him until after he had prayed for his friends. Interceding for his friends not only benefitted his friends. It also benefitted him. Oswald Chambers writes: "Pray for your friends, and God will emancipate your captivity also. The emancipation comes as you intercede for them ... it is the way God works." He suggests that this intercession can be spontaneous "as we go about our daily calling, and we shall see emancipation come all along, not because we understand the problems, but because we recognise that God has chosen the way of intercession to perform His moral miracles in lives."

God can do anything he wants whenever he wants and yet, for some reason, he chooses to wait for our prayers and act through them. He chooses to do his work through us and our prayers. Wow!

How do we do this? How can we pray for our friends, family and those we know? Some have set times for intercession in their day and this is good but prayer for others can also be part of our living and breathing. Someone comes to mind? Pray for him! My computer plays a slide show of all the photos on my hard drive. When I see a photo of someone, I pray for them. I have maps on the walls of my prayer room with pins to mark where people live. I make my way across the maps in my head as I'm trying to go to sleep and pray for each person on the journey.

It is a priviledge to pray for others--one that brings blessing to us and to them.

Thank you for choosing to use your people and our prayers to do your work and will on this earth. Thank you for listening and caring. Bring to my mind those you want me to pray for and keep them before me in my mind through the day and night so that my prayers for them become as integral to me as breathing.

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