This morning, I began my prayer thanking God for the ease of which I can come into His presence. And then immediately thanked God for the incredibly difficult things He has done to enable me to easily come into His presence. Because I'm usually praying in my pajamas or in tshirt and tattered jeans, and I'm entering a throne room, going into the Most Holy Place before the Most Holy King. Yet, there's no ritual, no big production, no methodic cleansing. It's just me, in the presence of God.
And intercession is a really interesting thing in light of that. It takes a certain degree of boldness to ask God for anything. It also takes trust-trust that He who had enabled us to come to Him will hear us.
One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is from THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW. The newly winged, newly named flying horse, Fledge, addresses the children traveling with him, who are curious as to why Aslan didn't think to provide for their meals on their journey:
"I'm sure Aslan would have, if you'd asked him," said Fledge.
"Wouldn't he know without being asked?" said Polly.
"I have no doubt that he would.... But I've a sort of idea that he likes being asked."
Asking for things in prayer is a sign of trust, of obedience. But when it comes to praying for others, I think that sometimes trust is taken to another level, specifically when praying for those who are without Christ or who have strayed from Him.
There are many examples of leadership in Scripture-good and bad examples. There are judges who do really bizarre and mighty things. There are kings who worship false gods, as well as those who try to tear down the idols. There are shepherds who become rulers and sinners who become apostles.
Sometimes it's easy to see leadership. It's some mighty act of prowess or some major proclamation or accomplishment. But lately I've been seeing that leadership can be something very simple. It takes a lot of humility and boldness, yet most of the hard work has already been finished.
When Sodom was about to be destroyed, Abraham did something very bold, even dangerous. He stood between God and the city, asking that if only fifty men, only forty-five men, only thirty men, only twenty men, only ten men be found who were righteous, that God might spare the city. And while Sodom was destroyed because not even ten righteous men could be found, it's amazing to see how God listened to the prayers of Abraham.
After Israel had made the golden calf while Moses was on Sinai, God revealed to Moses that He planned to kill the Israelites. But Moses stood between God and the people, pleading on their behalf. And God relented.
Very shortly afterwards, Moses prayed for God to be with Israel, with him as he led this stubborn people. He wanted to see God's glory, for He couldn't lead the people alone. And God let Moses see His back, not His face, to see where He had been. He had been with them and would continue to be.
I think of the friends of the paralyzed man who tried to vary him to see Jesus. When they couldn't get through the crowds, they cut a hole in some stranger's roof and lowered him down on a mat. That might not be traditional prayer, but symbolically, they were carrying their needy friend to Jesus. And Jesus didn't just heal him; he first forgave his sins.
And I've been very convicted lately about the need to pray for others, especially for those who don't even know they need prayer, or who don't know they need the One who has made prayer possible.
I have friends who are so lost they probably would laugh at me if they knew I was praying for them. It seems hopeless. It's very discouraging sometimes.
But I think we're called to be bold, to be leaders, to stand between God and those for whom we are praying, pleading on their behalf.
It doesn't always mean they will come to Jesus. And prayer doesn't excuse us from speaking truth in love. But prayer is the first line of defense against satan, not the last, as we sometimes foolishly believe.
James wrote that the prayers of the righteous avail much. They are effective. And with all that God has done to enable us to come to Him, we should certainly come.
It's not easy, pleading for others, but the hardest work has already been accomplished.