Learning to Hit the Mark
©Terry L. Craig 2014, 2019
Four decades ago (in the new-believer-zealousness that comes to many young adults beginning a walk with Jesus) I saw with new eyes how many things in my former way of life were ties to darkness. Oh my. I also had a heightened awareness of friends and family who seemed unaware of any sort of godly standard. And I was horrified by the darkness which was allowed to prosper in churches.
My mind quickly latched onto a plan. Every idol would be cast out of my house! I wouldn’t compromise with friends or family—and I would be totally honest with people regarding the practices and attitudes in their lives which fell short. And as for my prayer life . . . well I’d redouble my efforts to pray the Lord would teach people lessons about their darkened ways. So whenever they experienced difficulties or sorrows . . . I assumed the Lord sent these hard things so that he could teach lessons.
While my intentions may have connected with God’s desire for all to come to repentance and find a saving knowledge of Jesus—both my prayers and my ideas of what people “needed” in order to bring that about were, at best, shortsighted, because at some point I realized my prayers seemed to be taking as much or more of a toll on ME than resulting in a harvest of good fruit in the lives of the people for whom I had so zealously prayed. I continued, “But if this hard thing is teaching them something, then so be it! Teach them, Lord!”
I was like a senseless soldier calling in extra bomb strikes . . . on her own location. I’m embarrassed when I think how long it took me to realize what a stupid tactic that was.
While, YES, “the Lord can work all things to the benefit of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose,” (He can use any situation—even a dark or sad one) that doesn’t mean all things are good or that He wants them for us. The Lord isn’t the author of the sin that brings so much death in our lives—we are. Much of the sorrow we see here isn’t God sent, but the result of our own bad choices. For the devil, it’s like a double bonus: People give into temptations and then blame God for the suffering their sin brings into their lives.
How can we go from standing in the rubble to standing in a place of victory?
Intercessory Lesson #1: Yes, God can use that horrible situation to turn someone around but more often than not, praying for the light of His help and kindness to dawn in the midst of it will result in melted hearts much sooner than praying for more hardship will. People in the world are already accustomed to darkness and sorrow, so asking that they get more of it isn’t likely to change the direction someone has already chosen.
Lesson #2: Learn from Abigail. (1 Samuel 25) Her husband, in a drunken state, said things that were going to bring swift retribution on him. The problem was, that retribution also meant death and destruction laying waste to his entire empire. His life would be forfeit, all the males in his camp slaughtered, all his property taken, the remaining women and children also taken as loot. Abigail could have prayed that the consequences her husband asked for would finally teach him the lesson he'd refused to learn this far, then braced for the worst or run away, but she did neither. Instead, she took it upon herself to intercede.
Sometimes people will insist on taking a costly or terrible road, but when you go before the Lord, don’t say, “bring it on!” OR make empty excuses for them. Present the truth, stand in the gap, and seek mercy (for the sake of others if nothing else). Abigail didn’t waste time asking for permission to intercede. She didn't try to reason with someone who was unreasonable (her drunken, foolish husband). Instead, she knew where she could make her stand and she did so. It was a job well done.
In Ezekiel 20:30, the Lord said, "I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it . . ." (NASB)
At the center of the target is mercy.
Lesson #3: God's desire is for mercy to triumph over judgement. (Mt 5:7; 9:13; 12:7; 18:32-35; Lk 6:37, James 2:12-13)
If someone has set their entire will upon a course of sin, don’t worry that your intercession will somehow help this person “get away with it.” God doesn’t wink at any kind of sin, much less the hardhearted kind. If someone insists on their course, they will eventually come face to face with God and HIS justice will be complete. What you may accomplish, though, is to prevent some of the collateral damage that would strike others—and perhaps you will buy that person a little more time to repent. (Look what happened with Abigail's husband: His encampment was spared, but he suffered a stroke. Even so, he had time to consider what he'd done and repent before he died.)
The next time your default mode says that your country (like Abigail's senseless husband) should be judged, or your leaders are corrupt and deserve what they get, or you wish your employers would feel the pain of paying for what they’ve done . . . seek the Lord about it before you become a senseless soldier and call down (or agree with) destruction. (Luke 9:51-55)
Added note for the current times: As we see a meltdown of morals in our country, and things like abortion up to and including babies who are born and breathing—we know that God's judgment will not wait forever. Our job as intercessors, though, is not to call it down, but rather to stand in the gap unless or until God tells us to get out of the way.
Lesson #4: In desperate times when we pray for a healing or a miracle, we often end the prayer with a sigh and say, “but never the less, Your will be done, Lord,” as if we somehow know His will is likely going to be the opposite of what we just asked for. What does this attitude communicate to those who are being prayed for or to those who are listening? (“I want for your loved one to be healed, but God on the other hand . . .”) Some of us won’t even dare to pray, “Your will be done,” because we’re scared of what He might do! Be honest. How often does that describe you? What does that say about your concept of who God is or what He wants to do?
Whatever your concept of God is, your role as an ambassador (and an intercessor) for Him
is a reflection of it.
Set yourself to remember always: He is God, He can do anything! What if our prayers, our lives, and our ministries were formed around believing who He is instead of our sometimes hazy assumptions about His motives? What about believing that He KNOWS everything instead of trusting our incomplete knowledge of situations?
In the midst of her grieving, Jesus asked Martha for a simple confession of faith, of what she believed about Him. Later, as they were rolling away the stone on her brother’ grave . . .
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40 (NASB)
I’ve seen miracles. I have seen the dead raised, the sick healed, and people set free from dangers and bondage. (And no, I don’t believe there is a formula or system you can “work” to get what you want.) When you let go and put it in the hands of Jesus, that means you’ve let go of your own scenarios. When you stop seeking “my will be done” and ask that “Your will be done” and TRUST Him to do it, it’s in HIS hands. What the Lord wants us to believe in (have trust in, have faith in) is Him—and to demonstrate that by how we pray and how we live. The greatest leap of faith isn’t to believe for an outcome, but to believe that He truly is the Almighty. We can run to Him, even when we’ve been senseless soldiers, trusting that everything He does will ultimately prove to be GOOD.
Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:28-29 (NASB)
Taken from terrylcraig's blog post "Senseless Soldiers and Rough Prayers" 2014
Other Articles on intercession:
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
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