By Chase Moore, Lay Worship Leader, St. James Episcopal Church, Wichita, KS
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.
Good morning! Have any of you ever had a time in your life where you felt moved to pray for someone else or felt the holy spirit when someone was praying for you? Prayer is an action that can reverberate through time and space and the effect may never be seen by the ones praying but can definitely be felt by those being prayed for.
Today’s Gospel reading from John is often referred to as The Intercessory Prayer. Intercessory prayer is the act of praying for other people. The Lord instructed us to pray not only for our own personal needs but to reach out and pray for others as well. It is to plea for God’s mercy, healing, and Holy Spirit. It is to petition in favor of another.
In this passage Jesus intercedes on our behalf, praying to God for His Apostles and all who would believe in Him, including us. Jesus prayed that those who believed in Him would be protected, have joy, and be filled with God’s love. Now I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like a prayer coming from a place of deep love and care. As someone who has felt firsthand the power of intercessory prayers, this scripture reading really stuck out to me.
In my early twenties I lived a life that would probably surprise most of you, and by the age of 24 I had a pretty serious drug problem. I was addicted to methamphetamines and was living an extremely dangerous lifestyle. I was using drugs as an escape from the life I was living and the deeper I got into my addiction, the more I needed to escape. I was stuck in the vicious cycle that is addiction. I won’t go into all of details of the things I did but let’s just say I was making some very bad decisions and hurting a lot of people. Not only was I hurting myself, but I was hurting my family. I used them for money to feed my addiction and even though I loved them and felt bad about hurting them, I kept doing it. This was especially hard on my mom, brother, and grandpa, the 3 most important people in my life at that time. I will probably never know the number of sleepless nights I caused my mother. I can only imagine how many tears she cried worrying about me. She had a front row seat to see her baby boy destroying his life, slowly killing myself. She watched me cheat, steal, lie, and hurt so many good people. These were not the actions of the sweet boy that she had raised. I was in the grasp of addiction and needed help but didn’t know how to get it. I was too ashamed to ask for help, because doing so would mean I would have to be honest with myself and my family about what I was doing. I remember trying to pray to God and ask for help but my guilt was so severe that I was convinced that I wasn’t worth it, and I couldn’t bring myself to finish my prayers, I needed someone to intercede on my behalf.
Most of you probably have someone in your life who has gone through trying times and I would imagine that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do to stop their pain and suffering, and my mother was the same way. She wanted so desperately to help me, but I wasn’t ready for her help. She tried so many different ways to be there for me to show her love and support, and I kept pushing her away, but she kept doing the one thing that she knew would work. PRAYER!! I can only imagine how many times she interceded on my behalf to God to save me from myself and my addiction. I can’t begin to guess how often, her, my brother, and my grandpa prayed for me, and not only them, but their friends and their church family, and I am proud to stand in front of all of you now, clean for over 12 years.
I remember at a Narcotics Anonymous picnic I was being given my 30-day sober chip, and this was a big deal. These picnics were held once a month to celebrate sobriety dates and often the family and friends of those receiving their chips or coins would be asked to say a few words on the behalf of the person receiving the token of sobriety. When it was my turn, they gave me my chip and then asked if anyone wanted to say anything. I will never forget that day. My mother stood up and said that she had prayed for this day for so long. She said that she knew she would have to let me go if she ever wanted to get me back. She had faith that with prayer and God, she would get her baby boy back, she just didn’t know when, it wasn’t her place to know when.
In today’s reading from Acts, the apostles asked Jesus, if this was the time, he would restore the kingdom to Israel? They wanted to know when? In the Message version of the bible Jesus replies with “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Fathers business.” How hard must that have been for them to hear? How hard is it for us to try and understand when things don’t happen in our time? How hard do you think it was for my mother to pray and wait? Just like the disciples, she wanted to know when a restoration would come. Often times in our lives we want to know when something will happen, but this passage clearly tells us it is not our business, timing is the Fathers business. Now what I believe is our business is to pray and intercede on the behalf of others. To take time and hold them in our hearts and pray for them. This may seem odd to some, but this art of interceding is something we as Episcopalians are called to do by the Book of Common prayer. We bring before God the needs of others. The Book of Common Prayer instructs us to make intercession for the universal church, its members, and its mission. The nation and all in authority. The welfare of the world, the concerns of our local community, those who suffer, those who are in trouble, and those who have departed. We are called to intercede with prayer to all of Gods people. I ask you to think about what this actually means. These should not just be words read from a bulletin. These should be thoughts and prayers of deep reflection and love, because even though we don’t know when they will be answered, we should have faith that they will, and we should find joy in knowing that they could bring someone peace.
I challenge you to pray those intercessory prayers when asked, but also, we you see the need. Sometimes we see the pain that our brothers and sisters are going through and we want to show them love and support. We want them to know that we are here for them, so we say, “I’m praying for you,” but do we actually take the time and pray those prayers. Hearing that someone is going to pray for you is a comforting thought, but feeling those prayers is powerful. Feeling that intercession on your behalf from others is sometimes the strength we need to get past our troubles and see the splendor God has set forth for us. I know that when I was in the depths of my addiction, in a battle for my life, intercessory prayer got me through it. It gave me the strength when I felt I had none.
Here in a minute, we will read the Prayers of the People together. We will ask for God to hear us and have mercy for those we pray for. Pray these prayers with passion and faith that He will hear them and know that we are praying these prayers so HIS WILL BE DONE. Amen.