Thursday, December 29, 2011

Praying for Families


Praying for Families

            Included in the lists of those I pray for every day, are at least thirty families.  However, I do not pray for every member of every family each day.  Sometimes, I pray for one member of the family each day in a rotation, so if a family has three members each person is prayed for every fourth day.  However, if a family has nine members, it will be a longer time between when each individual is remembered in my prayers.  Nevertheless, each family member will be prayed for by name at regular intervals. 
            A variety of situations have brought these families to my attention evoking a sense of my need to pray for them.  Some families have needs that revolve around illnesses of various kinds, both physical and emotional.  When one member of the family suffers, the pain affects all others.  Illnesses, accidents or age and infirmity can lead to death and here again a family needs the support of prayer as they take that particular journey of grief.  Other complex family situations that are addressed by my prayers include marital discord and other relationship challenges.  My prayers are for the healing of broken relationships and the necessary wisdom and discernment to address courageously complicated and longstanding issues.
            Let me give you some specific examples of families with prayer concerns who have requested my intercession.  One request came to my husband, Glen when he ran into some friends when he was in Europe on business.  Their adult daughter was suffering from severe clinical depression that debilitated her so much; she was unable to care for her own family.  Her desperate parents asked Glen to pray for her and for the whole family and to ask me to pray for them as well. 
            Another example of a need is that of my friend whose is the mother of a young man who has developed a gambling addiction.  She asked my prayers for him and for his wife as the addiction has placed their marriage in jeopardy and the innocent victims will be their young children.  The whole family is caught in the midst of a maelstrom that threatens to overwhelm them.  Prayer seems to be their only hope right now. 
            An elderly woman who decided a few years ago that she wanted to become a church member labours under the weight of guilt and a sense of failure.  Having raised her children as a single parent, she fears that it is her fault that she is unable to build a meaningful relationship with her adult daughter.  She is heart-broken about this and asked my prayers that somehow they might learn to love one another.  
               One family that has been a part of my prayers for many years includes a daughter who in her rebellious teen years alienated herself from her family by choosing to have an illegitimate child.  Eventually this young woman returned to the faith, married and had her own family.  When her children were in their teens, she again wandered and pursued an affair that destroyed her own family as well as another one.  It was tragic.  The devastation of the choices she made is extensive and I include all members of all the families involved in my prayers.  My focus is on the healing of relationships, forgiveness, reconciliation and the dawning realization of the unconditional love of God for each person concerned.  Only God can bring these about, and so to Him we make our requests.
            Other parents ask me to pray for the children who have made bad choices and now must live with the consequences of those choices.  Parents are aware of the danger that their children may make the wrong choices.  Their request is that I pray for the protection of their children.  These parents are aware of the choices bombarding their children and fear they have not adequately prepared them to choose wisely.  We know only too well that we are all susceptible to influences from others and vulnerable to temptations.  Prayer can help us hold steady.
            The Bible talks of the power of a father’s love and a mother’s compassion.  Images of family help us to understand the nature of God. 
           One of my greatest joys is to see the gratitude of family members as they see God answering prayers in the lives of their loved ones.  In my book More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening, I tell the story of a young man who came to faith and prayed for his father for ten years.  The father then embraced the faith and today the father rejoices in the little grandson who he prays will one day also come to faith.
            God created families and He works to strengthen them as we pray.   


            
More Questions than Answers,
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Intercession for Our Children


My prayer lists include over 120 names of people I recorded because parents expressed concerns to me for their children.  I am always amazed how often in conversation with other parents, we find ourselves talking about our children.  Our concern may be for their physical well being particularly when their children face health issues that cannot easily be resolved.  I know this challenge well because of my personal experiences.  Other times the worry is about the emotional health of a child.  Sometimes this is a huge frustration for parents as we are unable to remove the cause of illnesses like depression and we feel a sense of guilt that somehow we bear responsibility for the anxious state of our child.  Many times our burden as parents is for the spiritual health of our children.  
We realize that when God entrusted the children to our care, we needed to do everything in our power to enable our child to maximize every opportunity and enjoy a full and satisfying life.  The first few years we devoted ourselves to seeing that they developed into healthy, happy human beings.  Then they began to discover their own unique identities.  In adolescence, we fear that in discarding the identities we to some degree shaped and helped them create in order to find their uniqueness, they will also abandon the roots that can hold them firm in the challenges life brings their way. 
These fears can be acute among Christian parents.  We desperately want our children to understand and embrace the faith that has given meaning to our lives. We do not want our children to shrug off with the vestiges of their childhood the sometimes tenuous faith they have begun to develop and thereby miss discovering those realities of eternal value.  Along with our fears is the awareness of our engagement in a cosmic struggle. 
I have often observed the point where the Enemy chooses to attack us is in the area of discouragement.  The domain where this can flourish is in our relationships with our children.  We invest heavily in their well-being and if He can capitalize on our fears for their future, He can immobilize us. 
Especially as our children begin to emerge into adulthood or any time when they are facing physical or emotional challenges we feel so helpless.  The only way I know to find our equilibrium when we face overwhelming fear for our children is to place them once again in the hands of the One who entrusted them to us.  That is much easier to talk about than to put into practice. 
Many parents tell me how they have surrendered their children into the care of the Lord in prayer, in the same way I have.  No sooner do we open our eyes, than once again we are gripped by fear and concern for our children.  It seems we have to keep on surrendering them and through that exercise, we gradually build our faith and confidence that He will work out His purposes in their lives.
In my intercession, I have literally taken a page from the book of someone who has written about how to pray for our children.  I use as my own a sample prayer adapting it to my situation.  I choose to do so because I realize that in praying for my children in this way I am able to enter into spiritual warfare on their behalf. I am not one who spends a lot of time delving into the occult, but I do have the discernment to recognize the attacks of the Enemy in trying to immobilize me by discouragement over the spiritual condition of my children.  My greatest weapon in retaliation to this attack is to arm for spiritual warfare.  Thus I pray in this way, speaking aloud in an affirmative tone.  
The first part of the prayer is an establishment of the authority by which I am able to address the forces of evil.  I state that I am doing this in the name and under the authority if Jesus.  I know that He is the one who has authority over the spiritual realm and all spirits must bow to His authority.  I bind these spirits under His authority and refute their influence over those for whom I am praying, identifying the objects of my prayer by name.
I then name the specific spirits that I am binding.  The list includes spirits of witchcraft, occult activity, satanic interest, mind control, fantasy, lust, perversion, rebellion, rejection, suicide, anger, hatred, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, pride, deception, unbelief, fear, sensuality, greed, additions and compulsive behaviour.  Then I add others that I feel to be appropriate to the situation. 
Having bound these sprits, I then declare that under the authority of Jesus, I break their power and affirm it is null and void in the lives of the people whom I name.  I revoke the blinders that the Enemy has placed on them.  I avow that those whom I name will see the light of the gospel of Christ.  They will be taught by the Lord and their peace will be great.  These declarations agree with the Scriptures in Isaiah 54: 13. 
From the evil spirits, I then turn to God our Heavenly Father.  First of all I express my thanksgiving to Him for the gift of those for whom I am praying, again using their names.  Then I ask for His protection of them.  I request for them the support of Christian friends who can have a godly influence on their lives.  I pray for discernment to know when they need my prayers and my help.  I also pray for wisdom to be the person they need me to be in our relationship.
I conclude my prayer asking that our Heavenly Father will fulfill His plan and purposes in the lives of those for whom I am praying, and that His Spirit will be upon them.  My final action is to release these gifts He has given me (those for whom I am praying) and place them in His hands.  I acknowledge that He loves them even more than I do and that according to Jeremiah 29: 11 His plans for them are for welfare and peace, not for evil and that He will give them a hope and a future.  Then I try to leave them there. 
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

100huntley.com - Learning To Listen - Eleanor Shepherd

Here is an interview that I did for Huntley Prime about my book More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening. I just found it online. I hope you enjoy it.

100huntley.com - Learning To Listen - Eleanor Shepherd

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Intercession for the Sick




            Whenever a group gathers to pray together, inevitably some prayer requests will be for those who are ill.  I guess that should not surprise us with them great emphasis in our society on having a healthy lifestyle. 
            Although we have wonderful medical care available in the western world, there is a limit to what the best-trained practitioners or most sophisticated medical equipment can provide until a clear diagnosis of the problem unfolds.  Awaiting an accurate diagnosis is often one of the most stressful aspects of being ill.  Our imaginations seem to run wild and we fear the worst until we are able to discover what is not working as it ought in our bodies.  The only one who really knows all about our bodies is the Maker of them and thus it does seem logical to approach him about our worries while we wait for those who have been taught the necessary medical skills to figure it out.   Thus, we bring the problem to him in prayer. 
            When we receive the diagnosis, we then need to discover the most appropriate treatment for the illness.  Even here, many possible alternatives play a role.  What is currently available is key.  Also, what treatments or medications our bodies can tolerate determine what will be done given the imbalance that can arise in the whole body chemistry following the introduction of new elements to our systems.  Again, divine wisdom applied to the situation will be of great benefit to the health care professionals, so it is logical to make this also a matter of prayer.
            Perhaps behind these problems associated with being ill is also the base fear.  Sometimes disease can lead to death and we may be forced to confront our mortality.  This forces us to consider our views about eternity.  For this reason we bring our fears to the one who has the final word on life and death. When our fears drive us to prayer, we can face reality.
            My list of intensive care prayer requests includes those for whom I pray because of illness.  One is a young mother who herself has been ill and who recently lost her husband to illness. As well as praying for her healing, I need to pray for her in her grief and for the challenge she faces trying to raise her two sons on her own, uncertain of her own future.    
Another person in this group is not ill herself, but a couple of months ago a chronic disease claimed the life of her son in his forties after many years of suffering.  She is currently facing the possibility of having to place her husband in a care facility because of his dementia.  While I pray for her husband, I also pray for grace and strength for her to be able to deal with the challenges that have come her way. 
A third friend has been battling many different forms of cancer for several years and this enemy that she has had to contend with took her only sister just last year.  She wonders how long she will be able to prevail in the fight and is so grateful for the prayers of support for her in her battle with this dreaded disease. 
            When we take seriously the opportunity to intercede for those who are ill, we engage in a complex series of issues that can be highly charged emotionally.  Where we know what specifically to pray for we can do so, but sometimes all we can do is place the suffering person in the hands of a God who loves them more than they can imagine and that is enough. 

Your thoughts? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mutual Intercession





          We met at the Write-to-Publish Conference at Wheaton College, just outside Chicago.  I think it was my second time attending this writers’ conference so I had overcome some of my fear at going alone to such an event.  After hastily dropping my luggage in my assigned dorm room, I hurried over to the auditorium for the initial session, arriving just as the program was beginning.  I was just nicely settled into a plush chair, three seats from the aisle near the back of the auditorium, when I spotted the newcomer.  Her brow furrowed in bewilderment made me suspect this was her first time at the conference.  Remembering how intimidated I felt a year earlier, I beckoned to her to join me, pointing to the empty seat on my right.  As she took her place, I leaned over and whispered, “Welcome.” 
            I had no idea this was the beginning of a mutual intercession destined to support each of us as we faced stormy waters in our personal lives over the next fifteen years.  Her trials included a broken marriage and the challenges of raising her three children on her own.  Among mine were the broken body and bruised spirit of my son, paralyzed by a freak car accident. 
            After that first session of the conference, we grabbed coffees and sat down on the steps of the auditorium, enjoying the warmth of the June evening as we shared a little about our backgrounds and writing experiences.  As it turned out, we did not choose any of the same electives to attend during the conference.  However, we kept running into each other in the general sessions, or at meals or walking across the campus.   It seemed we just kept showing up in the same places. 
            Just after the Awards banquet, near the end of the conference, my new friend approached me and said, “I am an intercessor.” 
            “Great!”  I replied.  “I am an intercessor too.”  She continued,  “I feel God is calling me to intercede for you. “ How strange and yet how encouraging, I thought to myself.  We discovered that we were both part of the same international intercessors group. We exchanged e-mail addresses, so that I could share my prayer concerns with her, and I decided to add her to my prayer list as well, and left promising to pray for her and her family. 
            Our correspondence back and forth over the years is scarce.  About the only time, we contact each other, except at Christmas when we share with one another our prayer concerns.  I feel like her children are precious to me, even thought I have not seen them since they came to pick her up with their father at the end of that first conference.  Yet, I have prayed daily for them through the years. I feel I have had the opportunity to invest in their lives in this way.  My friend and I both published articles in the magazine put out by our intercessors group.  The bonds that unite us exert a strong vertical pull. 
            How grateful I am she took the risk to tell me about the nudge she felt, when the Spirit called her to support me in prayer.  We are truly soul sisters.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Intercession for the Boss


               When we are working for a boss that we really enjoy working with, it is a joy to be able to include their name in our lists for intercession.  However, when the relationship is not one where we feel a sense of camaraderie and pleasure in working for the same ends, it is more difficult. 
                This relationship is not like a friendship where there can be give and take and if we drift apart, the consequences need not be that serious.  Rather, this relationship can shape our everyday lives. 
                If we have a boss with whom, although we may not have a  personal friendship, we are nevertheless able to enjoy a relationship of mutual respect and perhaps even encouragement, to pray for them does not require a great deal of effort on our part.
                However, it is not always that way.  We may work with a boss, for whom we feel respect or even admiration at times, but at other times, we are confused and not at all sure, what their modus operandi is.  Then it may not be quite so easy to pray for them. Faithfulness if prayer for them requires that we remember them on both the good days and the bad.
                At the far end of the spectrum is the boss, who causes us to pray for ourselves every day, so we can respond in a respectful manner to their interactions with us.  To pray for such a boss may be harder, as we would rather curse them than bless them.  We may need to precede our prayers for them with prayers for our own attitudes, so that we do not respond by lashing out at them for the way that we feel they are treating us. 
                As with all challenging  relationships, praying for a supervisor with whom we have a difficult relationships, demands that we ask for a spirit of discernment to try to understand ways that we may be creating tensions in the relationship.  When we are convinced that our own attitude is not the catalyst, we then can pray for the needs of our superior, aware that they may be struggling with issues that are completely outside our awareness. 
                Each morning, as I pray for those to whom I am accountable in my various responsibilities, I am grateful to say that at this time, I am able to offer gratitude for the respectful manner in which I am usually treated.  It has not always been that way and it may not always be so, but for the moment, I can be grateful that this is my situation.  








Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Intercession for Denominational Leaders


          The lists that I use in my daily intercession include the names of the global leaders of my denomination.  For many years, these were often just names to me and I did not personally know the people who occupied these positions.  However, in the later years of our ministry in the denomination, these people were also those we had served with during the course of our ministry or they were personal friends, whom we had opportunities to spend time with socially as we met with other leaders from various parts of the world in conferences. 
            I believe it is important to pray for those who are in denominational leadership.  They often have difficult decisions to make that can determine the destiny of people whose lives are impacted by those decisions.  What a huge responsibility that is.  Also, there is no guarantee that they will make the right decisions, even though the intention of their hearts may be pure and they are seeking divine wisdom for the choices they make.  They are still human and can make mistakes.  That is why they need our support rather than our criticism.  Praying for them helps us to keep a balanced perspective.  We do not expect them to be infallible, but we know that even if they err, God is still sovereign and can bring good out of the resulting situation.  It may even turn out to be more beneficial for the individuals concerned than if another decision had been made. 
            Another reason that we need to pray for our spiritual leaders is that they become the targets of spiritual warfare.   They clearly fulfill a mandate geared toward the building of God’s kingdom.  We do not talk a lot about spiritual warfare these days.  I will post a blog about it a little later, because it is also part of my daily intercession. At this time, I am bringing it up as another reason to remember in prayer those who occupy positions of authority in our ecclesiastical structures. 
            Personally, I choose to pray daily for the top three or four people who are responsible globally for our denomination.   I remember each one by name and pray for them in a daily rotation.  In addition, I pray for the national leadership of our denomination, and well as for regional and local leaders.  Having served in denominational leadership myself, I know how grateful I felt for the prayer support we received, so I am glad to do my part to encourage those who bear the burden of leadership today. 


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Intercession – Questions without Answers


               Carol* and I have been friends since we were in our teens and we are both approaching retirement age now.  Her name has been on my prayer lists many times throughout the years.  At times, she reminds me of Job in the Old Testament, in that it seems that she has had so many disappointments and discouragements to deal with and I do not know why it should be that way.   
                Carol’s parents divorced after she was an adult and already married.  What a disappointment that was for her!   Her parents had been in ministry and Carol was supportive of the work they did.  The family breakup shattered all that she had known and taken for granted, as she was growing up.  She had never imagined her parents deciding to go their separate ways. 
                Through the years, Carol has also had to contend with significant health problems.  At times, the challenges she has faced have been life threatening.  At other occasions, she has faced mobility issues of various kinds that hampered her ability to do the work she loves, serving others in the medical profession. 
                Another challenge that came Carol’s way was the loss of employment by her husband.  This was not just an interim job loss.  It continued for quite some time and resulted in him having to choose a job in a sector that for him was quite uncomfortable, but it seemed to be the only possibility on the horizon. 
                Carol faced the usual challenges of parenting her children, sharing the joys and sorrows that are common to most of us.  However, when her youngest son was in university, he developed a disease that presented constant unknowns to the medical community.  One of the complications of this disease was kidney failure and the solution was for Carol to donate one of her kidneys to her son.  Of course, she did this without hesitation, as any Mother would who can do something to save the life of her child.  Even after the transplant, her son continues to face constant health issues and the family never know from day to day how the illness is next going to manifest itself. It requires a day-by-day faith to carry on with courage.
                Currently both Carol and her husband are again facing health issues.  This is the reason that she is on my intensive care prayer list today.  It is difficult to understand why Carol has had to contend with so many challenges in life.  It seems unfair, yet I know that Carol is a woman of great faith.  She keeps on going, even though she does not know what the next day might hold.  She has refused to be held back by fear of the unknown or by the “what ifs” of life.  I feel honoured to have friends like Carol, and it is my joy to be able to accompany her on a difficult journey by my prayers. 
*I have changed Carol’s name but not her story.

Monday, August 15, 2011

INTERCESSION FOR HOPELESS SITUATIONS


Some people are on my intercession list that I know very little about other than their names.  Often they are folks who someone I know has asked me to pray for, but has only given me the briefest of outlines of their needs.  One of these people is a woman whom a colleague at my work asked me to pray for a few months ago.  The woman was to undergo major surgery. My co-worker told me how kind this woman had been to her family and how for many years she has lived with a great deal of pain.  The hope was that the operation would help to reduce some of her pain, although it would not likely solve the problem completely.  The patient’s name was added to my list, along with that of her husband who has also been a huge support to my friend’s family.  I continue to pray for her long after the surgery is over, because I know it takes a long time for the body to heal completely.  When I sense a nudging from the Spirit that it is time to leave her in God’s hands so that He can provide someone else to pray for her, if necessary, I remove her name from my list. 
            Friends and acquaintances sometimes request prayers for family members.  Two close friends have recently asked for my intercession for their adult children who are experiencing problems in their marriages.  Domestic problems like these tear at the hearts of parents who can do little but stand by and pray for the intimate relationships of their children. 
            One of the couples faced a significant rupture in their relationship the day that their children saw their father acting inappropriately with a woman who was not their mother in a public place.  They came home to their mother crying their eyes out.  The wife felt she had no choice but to request that her husband cool his heels elsewhere, until they had a chance to think over their situation.  It is so sad to see the pain generated for the whole family in these kinds of situations. Only the grace of God can turn the situation around for the good of anyone. 
            The other couple is dealing with the addiction of one of the members of the couple that is causing economic hardship for the whole family.  The children are younger and may not be aware of the reason for the problems in their household.  They only feel the tension between their parents.  My prayer is for both the children of this couple and the parents.  Again, the situation seems impossible unless the parent with the addiction is willing to seek help. Yet, with all my heart, I continue to believe even such a gloomy situation can be changed if the couple will in some way move to invite the Lord to be involved in their relationship. 
            In these kinds of situations, we often believe we know how we should pray.  In some cases, our assumptions may be accurate.  Again, however, I remember we really know only a little of the whole situation and God alone knows it all.  He loves each of the members of these young families even more than the parents who have asked me to pray, love them.  Thus we can tell Him how we see the situation, and then ask Him in His wisdom and mercy to communicate with them in a way they will understand, We ask that His Spirit work out the murky situation for the good of all concerned.  To pray that way seems an idealistic and impossible denial of reality. Yet, I have seen God do remarkable things in the lives of people in these kinds of situations.  As the Apostle Paul says, “He does more than we can ask or even imagine.”  The word hopeless is not part of his vocabulary.    

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Intercession – Over the Long Haul


             Sometimes there are people that we pray for over many years and their faith seems at times to be becoming so real to them and at other times it falters and we wonder if they will ever find their way again.  This is the case for someone who has been on my prayer lists for many years now.  I have known her since she was just a little girl and remember how strong willed she was then.
 Her parents are wonderful people who would do anything to help anyone.  They are kind and generous and we are honoured to count them among our friends.  At sixteen, their daughter gave birth to a child that she gave up for adoption.  She went through a difficult time after that dealing with depression and at the same time rebelling against what she felt were the constraints of her upbringing.  Eventually she married and as the children came, she returned to her roots and embraced the faith.  Her greatest sorrow was that her husband was not interested in joining her in her involvement in the church. 
            This woman has musical talents and eventually became the leader of the worship team in her church.  This gave her an opportunity to work with the pastor, who was facing some challenges in his own family.  Both were vulnerable and sadly sought solace in one another instead of in their faith.  The result was two shattered families.  They are living with the outcomes of all of the subsequent upheaval and I continue to pray for her, that somehow she will come to know that difficult as it might be, she can find her way home again.  As you can imagine, I know only the superficial realities of her situation, so in my prayers I must ask the Lord to help her to find her way and provide for her the people and experiences that will enable her to do so. 
            At the same time, I pray daily for her parents.  I know they carry a burden for her and for her family.  They want so much to help her, but like so many of us, they have learned that it is not their place to try to help adult children make their decisions.  We have to allow them the freedom to make their own choices and yet offer our help and encouragement when we can.  I often pray for them, as I do for myself that they will have wisdom and discernment and know when to speak and when to remain silent.  I also give thanks when we see any indication that God is at work in this difficult situation.
            I have to admit that sometimes I wonder how long it will be before we will find evidence of the changes that will indicate a renewed faith and strengthened family relationships.  Nevertheless, I do not doubt that because of our prayers (mine and those of others who continue to remember her) grace continues to flow into the life of this dear woman and her family.   I intend to keep on remembering her daily in my prayers.
            I have invited your comments to the blog and I know that for some of you reading this, your first language is not English.  Do not worry about that.  You can just say, “I want a free copy of your book.”  That will give me concrete evidence people are reading the blog. 
Winner of The Word Guild
Christian Leadership Award 2011



Saturday, July 9, 2011

INTERCESSION – LISTS FROM OTHERS


          I mentioned in an earlier blog that I include in my daily lists the prayer request lists that friends send to me for their ministries.  One of these lists contains the prayer requests that I receive from The Salvation Army’s Social Justice Commission.  This international commission was set up in New York about four years ago.  It has significant links with different operations of the United Nations.  The goal is to help The Salvation Army become more aware of the role that it can play in social justice in the world.  At the same time, it is a means whereby The Salvation Army can offer in an official manner its gifts to others for the purpose of social justice activities.  The first person that was responsible for the operation of this Commission was Commissioner Christine MacMillan and she was my friend and former boss.  I offered to help her set up her prayer support team when she began in this function, but she has since been able to develop a helpful and informative prayer newsletter that she sends out monthly or bi-monthly and I am fortunate to be one of the recipients of this letter.  It keeps alive my own passion for social justice, as I pray daily for the concerns that she brings to our attention.            
         Since Glen and I served for nearly thirty years as officers of The Salvation Army, we receive regular communications from the person at our National Office who sends out information to those who are no longer in active service.  Sometimes, one of the “retirees” will send her a prayer request and she will circulate it to the rest of us.  One of my daily acute requests is one of these.  It came from friends of ours and concerns her niece and husband, who both have serious health issues and are the parents of two little boys.  Our friend has spent some time with the family to help them out, during a month when both parents had to undergo surgery.  I am going to e-mail my friend in the next couple of days to ask her for an update on the situation for this family, so I can continue to pray intelligently for them.
          Another of the lists that comes to me by e-mail from the national office of The Salvation Army is the list of prayer requests that are prepared each month for the Canada and Bermuda Territory of The Salvation Army.  This Salvation Army global region governs our area.  At one time in my career with The Salvation Army, I was responsible for the preparation and distribution of this list, so I have some idea of what is involved in that.  The requests are now listed by week, rather than by day, so I am able to remember one of them each day in my prayer time.  Also, this month, the person who is currently responsible for preparing and distributing the list sent us a link with the National House of Prayer in Ottawa.  Going to the place on their website, she suggested, I found a list of prayer requests from the Christian Legal Fellowship of Canada.  They feel the outcomes of certain cases will shape the future of our country in significant ways, so request prayer for these particular cases. These I have added to my list.
            Since I know that there are people from many parts of the world who are reading this blog, but I have not had many responses to the blog, I am going to offer an incentive. I am going to put the names of all those who respond to the blog, in a hat and once a month, I will pick a name and send that person a copy of my book, More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening. In this way, we will be able to make the blog more interactive. 
I will look for your comments. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Intercession for Those We Do Not Know



With all of the other things that have been going on in my life, my intercession postings have fallen behind, although the intercession continues.  The next three pages of my intensive care prayer concerns are for people whom I have never met.  Those who are close to them have shared a little of their stories with me and I sensed that they needed my prayer support. 
            I found out about Suzanne (not her real name) from her aunt.  We were at a writers’ conference together and as we chatted over lunch one day, we confided something of our own backgrounds.  Suzanne’s aunt herself had quite a remarkable story of transformation and the tears that came to her eyes showed me she cared deeply about this niece.  Suzanne is an orphan.  Both her mother and father are gone and she has been in the care of her stepfather.  Life has sent multiple difficulties her way. Only grace will enable her to learn to enjoy things that many of us take for granted.  Every day I pray for Suzanne and when I see her aunt or exchange e-mails with her from time to time, she is excited to know that Suzanne is still being remembered in my prayers.  I do not know what is in store for Suzanne.  I do know that somehow my prayers are making a difference, even if it just means that they help her not to give up in despair.  Perhaps some day I will learn more of her story or I may never know more than I know now.  That does not matter so much.  What is important is that she is being carried into the presence of the Lord daily, in prayer. 
            Another young woman who struggles with her life situation is Lorraine (not her real name).  She lives in Europe.  Although I have never met her, Glen and I do know her parents.  Lorraine is one of many people who battle clinical depression.  She is married and has children, but when her illness is most acute, she is unable to function in these relationships.  She is dependent on her parents to help her keep going one day at a time.  She has waged this combat for years, sometimes winning and sometimes feeling that she is losing the fight.  My heart went out to her when I heard recently that she was again facing her old enemy, depression.  Glen suggested that I again add her name to my prayer list.  I do not know how my prayers will help Lorraine overcome her depression, yet I believe that somehow power is released in prayer that will enable her to slowly move toward the light.  My prayer is that some day she will be able to again enjoy the love of her family and know that she is loved unconditionally by her Heavenly Father, even when she cannot feel or respond to love.  How thankful I am that I can carry her into the Lord’s presence when she cannot go there in her own strength. 
            Lorraine is not the only person I know who is suffering from clinical depression.  There are others on my critical care prayer list.  They include a young man whom I will call Paul.  Although he is an adult, he is currently not in a relationship and is living with his recently widowed mother.  She was the one who told me his story.  For years, his grandmother prayed faithfully for this young man.  Then, last fall, she died and both mother and son felt the loss acutely.  One of the things they missed the most was her prayers.  Every day she prayed for them. Hearing that, I promised to try to fill that role for them by including them in my prayers.  I hope that some day someone else will come into their lives who can fulfill that role, perhaps someone who lives closer to them.  Their home is two time zones away from where I live.  What would be a real encouragement to me would be for them both to realize that their own prayers for themselves and for each other can be heard by God and answered.  These requests make up some of the things I pray for them, as I offer my prayers each day.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sharing in the Ministry of Others

Some of the people that I support with prayer are those whom I also support financially.  One of the joys of having a regular income is being able to donate to those who depend upon the resources of others for the ministry that they are doing.  When I am able to make my regular monthly donation, I feel like I have a part in the good work that they are doing. That is why I am so grateful when they keep me up-to-date on their activities.  Just today, in the mail, I received the monthly newsletter of the person whose name prompted this blog.  As well as filling me in on her activities, she also lists particular prayer requests that she has and gives the dates and different activities in which she is involved.  These all enable me to pray more intelligently for her and for her ministry.

My daughter is expecting her first baby, our first grandchild.  Since she had some difficulty about conception, I have been praying daily for Elizabeth and for the baby she is carrying.  I have wanted a grandchild for a long time and been envious of my friends, as I have watched their joy in sharing in the lives of their children’s children.  Now I am so exciting about this new addition coming into our family.  I know it is going to create a significant change in the life of our daughter and her husband, and I know that they are going to discover of depth of love that they never could have imagined exists, as this little one enters their lives.  For that reason, I feel that every day I need to pray for both the parents and the child who is growing within the body of daughter.  Already, her approaching responsibilities as a mother have been drawing Elizabeth and I closer to each other.  As I pray for the child and the pregnancy, I am aware that I need prayer for myself as well, that I will have wisdom not to try to impose what I have learned about parenting on my daughter and son-in-law, unless they ask my advice.  I need to let her learn the best way to do things herself.  The world in which she will be raising her children is not the world in which I raised mine.  Nor did I do everything right.  I am sure that there will be things that I can learn from her, if I am willing. 

I pray for another rather unique group of people.  A Christian organization in our city, twice each year sends some of the workers to the spring and fall psychic fairs that take place here.  They do not go to dabble in the occult.  What they do is meet with people to present another alternative.  The Truth they offer is what many people are looking for.  With the concern expressed in listening to people and praying for them, at each fair, a number of people decide to become Christians.  Along with meeting the visitors to the psychic fair, praying with them and if they are willing, introducing them to Christ, the organization also prepares a list of the first names and a little information about each one.  This they send out to the organization’s prayer supporters.  When I receive the names of the individuals I begin to pray through the list focusing on one name every day.  I think this kind of prayer support is crucial for those who are often brand new to the faith.  The organization is also faithful in following up by personal contact with these new believers, if they agree, so it is not just a one shot deal.  Again, I find great joy in participating in a ministry that I might not feel particularly suited to do myself, but can support by my prayers. 


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Intercession - Intensive Care Requests and Country Concerns

I noted that some of the daily prayer requests that I have are what would be considered intensive care patients if they were in a hospital. One of those is the son of one of my work colleagues. His situation is complex and because of his circumstances, he has been obliged to deal with the complexities of our legal system for several years. His circumstances are precarious but his faith is strong that eventually truth will conquer. In the meantime, in order to keep going and not lose heart he and his family need the prayers of their brothers and sisters in the faith. I am so glad that I am able to be one of his stretcher-bearers, bringing him to the Lord when he is no longer able to come in his own strength and cheering him on when he is able to stand on his feet. I do not know many of the details of his story nor do I need to. All I need to know is that he is committed to doing what he believes is right and dealing with all that comes his way as a result. As I pray for this man and his challenges, I am grateful that through no merit of mine, I have not had to walk the path he is walking, but I can by my prayers accompany him.

Last fall when I attended Missions Globales, the Montreal version of Missions Fest, there was a table where you could sign up to pray for a particular country. I was planning to go to Cartagena, Colombia to accompany some of our Opportunity International donors for a visit to see how their donations were being stewarded. When I saw that Colombia was on the list of countries, I requested the information so that I could begin then to pray for Colombia. I felt that it would be a good preparation for me to be open to the people of Colombia.

I remembered how when I first went to live in France, I had begun to pray for the people there as I met them and for that country. I recall how it made me open to learn about them and the things that were important to them, as I began to learn the language and communicate with them.

The experience was similar in Colombia, although I certainly do not yet have the grasp of Spanish that I do of French. Nevertheless, I sensed an attitude of openness in the Colombians that gave me courage to try the limited vocabulary that I had and their smiles rewarded me for my efforts, especially when they actually understood what I was saying.

The list of requests that I received for Colombia included some generic requests that would apply for any country as well as some requests specific to Colombia. The kit also provided some background information like the main industries and population density, as well as other data about the country that gave me a greater understanding of what I might expect. However, when I arrived in Cartagena it seemed a different place entirely. I had no idea it was so beautiful. I had no idea that the people were so kind and friendly. I had no idea of the grinding poverty and the dreadful history that has been the lot of so many of our industrious, devoted clients. What a privilege was mine to meet them. Now when I pray for Colombia each day, it is with a far more personal understanding of the challenges and potential of this beautiful country. Here is a video of it if you would like to see Cartagena for yourself and the work that we do there.

http://youtu.be/0V2aQL-eMd8

Thursday, May 19, 2011

INTERCESSION – WORKING THROUGH THE LISTS


Lately, I have been using my blog to share with you some of the interviews about my book. Now I need to get back to the subject of intercession. Continuing to work through my lists provides fodder for my reflections.

This morning, Glen and I were in Ottawa to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. At that event, I had an opportunity to greet the next couple on my list. Although, in a sense their needs might not be considered acute, the responsibilities that they carry make me feel that they need to be on the daily list. This couple is now doing the jobs that my husband, Glen and I were doing when we retired early from ministry in The Salvation Army in 2008. We know how demanding their work is, with hours of travel across this country and to other countries as well as the demands of being part of the decision-making processes in The Salvation Army. When I pray for them, I feel a sense of relief that we no longer have to carry their responsibilities. At the same time, I am compelled to pray for grace and strength for them to be able to try to accomplish all that is demanded of them as leaders is such a large Christian organization.

Were I temped to second guess their decisions, since they inevitably will approach some situations differently than we would, I think that bringing them before the Lord every day in my prayers can mitigate against that. I also think that just being made aware of them and their needs keeps me from criticizing them. It is so easy for us to fall into the habit, of somehow thinking that those who follow us will not maintain the direction that we have chosen to take in the decisions about how our work should be done, so the work will not be done the right way. That is nonsense! Perhaps praying for them helps me to avoid such foolish thinking.

A new list of prayer requests is sent to me every Sunday from the coordinator of The Word Guild Prayer Team. These are prayer requests that have been made by the members of The Word Guild. The list is usually from six to eight pages, so I work my way through one page of the prayer requests per day and by the time the next request arrives and I print it out, I have completed praying through the previous list. As a professional member of The Word Guild, with a full time occupation in the ministry of philanthropy, I cannot offer a lot of time to help with volunteer work for this fine organization. One thing I can do is give attention to the prayer requests, since I am committed to spending time in intercession anyway. This also keeps me abreast of the needs of my fellow writers and provides occasions to offer an occasional word of encouragement or hope, usually by e-mail. At the annual Write! Canada conferences, members of the prayer team have the chance to get together. We usually meet together, early every morning for prayer for the conference. This gives us all a chance to put faces to the names we are familiar with as fellow members of the prayer team.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Reasons for Intercession

Since my last blog about intercession, I received an interesting note from one of my friends who lives in France and has been reading the blog. She asked me why it is necessary to continue to pray for the same people many times. Once we have offered our requests to the Lord on their behalf is that not enough?

One of the daily readings that she uses has been speaking about the futility of bringing the same needs to the Lord repeatedly. I do agree that there is no point in just praying the same prayers every day for the same people. I also believe that our situations change from day to day and some folks for whom I pray may not need the prayer too much one day, but the next day they find themselves in a place where they do need that kind of support. I hope to show a little of how that works as we continue to look at some of the prayer concerns that have been presented to me for intercession.

As I move through that first large folder, the next list that I encounter is the list of all of the people who currently make up the congregation of the church that Glen and I attend, The Salvation Army, Montreal Citadel. I note the name of an individual or a couple each day and pray for them. If the Scripture I read as I pray for them seems particularly appropriate for them, I will underline it and have it on record to give them, if an appropriate occasion were to arise. For the first couple of years that I was back in Montreal, I sent a card to each person with the date that I prayed for them as an encouragement to them. Now my days are so full that I find I am not able to do that. I am hoping to find someone in our congregation who has the time and the willingness to take on that task for me.

The next person on my list is someone that I met at a conference in 2006. It was a weekend for Christian women who were in business or in ministry. As we met together, it was clear that the women in ministry outnumbered those in business and it was easy to forget that the world in which business women work is often quite unlike the one in which we carry on our various ministries. This particular woman was quite articulate and as I sensed the challenges that she faces in business, I found that a desire was born in me to try to be a support to her. As we chatted together after one of the workshops, I asked if she would mind if I added her to my prayer list. She was pleased at the suggestion.

Two years later, we found ourselves again at the same conference. This time, she had come because she knew that I was going to be there and she wanted to spend some time together, so she took me out for lunch. It was so good to know that she was grateful for my daily intercession for her. I continue to remember her each day. We are seldom in contact with each other and I know that the Lord is with her and blessing and using her and I have a small part to play in that.

We will continue to consider the names and requests in the next blog. In the meantime, if you have a question that you think I might be able to shed some light on through these conversations, please feel free to contact me. Perhaps you can help me to learn to become a better intercessor. I would be so grateful.