Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Groaning intercession

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 8:18-39

TO CHEW ON: "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered." Romans 8:26

Has there ever been a time in your life when need has so overwhelmed you that you couldn't even form words to pray? This is the situation Paul addresses in the latter part of Romans 8.

So how did he get from the picture of wholeness in God we saw yesterday to such brokenness and raw need? He comes via the realization that the ideal and the actual are still far apart. For the glory that will someday be revealed in the universe and in the sons of God (us) is still in the future. And just like creation "groans and labours with birth pangs together until now" (Romans 8:22), we can be puzzled, frightened, overwhelmed, freaked out, scared wordless by the things that come our way.

At this very moment I can think of a handful of people who may be feeling just this way. In one case cancer treatments have almost been exhausted. It is time for a decision -- do they try one more possible life-lengthener, or let nature take its course? In another there has been cancer, surgery, a painful complication, more surgery, and now waiting for the body to strengthen so treatments can resume.

It is, I believe, in just such a context that the type of prayer Paul talks about would fit. And such prayer may be the privilege and responsibility of those of us who are bystanders. For when one is weak and sick oneself, it's hard to pray, to focus, even to stay awake long enough to think the words.

It is prayer that starts out not sure what it wants or should ask for. As a sidebar article in my Bible explains it:

"Presumption -- supposing we already know how to intercede for others -- will not only hinder maximum effectiveness, it will also cause us to miss the thrilling sense of adventure God wants to bless us with as we receive His insight and enablement for intercessory prayer. How do we know without infinite minds whether God wants to move through us with weeping, travailing, wrestling, fasting, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, dreams, visions, mental pictures, impressions, verses of Scripture quickened to us, or silence? Only by waiting on God and giving Him time to move on and through us. Psalm 62:5 teaches this wisdom: 'My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.'"
- A. Joy Dawson from "The Spirit's Direction" - pp. 1562-3, in the New Spirit Filled Life Bible.

"…thrilling sense of adventure"? Wow, that's a new way of looking at intercessory prayer! Maybe it's time for me, and you, to set out on such an adventure for our beleaguered friends and family members.

PRAYER: Dear God, please teach me about prayer, and to pray with the help of Your Spirit. Help me to be willing to give my time, energy and emotions for such intercession. Amen.

MORE: O.C. says:
"Worship and intercession must go together, the one is impossible without the other. Intercession means that we rouse ourselves up to get the mind of Christ about the one for whom we pray? Too often instead of worshiping God, we construct statements as to how prayer works. Are we worshiping or are we in dispute with God -- "I don't see how You are going to do it." This is a sure sign that we are not worshiping. When we lose sight of God we become hard and dogmatic. We hurl our own petitions at God's throne and dictate to Him as to what we wish Him to do. We do not worship God, nor do we seek to form the mind of Christ."
- Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, (March 30th reading).
(From the archives)

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