by Jacob Musselman
Prayer Is An Ongoing Conversation
Stephen and I have been friends for over a decade, but we can count on two hands the number of times we have seen each other face-to-face. Most of you don’t know me, but I know you because Stephen talks about you, loves you, and cares for you deeply, meaningfully, and pastorally. I’m incredibly grateful for his friendship.
He and I talk every week on the phone. We discuss important things like wives, kids, and church in those. We also have a chaotic text conversation. I never know what’s gonna end up in that thread. We also have Instagram DM conversations that are mutually assured destruction. There are memes in there that nobody should ever have to see. It’s absolute darkness.
Stephen and I have an ongoing conversation, which brings me to prayer. Prayer is, at its most basic, is simply talking to God. And just like any other conversation or relationship, it has different aspects.
Your Will Be Done
We’re in part two of this series called Pray Like This… We’re studying The Lord’s Prayer. We call it The Lord’s Prayer, but it’s really the disciples’ prayer. The disciples notice that prayer is a regular part of Jesus’ life. They saw prayer as a foundational practice to Jesus, so they came to him with a straightforward request: “Lord, teach us to pray.”
(This is not really an unusual request. In fact, most rabbis in ancient times had a specific form of prayer or a way to pray, and they would pass that on to their disciples.)
Today we’re going to learn about a form of prayer called intercessory prayer. Intercession is the act of intervening on behalf of one another. It is the practice of coming to God with other people’s or our communities needs. Intercessory prayer is asking God to make right what is currently not right. It’s asking him to bring Heaven to Earth. God is very committed to bringing his kingdom into the places, communities, situations, and people where his will still needs to be done.
God’s will is not yet fully realized on Earth. Everything that happens is not God’s will. Things that happen in this world are not God’s will. It’s not quite there yet. The Kingdom of God is both a now and a not yet. That’s we live in the tension of now and not yet. The theological term is “a realized eschatology.” Things at the end of the end become realized here in the present. We live in the tension of now.
I have a seventh grader who is going to be 13 this year. She is living in this tension of now and not yet because she’s starting to think of herself as a real person, an adult with human agency. She’s trying to live out that out now, and as a parent, I’m going, not yet.
How To Intercede
Step 1: Get Inspired
I will briefly discuss four steps to help us in intercessory prayer. I didn’t make these up. These come from a great guy who is a pastor and who writes on prayer, Pete Greig. The first one is this, get inspired. This is engaging with God’s Word. I’ve been leaning into this since the beginning of the year. This is one of the areas in which God has been challenging me in my relationship with him. We pray the things God has said will be. Where do you start with that? You start with the Bible. You get inspired by that.
Step 2: Get Informed
The second thing is after you’re inspired, you get informed. You start to investigate and engage with facts. (Facts are friends, people. Christians should be totally committed to facts.) We often avoid praying with specificity. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid of our prayers not being answered. Other times, we worry that if we pray for this specific thing and the particular something doesn’t happen, what does that say about us? What does that say about God? Sometimes this happens because we need to do more homework. We have to be more engaged with the issue or the person.
Step 3: Get Indignant
Third thing, get indignant. Engage with your heart. When we see God’s intended future being undermined right now in the present, whether that’s by an individual’s choices, whether it’s by societal and systemic issues, or whether that’s by the work of the enemy, it should raise something up in us. We are to be engaged with the problems more than just head knowledge; we’ve engaged with our hearts also. When we intercede, it should not just be because our heads move but because our hearts have been stirred in that direction.
Step 4: Get In Sync
The fourth step to intercessory prayer is to get in sync. There is a unique power in being united with somebody else in intercession for something else. There’s an extraordinary power when we come together to pray about something. So much of what Madison Church has done over its 10-year history is uniquely discerned by how God has called you to be in Madison. Together, you have prayed for it and asked God for that thing to happen here.
Actions & Prayers
I want to challenge you: intercessory prayer should go hand in hand with action. People are rightly fed up with those of us who would offer thoughts and prayers but are unwilling to act. We believe prayer moves God and changes the world, but prayer is not an excuse or an empty gesture. Prayer is not a substitute for action.
Intercessory prayer is us joining with God. God invites us to participate with him in making his kingdom come. Every single one of us is called to be Kingdom bearers. We’re invited to ask God to move and embody that.