The following article is from a talk Sr. Ann Shields gave at a Word of God Community prayer meeting. It can also be found in our Renewal Ministries’ September 2018 newsletter.
Our intercession is pivotal to the graces, power, and love that God wants to give His people. Intercession is not easy. Intercession takes a great commitment and perseverance.
As an example, English Protestant Pastor Andrew Murray once wrote about a grapevine that, during a time of war, starvation, and misery, when all the other vines had subsided, kept producing clusters of grapes. Shocked, they tapped the root system of that vine and discovered that the grapevine’s root system had traveled over a mile, into the Thames River. That vine had everything it needed! Andrew Murray used that grapevine to illustrate what needs to happen to us in prayer. We need to find the Source, who is God. Rather than just saying, “God, this is a catastrophe, a difficult situation, please do something,” we need to say, “Lord, how do You want me to pray?”
Perhaps it seems obvious how we should pray: a person is sick, and we want to pray for them to get better. That’s fine, but if we want to intercede for our own family, friends, and acquaintances—and if we want that intercession to really bear fruit—we should take the first few days to say,
“Lord, here’s the situation.
How do You want me to pray?”
He knows the details of the situation—the mind and the heart of the person or people we are praying for—in a way that we don’t. John 15 says, I am the true vine and my father is the vine grower. He removes every vine in me that bears no fruit.
He prunes, and sometimes that’s what happens to us. We pray, and sometimes it seems like things are getting worse. The temptation is to say, “I’m backing out of this. You need somebody who is a really good intercessor, and I’m not it.” But in reality, what ought to happen is that we say, “Lord, teach me. Is there a different way You want me to pray or approach this situation? Show me what it is.”
In my extended family, there was a sixteen-year-old boy who was out on the streets, struggling with drugs, alcohol, everything. No matter what the family tried to do, nothing bore fruit. They asked a group of us to pray, and someone said,
“How should we pray?”
“It’s obvious how we should pray.”
But the person said,
“No, it’s not obvious; God knows the heart and the soul of this young man. How does He want us to pray?”
We concluded that we should pray that the young man would give his life to the Lord and repent of his sin. We prayed that way for about a year, and nothing looked different. Then one night, I got a phone call: he had given his life to Jesus and repented of his sins. His life changed!
We were going to pray for good doctors, for good counselors, for all of the different experiments on dealing with drugs. But God took care of it. Sometimes it doesn’t come out that simple, but in this case it did. I think God, in His mercy, wanted to show us that if we take on His priorities, His will, and His way, it can bear tremendous fruit.
How much confidence do we really have in God and His will? When push comes to shove, we tend to say, “Oh God, oh God, please!” What a difference it makes to instead say, “Oh God, I put all my trust in You. I wait upon Your Word. I wait upon Your will.” His will is the most loving thing that could ever happen. Do we know that in our own lives?
Sometimes we want God’s will, but it nevertheless makes us shudder a bit. We think it is going to cost so much, and sometimes it does. However, the fruit of it is the peace, wisdom, joy, and confidence that only God can give. Let me encourage you: Trust Him more. There is a deeper trust that God wants for our own roots to get into the River of Life—for our own roots to drink more deeply of His Spirit. Rather than saying, “Oh God, please don’t let this happen”—which I pray sometimes too—we can say, “Lord, Your will. Your will is love.” That’s who God is—God is love. We should be praying:
“Lord, let Your will flourish in my life.
Let Your will flourish in the life of my family.”
I think God would be so delighted to hear a group of people praying that way. I think He would be very generous with them.
John 15 says, “I am the true vine and my father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.” Keep that in mind when something seems suddenly eliminated from your life. Or something is asked of you, such as: Would you let go of that to do this? It may be the Lord speaking.
The body of Christ needs genuine intercession—people flat on their faces saying, “Show us the way; teach us to pray.” Everything out there is getting darker. And where is the light going to shine, if not in the followers of Christ? God wants His light to shine through us—through kindness, a helping hand, shared wisdom, and the like. The more I decrease and He increases, the more I see His will over my will. Instead of presenting our plans to God, we need to yield and to say, “Lord, I’m your child, teach me how to pray, even when—especially when—I think I know what to pray for.” It’s amazing what God can do when we ask Him what He thinks we need, and when we listen. We need warriors of prayer, and that means giving up our own will and praying as He wants us to.
In fact, the most important thing is our own submission to the will of God. Otherwise, we start planning how we are going to accomplish things. I’m not saying plans don’t have a place. But don’t go there first. Simply say, “Lord, here I am. Send me. Use me today.”
A few years ago, Pope Francis declared a Year of Mercy. Because I travel a lot, I said to the Lord, “I’ll give up reading and sleeping on the plane. I’ll put aside anything You want if You want me to speak to anybody. If You want people to know the Father’s mercy, I’ll do it.” That was a sacrifice! I love being on a plane when I can just read or pray. But I felt prompted to say that to the Lord. And during that Year of Mercy, not once did I have a moment to read or pray, and not once did I initiate the conversation. They came right up to me: “Pardon me, are you a sister? Can we talk to you?” They’d bring the whole family. I’d never had that happen—never.
My reason for using that example is the mercy of God is right here. God wants to pour out mercy on His people. And He wants to use us, so if we as intercessors are in a position of wanting God’s will and wanting to be channels of His mercy, God will use us. This city cries out for help. Nobody hears it, because the facade is all there. We look like we’re prosperous (to some degree), we look like we’re successful, we look like all kinds of things. But under the surface—look at the situations in people’s lives—who’s going to pray? You.
We need an army of intercessors, not just for our families, but for all of the people we encounter. It’s a tremendous work, the work of intercession, and we can do it no matter what our circumstances are. If you are suffering, you can offer your suffering. Wherever we are, we can make our lives bear fruit, for ourselves and those around us.
If my experience on the plane is any indicator, people need help, and they don’t know where to go. If God would use me, why wouldn’t He use you? If we are Christians with open hearts, God will send people to us. Say to the Lord every day,
“Use me. However you want, use me.”
Pray for anyone you may encounter each day. Ask the Lord to give you what you need. And He will.
Put it in Practice…
Peter Williamson, who teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary with Ralph and Dr. Mary Healy, wrote the following prayer in response to Sr. Ann’s talk on intercession. We hope it is a blessing to you!
Lord, help us to sink our roots deep into you. Help us to pray at all times in the Holy Spirit. Help us to slow down and listen to you. And help us to pray with great faith, according to your will and purpose.
In particular, Lord, we pray for miracles. We pray that you reveal your power to the sick among us, to those among our family and friends who have wandered from you and need conversion. Do whatever it takes to turn them back to you and the path of life!
Reveal yourself also to our neighbors and co-workers and those in the city and country where we live, and for the whole world. Your love extends to all; save those most in need of your mercy! Let us Christians be radiant with your light and love. Work signs and wonders that will show those around us who you really are!
Thank you, Lord, for hearing our prayer!