Walter Wink (who died a week ago) famously wrote “history belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being” (Engaging the Powers, 299).
I am absolutely certain Wink is right. But as happens so often in life belief is difficult to translate into action.
I would not call myself a natural intercessor. I have always tried to be disciplined about praying for family and friends, people in my church, others I’ve learned are in need, but my efforts almost always felt stilted. Then someone showed me a creative way to pray for others.
I was having lunch with my pastor and in the middle of our meal I blurted out, “How do you pray for other people? I’d like for you to talk with me about intercessory prayer because I’m not very good at it.”
Here’s what he told me:
Sammy, if we’re honest, we really don’t know what other people need, so how can we presume to instruct God on what to do for them? The best way I have found to pray for others is to imagine the most peaceful place I can—maybe a river bank. I imagine I am sitting there beside those peaceful waters. Then I imagine Jesus walking up and sitting down beside me. We don’t talk, we just sit there together. Then as someone comes to mind, I imagine them walking up and sitting on the river bank with Jesus and me. I bring everyone I want to pray for onto that river bank and imagine them sitting there with Jesus. When we presume to know what another human being needs, we’re only fooling ourselves. The best we can do is to invite them into the presence of Christ who does know their every need.
That conversation took place almost 20 years ago. Two weeks ago, while on a prayer retreat, it occurred to me that telling God what to do for other people is praying with your ego, inviting others into the presence of Christ is praying with your spirit.