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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Praying for Others and Standing in the Gap

Praying for Others and Standing in the Gap
We live in difficult days and we need to pray for one another.  Our prayers are powerful and they are the most valuable gift we can give to others.  Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ constantly prays or intercedes for us and our needs.  And we are called to join Him in His ministry of intercession-which is the ministry of praying for others.
God’s usual way of working in the world to right a wrong or to stop suffering is often not to send an angel or perform a miracle. God usually works through people. Through you and me.  God calls us to be His hands and feet.  He calls us to pray and work and give and care.  It’s exciting to think that God can use us to change the world! It is such an honor.
The story in Ezekiel 22:29-31 teaches us that prayer for others is mighty. This passage tells of a land (Jerusalem in ancient times) that could have been spared if just one person had cared and prayed.  If one person had been there to go with God’s message.  But God searched and He could not find a single person willing to pray or stand in the gap.
Here is this sad story: “The people of the land have used oppression and extortion and have committed robbery: yes they have wronged and vexed the poor and needy: yes they have oppressed the stranger and temporary resident wrongfully.  And I (God) looked for a person among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it.  But I found no one to do that. Therefore, I have poured out My indignation upon this land: I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath: their own way have I repaid upon them, says the Lord God.”  (Ezekiel 22: 29-31)
This Ezekiel passage is saying that many people could have been saved by just one’s person’s prayers and care.  If just one person had gone to them with God’s message. Many other passages in the Bible speak of the importance of prayer.  James 5:16 says: “The effectual fervent prayers of a good person avails much.”  We can make a difference when we pray!
All of us are called repeatedly by God to participate in His work of encouraging and blessing and challenging and praying for others.  Often we are called to help in small ways.  Little words of kindness.  Short prayers for someone with a problem.  What an honor to be in the midst of something God is doing!
At every stage of life, God will have a mission for us to be a part of.  Our job is to pay attention to the still small voice of the Spirit nudging us along.  It’s easy to make excuses.  Say that we don’t have enough money, influence, power, knowledge, whatever to make any difference. But God promises to be with us.  To work through us, even when we are weak and have little to give.  The Lord told Paul: ” My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12;9)   God promises His grace and strength to all of us who do His work.
I have noticed that when we step out and take on a ministry or help when there is a need, that the Lord always makes a way and gives us joy in performing the task.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit alive in us. We still have problems and struggles but He is always there providing what we need and picking us up when we falter.
We help support three children overseas who live in poverty.  This week a letter came in the mail from the organization who provides for these children, asking if we would consider supporting a fourth child.  Our budget is tight and adding another expense each month might be considered foolish by some with our limitations.  But we wrote back with our answer, that yes, we would take on another child. 
When we prayed and asked the Lord, it seemed we felt the assurance in our hearts that even though we would have to give up something and make some sacrifices, that He would be with us supplying most of the provisions.  He would be the wind in our sails.  Take our little gift and multiply it and make it so much more.  Perhaps like the story in Scripture of the little boy who gave Jesus his small lunch of loaves and fishes. And in Jesus’ hands the child’s lunch was enough to feed the five thousand people who had followed Jesus outside the town to hear His message. As the disciples broke the loaves and fish and passed them out there was enough for everyone with baskets full of leftovers!  (Matthew 14:13-21)  
God has given us so many precious promises in His Word.  We have such riches to draw upon!  Such power He has given us – to be able to pray believing and receive.  Scripture says: “Ask and you shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7)    Jesus promises: “I will do whatever you ask in My Name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me anything and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14) 
As God’s children, who delight in God and His Word, and try to stay away from sin, we are described in Scripture as a tree planted by streams of water. (Psalm 1:3) We are given so much. God is with us.  Like the stream nourishes the tree, His Word nourishes us.  His Spirit flows like a stream through our lives.  And then Scripture says that the tree (that’s us) bears fruit in season.  We are a fruitful tree, not a barren one!  Our leaves do not wither.  And whatever we do prospers!  (Psalm 1:1-3)
 What a beautiful picture of our place as a child of God.  All of our work will prosper in His Hands even though we may not see or understand it now!  Our life on earth is to be prosperous, (that doesn’t necessarily mean we are rich with lots of money but it means that our work for the Lord will prosper).  When we pray for others, help and give to a need, stand in the gap, God will make our work prosper.  Everything we do in Him will not be wasted!
Sometimes we get discouraged and feel that all is hopeless. We forget to stay close to the God we love.  But when we come back to God and His Word we are always encouraged.  We always have hope in Him. God gives us a beautiful picture of who we really are in Him and of how valuable and abundant our work in Him really is.  We need to keep that picture before our eyes!
Here is how Scripture so beautifully describes us:  “The person who delights in the Lord and His Word is like a tree, planted by streams of water.  This tree yields his fruit in season, And his leaf does not wither.  And whatever he does will prosper.”  (Psalm 1:3)   It doesn’t get any better than that! 

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