Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves.”
Recently I was given an opportunity through which the Lord reminded me about aspects of intercessory prayer which I had forgotten. Perhaps you have been in the place I was and can identify. I admit I am a slow learner when it comes to spiritual matters and need repeated instruction to get it to “sink in.”
My spirit was unsettled about a sister in Christ and I was prompted to pray for her. Nothing appeared to be wrong. I was not notified of any pressing need for prayer. In fact, the thoughts that came to my mind were those such as, “there’s nothing wrong”, “there are plenty of ‘real’ things to pray about, so don’t go looking for problems where there are none”, and mainly, “it’s probably just your imagination”.
Whenever someone comes to mind in this way, I usually get past these objections by rationalizing, “Well, it never hurts to pray for someone–for protection, for peace, or the like.” To the Lord’s credit, He has taught me, in the midst of thoughts like these, to go ahead and pray anyway. Sometimes He even causes me to realize that the voice I hear telling me not to be concerned may not be my own feelings but could be from another source–one who would like for me not to pray.
After thinking and praying awhile as I was prompted to do, there was a still stronger feeling which led me to ask my wife Chris to join me in praying. After at first doubting there was any special need for intercession, my spirit got so adamant about prayer that I could not help but tell her–even amidst my doubts–and we prayed together.
Later that same day, my “need to know” if there actually was a need led me to call and inquire. When we talked, there was a prayer need expressed, but there was also the report that everything was generally fine. Was I disappointed that my call to intercessory prayer had no apparent need to meet? Not in the least. To the contrary, I was elated to hear everything was okay. I felt blessed by the Lord for being faithful to what I perceived was His call. I was happy that my friend had not been taken through anything like what I was so vaguely sensing. And, as I have said, a little extra prayer for someone is a good thing no matter what their circumstances. Besides, there was the prayer request which I would not have known about without my call.
Then my friend said something which she probably didn’t realize would take me further into a spiritual study. She suggested that my prompting to pray could have been to prevent something that would have occurred without it. In other words, my prayer might have been proactive instead of reactive. I use those particular words because they come from the place her comments unknowingly sent me: to a book, The Beginner’s Guide to Intercession by Dutch Sheets, which I was led to pick up again. When I did, I opened the book immediately to a chapter titled Proactive Intercession.
The author writes, “Too often we’re reactionary where Satan is concerned. The results? You guessed it: breaks, bruises, separations, and various other spiritual casualties. We must learn to be proactive in our intercession, not waiting for Satan’s attacks and then reacting, but proactively praying against the stealing, killing, and destroying of the ‘thief’ (see Jn 10:10).”
He includes the scripture reference from Isaiah, with which I began above and describes this concept of prayer as “watchman intercession.”
Sheets continues, “Two New Testament Scriptures also mention the watching aspect of intercession. The first is Ephesians 6:18: ‘With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints’ The King James Version uses the word ‘watching’ for the phrase ‘be on the alert.'”
“The second verse”, he continues, “is 1 Peter 5:8, ‘Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’ Again, other translations use the word ‘watchful.’ The context of both verses is spiritual warfare. Each mentions our adversary and challenges us to alertness or watchfulness, both for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
In writing about how we often see times for intercessory prayer he says, “Too often Christians have interpreted these verses as only reactive–in other words, waiting for the attack and then going into damage control. While intercession can certainly release God’s redemption into destructive situations, God is offering us much more than ‘look-out blocks’ and damage control. He desires to warn us in advance of Satan’s attacks, so that we can pray for others and build the boundaries of protection we spoke of in chapter seven. This is watchman intercession.”
His use of the term “building boundaries” refers to this section from a previous chapter: “In the context of intercessory prayer, paga is the establishing of boundaries or walls of protection and the marking of a territory as one’s own, declaring, ‘I will not permit intruders or interlopers.’ I love Psalm 91:1-4 from The Message: “You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, say this: ‘God you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!’ That’s right–he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you–under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm.”
Then Sheets writes, “Wow, what a promise!”
Sheets recognizes that we cannot say that all our difficulties and troubles come directly from our enemy. He writes, “I do not mean to imply that every negative thing that happens to people is a direct result of Satan. I realize that our own carelessness, the carelessness of others, the curse of sin on our fallen world, and other causes all result in accidents, disease, and other destructive events. I believe there is protection from both satanic attacks and otherwise-caused adversity to be found through watchman intercession.”
The essence of what the Lord told me is this: Contrary to what Cain said when he was asked where Abel was, we ARE our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper. As Sheets points out the words “preserve” and “maintain” are related translations of “keep.”
He says, “We can be keepers today. We can preserve lives, destinies, health, ministries, and more through our intercession. When warnings are heard and acted upon, the interloping serpent is kept from our gardens. Security is maintained.”
Finally, there is this prayer at the end of the chapter:
“Father, I accept your assignment in my life to keep the serpent out of my garden. His schemes will not succeed against my home and my family. I stand now as a door-keeper for my children [or whatever your garden may be], and I say no compromise will come into their lives. No attempt to harm them will succeed. I claim Your promise that they will be taught by You and great will be their peace. I ask You to establish them in righteousness and to keep them far from oppression and fear (Is 54:13,14). Holy Spirit, as I listen to You, help me to be sensitive to Your voice. Alert me to Satan’s schemes and plans. Don’t allow the serpent to take advantage of my family in any way. Thank you, Father, for these things. I ask them in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
What a privilege we have as brothers and sisters in Jesus, as part of the body of Christ, to lift each other up in prayer. How gracious it is of Him to get our attention when another is in difficulty of any magnitude to prompt us to pray for them. You can stand in the gap for me and I can do the same for you.
Heavenly Father, there is so much for me to learn and review in order to live the abundant life–the life in all its fullness that Your gave us through Jesus. But the first thing to which I must give attention is in the words preceding that gift. I must be aware that there is a thief whose purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. I must watch for myself, my family, and for my brothers and sisters in Christ.
And that is what I’ve learned in “school” this past week.