Sunday, February 14, 2016

Who's praying for you?

Who prays for you .... when you can't pray for yourself?

Who prays for you .... when you won't pray for yourself, or anyone else?

As any Christian knows (even if they don't practice it), prayer is the most powerful force in the world, apart from the direct working of God Himself. In and through prayer, we bypass all of our own so-called "abilities," and all our earthly resources, and approach our Creator and Saviour, both praising Him for His greatness, thanking Him for past blessings, and asking Him for guidance, wisdom, and the needs of ourselves and others.  A child might ask her parents for a new bicycle, or a man might ask his boss for a raise; a prisoner might petition the governor or president for a pardon. But in prayer, we go far beyond such earthly powers, and deal with the God of the universe, Who can do anything at all: from helping us find a lost set of keys, to toppling an empire.  And, of course, He is the only One Who can keep people out of Hell, and show them how to achieve salvation.

I once had a pastor who constantly encouraged his congregation: "Don't settle for a two-bit prayer life!"  That was good advice; especially since most Christians do exactly that.  Most Christians (sinners who have been saved by receiving Jesus Christ according to John 1:12, and been born again according to Jesus' command in John 3:3-7) are content to settle for five or ten minutes of prayer a day - - - if that.  There are several reasons for this, but one is that prayer, real prayer, is hard work. If you're a Christian, when was the last time you spent even an hour in uninterrupted, fervent prayer?  It's not easy in this day of short attention spans and constant distractions.  It's easy to mumble some familiar words at God (at Him, not really to Him), while our minds are a million miles away, or just a few minutes away, thinking of what we'll be doing next.

That's why prayer is called a spiritual discipline: because it doesn't come naturally, and we have to discipline ourselves to do it.  Everything in our flesh rebels against it: we can't see God, we often have no sense of His Presence, and it seems that we're just multiplying words, unheard by anyone but ourselves.  That's not true, of course, but that's how it sometimes seems to us.

Sometimes, we might be too sick to pray, or too mentally or emotionally distraught to pray. But more often, we're just too lazy to pray.  Or too busy with stupid entertainments and pointless "activity."  Sometimes we're too tired; that's why it's a bad idea to save your prayer time for the very end of the day, when you're sleepy.  (Remember the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane?  Jesus asked them to "watch and pray," as He went off to pray by Himself, and when He returned, they were asleep.   And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? [Matthew 26:40])  And we're no better than the disciples.  Sometimes we won't pray, because we're angry with God, or because we refuse to pray for someone we don't like, or simply because we're out of fellowship with God, and don't care (although we're still saved).  Sometimes, we ask our Christian brothers and sisters to pray for us, and we "coast" on their prayers, and don't bother to pray for ourselves.  That's a stupid and dangerous thing to do: what if they forget to pray for us?

But whether other Christians pray for us or not, and even if we settle for a "two-bit prayer life," Someone is praying for us ... constantly. The same Saviour Who was tortured to death for us is now praying for us, and He's never too lazy, or too busy, or too self-centered.

Ask yourself: what do you think Jesus did, after He was resurrected and ascended into Heaven?  What do you think He's been doing for the past two thousand years?  Twiddling His thumbs?  Doing crossword puzzles?  Now, just as He died to make salvation available to us when He was on earth, He's still working ... and He's working for us.  He's praying for us, pleading for us to the Father, making intercession for us.  

And of course He's the only One Who can, in Heaven, although we can pray for each other down here on earth.  Contrary to what a certain church teaches, Mary and the "saints" can't intercede for us, for a very simple reason.  An intercessor has to be able to see both sides of a situation.  Mary or the "saints" (actually, anyone who has received Christ is a saint; you don''t have to count on the Pope to proclaim you one) might be able to understand your situation or mine, from our standpoint; but they can't see it from God's viewpoint, because they're not God.  The only one who could possibly be an adequate intercessor would be one who saw things from the human standpoint, because he's been a human, and from God's standpoint, because He's God.  And obviously, the only One Who qualifies is Jesus Christ.  The Bible spells this out very clearly: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (1Timothy 2:5, 6).

And what a Mediator He is!  Just as Satan repeatedly accused Job of unrighteousness to God (Job 1 and 2), he's still at it, with each and every one of us who have been saved. In Revelation 12:10, Satan is referred to as the accuser of our brethren ... which accused them before our God day and night. When a Christian sins, or makes a mistake, or has a moment of weakness, Satan is right there at the Throne of God, telling Him about it (as if He didn't already know!).  In the legal world, there's something called "malicious prosecution," in which a prosecuting attorney brings a case for the wrong reasons.  Satan is the most malicious and corrupt prosecutor who ever lived.  But we also have a "defense attorney:" Jesus Christ Himself, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Romans 8:34).  Satan accuses us, Jesus defends us; who do you think the Father is more likely to listen to?

So, in answer to our question: if we're Christians, Jesus is praying for us, even when we're not praying for ourselves.  Even when we're unable or unfaithful, He remains faithful, and never forgets us.  Not because that's "His job;" He's the Ruler of the universe.  But He does it because He cares ... and what Jesus cares about moves the heart of the Father.  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He prays for us during times of testing, and times of temptation .... because He was tempted Himself while on earth, and knows how it feels, and wants us to triumph over the temptation as He did.

This certainly doesn't absolve us of our own responsibility to pray, or of the great promise and opportunities of praying.  After all, if Jesus, after going through so much for us already, is praying for us, how much more is our responsibility to pray, and to seek God's face!  In addition to that, there's more to prayer than intercession; there's also fellowship - - - and that's what God really wants from his children.  God wants to spend time with you, and with me; He wants us to love Him and value His fellowship more than that of any human being.  Jesus can pray for us, but that's Jesus: amazingly, God wants to hear from us, too.  He wants to hear our every thought, our every question, our every request, because He wants our company.  He wants to spend time with us. And, as someone has wisely said: prayer and praise are the only things that we can do today, that we'll also be doing in Heaven, a million years from now.  Jesus' prayers should spur us on to more praying, not less: I only quoted part of a passage a moment ago.  Here's the rest:  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15, 16).

But there's a sober note to this wonderful truth; another answer to the question in our title.  If you're an unsaved man or woman, and have never received Christ as your personal Saviour in a moment in time, by an act of the will, there may be some people in your life who are praying for you.  But, according to the Bible, Jesus is not.  You aren't part of His family, and until you've met Christ on His own terms and been born again, you'll simply be one more lost person, wandering the world alone.  Jesus already cared enough to die for you: but if you ignore that, He owes you nothing more - - - not even His prayers.  This is stated with terrible clarity in the Bible.  In John 17, which records Jesus' great prayer to the Father, referring to His followers, He says: I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine (John 17:8, 9). Neither is the Holy Spirit praying for you; He, too, is praying for Christians: And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:27).   If you haven't come to Jesus Christ, you're on your own - - - but you're there by choice.  And that choice can change any time you're willing to ask Him to save you.  If you think it's "unfair" for Jesus to pray for Christians, but not for you, then force His hand!  Come to Him, receive Him, be born again, and He will start praying for you!

The Bible says that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1).  But sometimes we do faint; we get weary or distracted or just plain lazy.  But even in those moments, our great High Priest in interceding for us, faithful even when we're unfaithful to ourselves.

What a Christ!