I pray for you every time I walk past your photo," Charlotte told me, beaming and pointing to the "five by seven" on the shelf in her living room.
Wow, that's weird, I thought. As a 13-year-old, I didn't understand why some woman I barely knew would display my photo in her living room; and I especially didn't understand why she prayed for me each time she caught a glimpse of it!
Charlotte attended my church, but I never really bothered to get to know her. I saw her as a homely, eccentric woman who wore her gray-streaked hair in a tightly coiled bun. Her brow often glistened with perspiration, and her clothes were less than fashionable. Every word she uttered displayed her lack of education. She often looked dreamily heavenward, as if she expected Christ to burst through the clouds at any moment.
Looking back, I recognize that Charlotte was a gifted intercessor. Now that I'm older and an intercessor myself, I understand some of the pain and loneliness she must have experienced because of my lack of interest and support.
When you are an intercessor, you are sometimes misunderstood or unappreciated. Those you pray for may not respond the way you'd wish. In their lack of understanding, they may even avoid you. Sometimes it may seem you are "doing this" for nothing. But if you've ever felt this way, know that you are not alone!
Generations of intercessors have endured loneliness, despair, and discouragement. The very nature of intercession calls you to spend time alone, doing something many people don't understand. The loneliness can either devastate or strengthen you.
Here are some ways to work through it and come out stronger in the end.
1.Know that God understands. Thankfully, Jesus, the greatest intercessor of all time (Heb. 7:25), understands your experience. Although He gave up everything for us (Phil. 2:7-8), we often fail to recognize and appreciate Him. People still hide their faces from Him, and He is a "man of sorrows, . . . familiar with suffering" (Is. 53:3). But because His love for us is so great, He continues to intercede on our behalf.
If you're in a situation where the people you feel burdened for fail to appreciate or even acknowledge you, don't lose heart. They may not understand, but God does. He is right there with you in the sleepless nights and early morning hours (Heb. 13:5). He hears every word you utter or call out. Every tear that runs down your cheeks is noticed (2 K. 20:5, Ps. 56:8). He delights in you (Ps. 18:19).
2.Keep love your source of motivation. Love is what motivates Jesus in His intercession, and it must be what motivates us. Certainly we pray because God prompts us to do so, because there is power in prayer, and because we want to see God's will accomplished on earth. But above all, we should be praying out of our love for God and others.
To help me remember that, I wrote the "intercessor's version" of 1 Cor. 13:1-3 and posted it in my prayer closet: "Even if my prayers are filled with eloquent words, if I don't have love, they are nothing more than useless noise. And though I have the gift of intercession, and receive words from the Lord, and even though I have mountain-moving faith, if I don't have love, I have nothing. And though I make all kinds of sacrifices in prayer, without love, those sacrifices are worthless."
I have also posted a list of what love is according to 1 Cor. 13:4-7, along with questions to ask myself when I am tempted to wallow in loneliness. For instance, under "love is not proud," I wrote, "Do I feel that my prayers are somehow better than the prayers of others and should therefore be recognized and acknowledged?" And under "love is not self-seeking," I wrote, "Am I praying so that my own agenda will be promoted?" Going through this list of questions humbles me, convicts me, and snaps me back to reality.
3.Don't focus on the present pain; look to the end result. A few years back my husband trained for the Honolulu marathon. Unfortunately, he didn't train quite hard enough. About 10 miles into the race, he started to become weary. He was hot, his feet hurt, and his breathing was labored. He began to wonder why in the world he wanted to run the race at all. If he had allowed himself to focus on these things, or the fact that people were dropping out of the race all around him, he never would have made it. Fortunately, he was able to focus on two things: his lifelong dream of finishing a marathon and his wife and kids waiting at the finish line. It wasn't easy, but that focus gave him the strength to work through the pain.
Hebrews 12:1-3 reminds me that by focusing on the finish line, I receive strength to endure hardships. I'm encouraged to know that if I do not allow myself to become weary in doing good, I will reap a bountiful harvest in God's own time (Gal. 6:9).
4. Appreciate the character God is developing in you through loneliness. As I held the communion elements in my hands one day, the words "This is my body which is broken for you" came to mind. I thought of how Jesus' body was broken beyond recognition. I felt the Lord saying to me, "Rebecca, I want you to be broken beyond recognition so that when people look at you, they won't see you; they'll only see Me."
In The Release of the Spirit, Watchman Nee writes about brokeness in the lives of believers. He explains that unless an alabaster box is broken, the fragrant perfume inside cannot be released. How does this brokeness take place? I believe it begins as we yield to God in difficult circumstances--including lonely times in prayer. Those times can be extremely difficult for an
intercessor, but they may well release a maturity and completeness--a sweet fragrance--out of the brokenness (Jas. 1:2-4).
5. Know that God understands your value in His kingdom. A loving father longed to give his child the perfect gift. He spent many days shopping for just the right thing. Finally, he found a gift that would help his child reach his maximum potential. He carefully wrapped it, barely able to contain his joy. When he presented the gift to the child, the child quickly tore the wrapping off the package. The son's excitement turned to puzzlement, then disappointment, and finally contempt as he threw the gift down and ran outside.
The father gently picked up the gift, brushed it off, and admired it. Although he was disappointed in his son's response, he realized that it came from two things. First, the gift wasn't what the child was expecting. Second, the child failed to understand the value of the gift.
This story reveals a spiritual truth: Those who are the recipients of your gift of intercession may not value it, but the Father values it deeply. He, after all, chose it with care.
I didn't appreciate Charlotte's "gift" because I didn't like the way it was wrapped. Consequently, I never saw the value of what was inside. I never acknowledged the sacrifices Charlotte made in her prayer closet for me. Perhaps no one on this earth ever thanked her for her ministry of intercession. This thought saddens me. But I rejoice in the fact that, in spite of her lack of acclaim, Charlotte had a powerful ministry. Her prayers affected the lives of many, and her example of selfless intercession still affects my life today.
I have no doubt that as Charlotte crossed the threshold from this life to the next, she heard her Father say the words we all long to hear: "Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your lord" (Mt. 25:21, NKJV). And it's with joy that I think of Charlotte, now face to face with the greatest intercessor of all time.
Wow! Rebecca, what another AWESOME article written by you. I, too, know the pitfalls of being an intercessor. May God continue to use those of us who are called...may we remain willing...so much is at stake. God bless!
It could have been said better; but not by any one living on this planet!! Although the depth of this article will not be fathomable by some, and that's okay, it touched me deeply and that's not because of what or who I think I am, but because He has called me, as He has you, to the unseen and unknown world of the intercessor. Encouragement abounds in this article and I appreciate that. Have you read: Rees Howells; The Intercessor? Highly recommended for the intercessor today! (out of print, but most book stores can find it and order it for you, it's an older work, but always timely)