"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:20-23
I was reading in the book of John the other day, and when I came to chapter 17, it really made me pause and think about what I was reading. Jesus knew how the next few hours were going to go. He knew that He was about to be arrested, beaten, and put to death... What would most of us do if we only had a few hours left before we were to be taken away from our loved ones? We would do anything we could, I think, to spend just a little more time loving on our loved ones. And yet, Jesus didn't do that specifically. Instead, Jesus found it more important to spend his last few hours praying.
I think that's telling us something vital. Oh sure, when life comes at us with an issue or a problem or trial, we all turn to prayer. We ask God for help with our situation, but in this case, Jesus isn't just praying, He's showing us a crystal clear example of intercession.
I looked up the definition of intercede in the dictionary, and it said that it means "to intervene between parties with a view to reconciling differences". Mediate was given as a synonym. Intercession means "prayer, petition, or entreaty in favor of another".
What do we do when we get a phone call or an e-mail that someone is in need of prayers? We tell them we'll pray for them. And we do- I know in my case, the minute I hang up the phone, I spend some time talking to God about the situation. And I may pray about it throughout the day too- I often pray while I do dishes or fold laundry. But then in a day or so, I don't really think about the situation much more other than to ask that person how things are going as a follow-up. Now, maybe this is just me, but I suspect that this is how most of us behave in our prayer life. Now, let's think of an alternative, using Jesus as an example.
Jesus went somewhere specific to pray. He went to a quiet place where He could be alone to talk to God, and then He did just that. He had so little time, and yet He took the time to talk to God about His loved ones. He asked God to bless His disciples- and then He asked God to bless, well, pretty much everyone. In fact, Jesus prayed that all of us who believe in Him would be one- that we would be united in our faith.
So if we are one- one with another- than what affects one of us, affects us all. It stands to reason, then, that when someone calls us with a prayer need, that not only do we commit that issue to prayer right there and maybe throughout our day, but that we give it the same exact serious prayer time that we would give a pressing need in our own lives. Think about the difference you could make in some one's life if you would commit to praying for someone or something for a specific period of time. I wonder... if all of us who believe would commit to the act of intercession one for another... why, I would expect that we would see attacks of the devil foiled much more frequently. As we build a wall of prayer around each other- and build that wall of protection from our prayers, we would become closer with each other- AND closer with God, having spent that precious time with Him.
I just... you know, as I'm thinking about Jesus, facing His last few moments on earth, and what is He doing- He's talking to God. Jesus knows that in a few hours He is going to be with God in Heavenly places, and yet, while He is still here on earth, He finds that it is important to spend more time talking to Him. With His last few precious breaths here on earth, Jesus took the time to intercede for those He loves. And did you know that when He sat there in the garden, talking to God and praying for those He loves, that YOU were included in that prayer? That Jesus specifically saw your face and said "I in them and you in me"?
Prayer and intercession is so important that it was one of the last things Jesus did as a human here on earth. It seems to me that would be an example worth following. In practical terms, it could be just as simple as taking a calendar and writing prayer needs on it. Take a period of time- say a week, and commit to praying for a specific person every day of that week. Or if you just need to warm up to the idea, take just three days. But if Jesus specifically took the time to intercede on behalf of His dearest loved ones, it seems to me that we need to be following His example.