Intercession and the Imagination
To my Newday Family:
I have been wanting to share from one of my favorite books on prayer by Philip Yancey since this month of prayer focus started, Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?
This is a lengthy section found on pages 302-303 and I’ll share it here:
Intercession–praying for others–introduces some of the most puzzling issues of prayer. The more I mull over intercession, the more it calls for a shift in how I look at the world.
Thanks to the scientific method, most people in “developed” countries have an outlook of mild deism. We assume things like weather and disease operate according to fix natural laws. Every so often, though, problems impinge on us so directly that we stretch beyond that mildly deistic stance and ask God to intervene. When a drought drags on too long, we pray for rain. When a young mother gets a diagnosis of cervical cancer, we solicit prayers for her healing. We beseech God as if trying to talk God into something God otherwise might not want to do.
My understanding of prayer calls me to recast that perspective on the world. I take up as my starting point what I learn about God in the person of Jesus. The Gospels make clear that Jesus wants all people everywhere to experience the love of God, because he devoted his life to conveying that message. They also make clear that Jesus desires physical health for us, because not once–not once–did he turn down a request for physical healing.
I begin, then, with the central core of core of reality: God is love, and desires the best for us. True, not all people welcome or even care about God’s love, and not all people enjoy physical health. That means something must be interfering with God’s ideal for this planet, but it does not change the prime fact of God’s love.
God is looking for a beachhead of presence in the world – a body, we might say, and indeed that is the very image Paul seizes upon in his letters. We the “body of Christ” have formed a partnership to dispense God’s love and grace to others. As we experience that grace, inevitably we want to share it with others. Love does not come naturally to me, I must say. I need prayer in order to place myself within the force field of God’s love, allowing God to fill me with compassion that I cannot muster on my own.
This way of viewing the world changes how I pray for others. Crudely put, I once envisioned intercession as bringing requests to God that God may not have thought of, and talking to God into granting them. Now I see intersession as an increase in my awareness. When I pray for another person, I am praying for God to open my eyes so that I can see that person as God does, and then enter into the stream of love that God already directs toward that person.
Something happens when I pray for others in this way. Bringing them into God’s presence changes my attitude toward them and ultimately affects our relationship…
In short, prayer allows me to see others as God sees them (and me): as uniquely flawed and uniquely gifted bearers of God’s image. I begin seeing them through Jesus’ eyes, as beloved children whom the Father longs to embrace.
With those thoughts from Mr. Yancy and as we consider the power of “seeing them through Jesus’ eyes”, I want to pair up intercession and imagination. Seeing in your eye the person in our community without much hope. Without much to look forward to because he or she is lonely. This person may be a part of a family, but no one understands them.
Life is drudgery: get up, go to work – commuting to and from a job for nearly an hour every day – they don’t even like. No wonder when this person gets home, life there doesn’t offer anything else because everyone is so isolated, living their own lives.
Sleep is the one place where the world’s pain goes away for a short time, often assisted with some alcohol to “relax.” Is this all there is?
And on could go the person seeking something better. Use your imagination to see the hurt and need, as Jesus does. How can Newday – how can we each – be him to those who find life so challenging? Or what about those who see this world as offering all they ever need, with no more need for an invisible Jesus?
It’s clear to me Jesus knows a person completely, and we do not. We don’t know much about people around us and even those we are in contact with. But we aren’t supposed to.
When it comes to intercession, I also have something else to share about the connection to our imagination, but I’d like to make it something spoken, because it will take up too many words here. Click here to take a listen.
May we not forget everyone we meet is going through something. All of us have something on our minds, even if we never say it. Jesus knows it all. Our intercession can move him to places he would not otherwise go in their lives and perhaps we get to play a small role in getting someone closer to him!