Nothing is well done without prayer for the simple reason that it leaves God out of the account.
This past week, I completed The 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonheoffer. I found his devotional while I was on the Biblegateway website. (www.biblegateway.com)
I thought it would serve well to supplement an additional devotion to my life-one for my morning and one for my evening. As I continued through the devotional, Dietrich began discussing intercessory prayer. Day thirty one really rocked me. Here’s how that devotional began as Dietrich writes,
“Offering intercessory prayer means nothing other than Christians bringing one another into the presence of God, seeing each other under the cross of Jesus as poor human beings and sinners in need of grace.”
I’ve mentioned before that I have and continue to struggle with devotions (praying and Bible reading) but these words stuck out to me like the brightest star on a dark night. The Word of God is always true and will always expose us, including our thoughts, not to bring shame or condemnation but to bring correction in the paths of righteousness.
Perhaps one of my greatest struggles that I face right now is believers speaking against other believers. In specific, it is bothersome when other believers slander my name and yes that happens. We live in a fallen world and when we chose to sin after being set free from sin, we face the consequences of that sin. The law of principles comes into focus and the effects of sin spread out like a wild fire, contaminating others.
As believers, we are often quick to point out the wrong in others. If we fail to dress appropriately for church or we listen to rock music or the messages we preach-there is always some flaw that needs to be pointed out.
Now, I agree with rebuking and accountability. I agree with discipline and correction. What I don’t agree with is slander, character deformation, judgmental attitudes and being divisive. Those characteristics are spoken against in the Word of God.
Despite how I feel about speaking against other believers and their ministry in private and public settings without going to that individual, I find myself being judgmental and sometimes prideful in the private chambers of my own heart.
There’s an anger inside of me that burns when I know others are boldly preaching the message of forgiveness which is born at the cross but are currently or have in the past spoken negatively against me or others which shows no grace, mercy or love.
Then I direct my anger and unanswered questions towards God, asking him how in the world he can “look past” the issues in people’s lives who are openly speaking against his followers and still use them? I find myself wondering why there is so much hostility and division in the body of Christ when the Savior we claim to follow prayed for unity just prior to enduring the cross for us.
This is where Dietrich’s words come alive-at the cross of Jesus; we ought to see one another as poor human beings in need of grace. My imperfections suck just as much as yours. I am simply a miserable failure at this thing called life. Facing the harsh reality is all I need to do to realize I am nothing, I am no one and I have nothing to offer a world of broken people.
Of course, this is where I begin to exalt my own life and realize I am so much better than others because I am not the one judging or name calling. I am so much more mature than them. But when I look at my life and realize I have my own sins, I realize I am no better off. When I look at my own life and see that I am not leading a church, I realize I am not in the position of leadership for a reason. It simply gets me even angrier.
God has the unique privilege of pointing out my inconsistencies all the time. He gently and lovingly reminds me that I am still on a journey of being made perfect. He reminds me that I am on a journey of becoming more like him as I renew my mind. He reminds me that I am on a journey and he is the leader, not me. Thank God for that because I am not ready for that responsibility and never will be.
So as I read through this devotion, God revealed to me the importance of intercessory prayer. As I began to meditate upon what I just read, God reminded me that he loves me and his love is revealed in the very life of his son, Jesus. That is when I thought about what Jesus is doing right now.
Jesus is praying for me.
“There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.”
Jesus doesn’t begin praying for me when I sin, when I face temptations or when I endure hard times. Jesus is already praying for me as I enter in and endure hardships, as I face temptations and by his grace overcome and when I face temptations and fall short. Jesus is praying for me through it all.
Praying for others reflects our love for them. One of the most tangible ways God loves us, right here, right now is the intercessory prayers offered by his son, Jesus. To be like Jesus, we should pray like Jesus. In essence, we need to offer intercession for those who have hurt us, betrayed us, wronged us, despised us, ignored us and turned our backs on us.
If we want to see unity within the body of Christ, we begin here-with prayers offered for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We might not agree with their overall message, we might not always agree with their lifestyles. We might not agree with much of anything about them but we are not to exalt our lives over their own. If we want to get over the pain that has been caused towards us, the first step we can take is to pray for those who caused the pain. Pray for them, pray for their souls, and pray that God reveals his great love for them.
The Scriptures declare God was in Christ reconciling the world, not just a select few but the ENTIRE WORLD. Christ opened up a way for all men to come to the cross. When we view others as less than who we are, we rob them of the value God placed on them. When we refuse to pray for others, we strip away their humanity and make ourselves more important.
I’m not saying this is going to be easy but love your brothers and sisters in Christ, ALL OF THEM. Love them by forgiving them, encouraging them and praying for them. In unity, we answer the prayer of Jesus. In unity, we push back the darkness and shine the light of Christ.
“The love that is meant to mark us as Christians is meant to receive people in the generous and gracious way Jesus received people.”
– Margot Starbuck
If you are looking for a devotional to use, check out Bible Gateway’s Devotional section!