My small group is reading “Life Together” by Deitrich Bonhoeffer, which he wrote regarding Christian community while serving as a professor in an underground seminary in Nazi Germany during World War II. Last week we read chapter 3 in the book, and at one point in his references to prayer, he talked about intercessory prayer on behalf of others:
“Thus it is clear that intercessory prayer is also a daily service Christians owe to God and to one another. … Furthermore, it is clear that intercessory prayer is not something general and vague, but something very concrete. It is interested in specific persons and specific difficulties and therefore specific requests. The more concrete my intercessory prayer becomes, the more promising it is.”
It came out in our discussion that often we (myself included) fail to ask for specific things in prayer, because of an anticipation of specific requests receiving “no” for an answer. It is much easier to pray for vague things, rather than clear outcomes, because if we pray for something very specific, a decisive “no” as an answer is easier to identify. Getting “no” for an answer can make us feel rejected, make us doubt, make us angry, etc. and I confess I am totally guilty of this. I’ll pray for someone’s heart or attitude or for wisdom during a struggle, rather than praying for a specific outcome for their struggle. That way, if things continue to be difficult, I don’t feel like I’ve received “no” for an answer, and my faith isn’t shaken. But this isn’t a faith-building way to pray. I would grow more if I were to expose myself to the risk of having God say “no”, and facing the fallout of that. If I feel rejected, it may expose that really I only feel secure if God gives me what I want…. making God my genie. If I feel angry, it may expose that I think I know better than God what is best, making God my servant. If I feel frustrated, it shows me that I need to examine myself and be sure to submit my desires to His Word and His will, and pray for my will to be aligned with His… And these are things that are much easier to write on a blog than to embrace at the heart level.
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