Frances Ridley Havergal
Privilege of Intercessory Prayer
'Pray one for another.' (James v. 16.)
HERE our divine Master takes up an impulse of natural affection, raising it to the dignity of a 'royal commandment,' and broadening it to the measure of His own perpetual intercession (Esther 1:19; 1 Tim. 2:1.; Heb. 7:25.). For, unless a heart has reached the terrible hardening of being 'without natural affection' (Rom. 1:31.) as well as 'without God' (Eph. 2:12.) it must want to pray for those it loves. The Lord would sanctify and enlarge this impulse, making it 'full of the blessing of the Lord' (Deut. 33:23. Matt. 15:13.). It is a plant which He hath planted in the human heart, and therefore it shall not be rooted up, but He will water and increase it. What are the indications of His will in the matter, and how far are we following them out?
First, are we asking for each other the special thing annexed to the command? 'That ye may be healed' (James 5:16.; Gen. 20:17.). Prayer for physical healing is clearly included. How many around us are not spiritually healed! Are we definitely asking this for them? Of how many of His own people is the Lord saying, 'They knew not that I healed them' (Hos. 11:9.; Mark 5:29,33.)! Not 'knowing what was done in' them, they are not witnessing to the power of the Healer; not seeing, like the Samaritan, that they were healed, they are not giving Him thanks (Luke 17:15.). Are we asking that they may realize the healing, so that they may glorify the Healer?
We may be greatly 'helping together by prayer,' by agreement in intercession (Ps. 103:1-3.; 2 Cor. 1:11; Dan. 2:17,18.; Esther 4:16.). The very fact of having 'agreed' is a great stimulus and reminder. It is the Lord's own indicated way. 'Two of you' (Matt. 18:19.; Eccles. 4:9.; Ex. 17:11,12). It took two to hold up Moses' hands steadily. When he let down one hand, Amalek prevailed. So Aaron and Hur were both wanted.
Intercession should be definite and detailed. Vagueness is lifelessness. St. Paul besought the Romans to pray for him, and then told them exactly what he wanted, four definite petitions to be presented for him (Rom. 15:30,32). It is a help to reality of intercession when ministers or other workers who ask our prayers will tell us exactly what they want General prayers for 'blessing' are apt to become formal.
We must not yield to the idea that, because we are feeble members (1 Cor. 12:22.), doing no great work, our prayers 'won't make much difference.' It may be that this is the very reason why the Lord keeps us in the shade, because He hath need of us (Mark 11:2,3.; though we feel no better than an 'ass's colt') for the work of intercession (job 11:12.). Many of us only learn to realize the privilege of being called to this by being called apart from all other work (Mark 6:31). When this is the case, let us simply and faithfully do it, 'lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting' (1 Tim. 2:8), blessing His name who provides this holy and beautiful service for those who 'by night stand in the house of the Lord' (Ps. 134:1). See how wonderfully St. Paul valued the prayers of others (2 Cor. 1:11; Eph. 4:19; Phil. 1:19; Col. 4:3 ; 1 Thess. 5:25; Heb. 13:18). He distinctly expresses this to every Church but one to whom he wrote. Would he have asked their prayers so fervently if he thought it would not' make much difference'?
Intercession is a wonderful help to forgiveness of injuries. See how the personal unkindness of brother and sister stirred up Moses to pray for each (Num 12:2,13; Deut. 9:18-20) and how repeatedly the wrong feeling, speaking, and acting of the people against himself was made the occasion of prayer for them (Num. 14:2,19; 16:10,22; 12:3). Let us avail ourselves of this secret of his meekness. Also it is an immense help to love. Do we not find that the more we pray for any one, the more we love?
Let us intercede 'while we have time.' 'The night cometh, when no man can work' (Gal. 6:10-old translation; John 9:4). Those for whom we might be praying today may be beyond the reach of prayer tomorrow. Or our own day of prayer may have passed (Luke 17:27-31); for the only intercession that we have ever heard from the other side was in vain—never granted.
It is considerable practical help if we make our intercession systematic, especially if the Lord gives us many to pray for. If every day has its written list of special names to be remembered, we shall be less likely to forget or drop them. Each several name was engraved on the breastplate of the high priest that it might be borne upon his heart continually (Ex. 28:21,29).
See the twofold rewards of intercessory prayer:
First, blessing for others (I John 5:16):
' He shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death' (1 Thess. 3:10,12). Compare St. Paul's prayers for the Thessalonians, in his First Epistle (2 Thess. 1:3), with the exact and abounding answers for which he gives thanks in the Second, after a very short interval.
Secondly, blessing for ourselves:
'The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends' (Job 42:10). Something very like a turning of our captivity is granted when, amid oppression and darkness, we pray for our friends (Ps. 126:1-3). Often it is like a leap into the free sunshine' (Jer. 29:7). ‘Pray unto the Lord for it' (the city whither they were carried away),' for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.’ Specially true is it in this, that ‘he that watereth shall be watered also himself' (Prov. 11:25).
'O Savior Christ, their woes dispel;
For some are sick, and some are sad,
And some have never loved Thee well,
And some have lost the love they had.
And some are pressed with worldly care,
And some are tired with sinful doubt,
And some such grievous passions tear
That only Thou canst cast them out.
And some have found the world is vain,
Yet from the world they break not free;
And some have friends that give them pain,
Yet have not sought a Friend in Thee.'—Henry Twells.
From the Royal Commandments by Frances Ridley Havergal