Category Archives: intercession

In Sickness and in Health? (When Marriage Vows Are Challenged)

http://thereallifeadvice.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/strained-1.png
photo credit below

There are factors that put a strain on marriage. Some are internal ones like pride, selfishness, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc., while others are external ones like finances, (un)employment, sickness, etc. (Both internal and external ones can or do occur mutually!)

Many have used the traditional vow in their marriage ceremony:

“I, (________), take you (__________), to be my lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and behold from this day on, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”

The negative part of each of those vows (worse, poorer, sickness) is hardly considered at the altar, for typically a couple’s dreams are floating on their present state of mind and emotion.

But what happens when that couple finds themselves in an unplanned storm of worse, poorer, or sickness? Suddenly the vows take on new weight. And for some, it is overwhelming.

Each one of those factors deserve attention, and can be addressed extensively, but my focus today is on the “in sickness and in health” part of the vow.

The marriage commitment is put to the test when a spouse becomes seriously ill, diagnosed with a disease, or develops an incurable condition. Many pass the test and their love and commitment grow stronger, while for others it seems to be the beginning of the end of their marriage. (We have walked through this with my husband’s diagnosis of epilepsy nine years ago.  That valley (everything that occurred as a result  from his first tonic-clonic seizure in another country) shook us, but our commitment to each other and especially MY commitment to him, emerged fortified.)

Worse for a marriage than a spouse becoming ill is when a child is struck with a life-threatening illness or is born with a serious medical condition. From what I have read and been told, it seems that most of those marriages fall under a stress that eventually fractures the union entirely. (If you know of any studies in this area, please leave a comment. I’d be curious to see factual statistics.)

This is heartbreaking on so many levels.

I said most, not all. In the book Between Heaven and Healing, author and pastor’s wife Melanie Boulis shares the story of their daughter’s diagnosis and battle with cancer, and how it affected their marriage:

“Kevin and I were starting to fight a lot over Danielle’s care. The stress was building and we were taking it out on each other. The tension was awful. Caring for Danielle became a 24-hour a day job.”

Even spiritual leaders are not exempt from the stress and strain of this type of battle. The good news is that the Boulis’ passed through that storm, and are still together. The sad news is that their daughter passed away.

A friend who is walking through a difficult time with her sick child wrote me, upon my request, with the top ten ways to pray for parents of seriously ill children. The first request on the list was for the marriage:

“Most couples I know from the hospital are divorcing or their marriage is shaking badly. I would ask for prayer for the marriage, and time for couples to continue showing their love. Before the child, you are a couple; but when you have a sick child you forget that… and if the child dies there’s not much to rescue if the couple didn’t have time for each other.”

I think it’s both brave and wise of her to share that, and to make it the top prayer request. If you know of a family in this situation, would you pause momentarily and pray for their marriage? Also feel free to leave a comment below with the names and current situation of a family with an ill child, so that we can pray for them as well.

 

Photo credit:
http://thereallifeadvice.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/strained-1.png

 

 

 

 

 

Praying for Prodigal MK’s, Part Two

In my last post (click here) I asked for missionary parents to leave names of their prodigal children for whom they would like prayer. Below is the list of names left either in the comment section of that post, or via private messages on FB.

You can’t choose Christ for your kids, but you can pray that they choose Christ. And I’ve met far too many children who have come to Christ because their parents prevailed in prayer, sometimes for decades, to believe God for anything less. What other option do we have? To pray or not to pray – these are the only options.                                 – Mark Batterson, Praying Circles Around Your Children

Join your voice with mine – and with that of each parent of these children – in lifting up these names before the throne of God; pray God’s promises as the Spirit leads you for:

Christopher

daughter (anonymous)

Jedediah

Joel

Josh

Michelle

Nate

Stephen

Amen! I look forward to testimonies of answered prayer, don’t you?

One word of advice to parents of prodigals: form a prayer circle with other parents. Covenant to pray for each other’s children. Why parents? Because no one can pray for children like parents! Empathy fuels intercession. We need to stand in the gap for one another or, maybe I should say, kneel in the gap. – M.Batterson, Praying Circles Around Your Children

 

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Resources/blogs:

Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals founder Judy Douglass’ Prayer for My Prodigal

Loving a Prodigal free e-book

Praying for Prodigal MKs

June 2 is the Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

loving-a-prodigal_learning-to-rest-224x300When I saw author, missionary, and fellow member of the Redbud Writers GuildJudy Douglass, post a link on Facebook concerning this day of prayer she launched, I felt prompted to get involved.

Though I don’t have a prodigal, I feel a burden to join in praying on Sunday specifically for prodigal MKs (missionary kids). Because I am a missionary, other missionaries are like family.

Because I am a missionary, I understand the unique challenges of transitioning to and living in a cross-cultural context. And as hard as it can be for us as adults who sense the call and go obediently, some of our kids don’t deal well with it and upon leaving the nest may also abandon the faith, make bad (usually harmful) choices, live wildly, or simply fall apart as they struggle with various issues and search for identity and purpose in life.

Many parents pray, wait, hope, and watch for their prodigal to return; to hear their voice, to run to embrace them, to weep on their neck. Yet when thousands of miles separate parent from prodigal, often with little to no communication, that pain is multiplied.

Those missionaries fighting spiritual battles on the front lines often fight the hardest battle within. Broken hearts, deflated spirits, guilty feelings, empty arms.

Let’s pray!

Dear missionary mom or dad of a prodigal, we want to pray for your prodigal!

I invite you to please leave a comment with the name of your son or daughter, and any other information you feel safe to share. You can remain anonymous, if you so choose, though we would like to know in what corner of the world you serve and/or with what mission.

Dear reader, if you are not a missionary parent of a prodigal, I ask that you join us in prayer. Please leave a comment letting us know that you will pray.

Let’s lift these loved ones to the Lord!

The prayer of the righteous has great power as it is working!

James 5:16

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Read Judy’s blog posts on Loving a Prodigal.

Download her free Loving a Prodigal e-books.

How Do You Pray?

Chess-king

I asked a wise lady, a widowed veteran missionary, a question.  Her answer took me by surprise.

We were sitting, enjoying iced tea, and catching up on each other’s lives when I asked about her kids and grandkids. What followed was an account of pain and difficulty. My heart broke as I listened to the ongoing drama of what some may consider a parents/grandparents worst nightmare. And she no longer had her husband to walk this trail of tears with her.

Knowing her to be a praying woman, I wanted the inside scoop of how such a woman of faith talks to God about this

With solemn sincerity, I asked, “So, how do you pray for your grandchildren?”

I expected to hear the chess-game-strategy prayer: “God I pray you move this person to this spot, get rid of that player, surprise attack another, then corner the enemy with a final check-mate so we win. Amen.” After all, isn’t that how most of us pray? We call the moves that we believe will win us the outcome of healing and wholeness in broken situations.

What I heard, instead, as she fixed her eyes upon me and said with a confidence born  of trials, was, “I pray that they would love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength; that they would love their neighbor as themselves, and that they would fear God and keep his commands.”

The lump in my throat held me momentarily silent as I pondered the radical perspective she had – radical, but right on. Another needed reminder of the greatest power available to us in prayer: God’s Word, the Truth that supersedes.

With that prayer, she not only embodied the whole of scripture (Matt. 22:37-40*) but also applied the wise preachers words, that everything in life is meaningless except fearing God and keeping what He commanded (Ecclesiastes 12:13**).

With that prayer, she went straight to the eternal, the critical. For what shall it profit our loved ones to have everything work out in this world, and in the end lose their soul?

Is it wrong then to pray for specifics, for things to be worked out in our favor? Not necessarily. God in His infinite kindness, goodness, and mercy has indeed answered many such prayers for us, and I assume for you as well.  However, when my prayers are born with God’s Word at the core, the chaff prayers are blown away and a sense of praying God’s will, which is perfect and lasting, comes into focus.

It’s been some time since this wise woman and I have spoken in person, yet her example speaks to me daily. I pray it does you as well.

*Matthew 22:37-40 “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And h a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend k all the Law and the Prophets.” ESV

**Ecclesiastes 12:13 “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” ESV

photo credit http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/57/Chess-king.JPG

Between Manger and Glory

IMG_5143Can you pause for a few minutes today to pray for someone? And again tomorrow?

Yes, I know we’re only five days from Christmas. Yes, I know you’re busy; I am too – just as we were last Friday, when again an entire nation stopped the madness of life around them and cried out in prayer to God on behalf of children, teachers, a school, a community, a nation…and a world spinning violently out of our control.

You see, there IS time to pray and to intercede…when we want to, or are compelled to do so.

“Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25

Between his first advent in a manger and his second (and soon) advent in glory, Christ lives, interceding for you and for me. Interceding is prayer, yet deeper. Interceding is standing in the gap for someone else; it is intervening on someone’s behalf.

What a gift. A needed gift.

My husband and I, as missionaries currently stateside to itinerate, travel to different churches every week preaching and sharing about our ministry in Mexico. Several times and in different locations we’ve been quietly approached after service by people who have said, “We’ve prayed for you every day since the last time you were here.”

“Last time” was five or six years ago. And they show us the worn out prayer card we passed out then.

A few have even said, “…since you were here the first time.”

The “first time” was seventeen years ago. One person even showed us every prayer card we’ve passed out since that first deputation.

Hearing the words “we’ve prayed for you” is like being handed a precious gift. Every thought or memory of those words is a re-opening of that gift, and it blesses us tremendously.

advent-seriesKeri Wyatt Kent’s subtitle for her book Deeply Loved, the basis of this Advent blog-hop I have joined, is “40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus.” Chapter eighteen is titled, “Intercession.” We know we are deeply loved because Christ lives, is living, this very moment, interceding for us. To experience his heart at the deepest level is to intercede for others.

“If we want to experience the deep love of Jesus in a personal, individual way, we must stop focusing only on ourselves…we must balance prayers for our own concerns with prayers of intercession for others.” Keri Wyatt Kent

In the midst of your shopping and holiday preparations, have you considered giving the gift of intercession?

We are most like Christ when we pray and intercede.

Why not make one more list today: a prayer list. Write names of people you know who need prayer. Some may need healing, comfort, a financial miracle. Others may need hope or happiness, reconciliation or restoration.

The greatest need, however, for all and of all, is salvation from sin – the reason for the babe’s advent in a manger – which consequently prepares us for his second advent in glory.

May multitudes draw near to God through Jesus Christ today. That is what he is praying today, right now.

That, too, is my prayer, my gift, for you.

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P.S. Anyone who comments will be entered into the “Advent Blog-Hop” book give away tomorrow, Friday Dec. 21.

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Click here to read other advent blogs participating in the blog hop…

Consumerism Consumes Us – Why We Hardly See Miracles in America

I am not against Black Friday, in theory. I think we should all be good stewards of our money, and bargain shopping is a good way to go. What I struggle with is the fact that stuff– toys, clothes, latest technology, gourmet this n’ that– consumes too readily as it shoves basic priorities like contentedness, kindness, and character out of the way. Worse, it robs miracles.

I’m not only talking about all those people out there. I’m talking about you…and me.

For the Christian, prayer is the key that helps keep contentedness, kindness, and character a priority in our lives. Yet prayer is too often the least to which we give our time. It is also the key to restoration in our communities, revival in our churches, and miracles in our midst.

Is it any coincidence that so many third world countries regularly experience revival and the miraculous?

They stand in line for God. We stand in line for stuff.

The must-read article I’m reposting below was written by missionary evangelist and author Jason Frenn. May it stir you, as it did me.

“Why We Hardly See Miracles in America”

Recently, I spoke at a missions convention. Immediately afterward, a woman in her late ’40s came to my table in the foyer. The first question out of her mouth echoed what many people have asked me over the years, “Why don’t we see the miraculous things in North America that people experience in other countries?”

After living many years in Central America, I’ve learned that our lives are like a puzzle. In Asia, Latin America and Africa, where people experience miraculous breakthroughs, God is a very large piece in their very small puzzle. They lead simpler lives and focus on the basic necessities of life. In North America and Western Europe, God has been unfortunately reduced to a very small piece in our very large and complex puzzle. We fill our lives with insignificant things that overwhelm us. The key to miraculous breakthroughs is to make God a bigger piece of our life, and the best place to start is prayer.

People in the developing world understand that two of the most important pieces of the human puzzle are our need for God and the time we spend with Him in prayer.

In Latin America, for example, people clearly have a need. Their options are few and far between. Believers are consistent in their prayer lives and see miraculous things as a result. Many attend all-night prayer meetings. In some cases, churches hold prayer gatherings where people come and go over a 72-hour period.

In contrast, in the United States we don’t feel we need God. We have a plethora of options for just about any dilemma we face. As Steve Jobs used to say, “There’s an app for that.” As a result, God has been squeezed out of our lives, and we’ve replaced Him with the trivial — entertainment, gadgets, money and experiences that provide a temporal escape from the pressures we face.

Recently, I got up at 3 a.m. and drove as quickly as I could to get something that I had been anticipating for six months. The streets were empty until I reached the outdoor mall.  When I pulled in, there were 90 people sitting in lawn chairs who had arrived the day before. For the next eight hours, I patiently waited, and when I finally made it to the front of the line, the crowd had swelled to 2,500 — all for the latest iPhone. Ironically, I bought the device with the hopes of making my life simpler.

In contrast, for the believer living overseas, God is one of the highest priorities. Last year, I was invited to speak at a Tuesday and Wednesday-night prayer and miracle campaign in Buenos Aires. The pastor announced the two-night meeting the Sunday before, giving the people two days’ notice. At 2 p.m. Tuesday, I went to the church to record my radio program in its studio.

As I walked out of the lobby to return to the hotel, I noticed about 400 people standing in the pouring rain in a long line around the block. The person driving me to the hotel said, “These people are waiting for the service to begin tonight.” I was shocked. What were they doing while standing in line? Praying.

That night, the sanctuary was packed to capacity (2,500) and the overflow room had an additional 1,000 people. At the close of the service, the ushers had to check under every chair and pew, because people regularly look for places to hide just to get a decent seat for the next night. Two local hospitals sent ambulances with six children who needed prayer. Even the physicians there recognize the need for God’s intervention. Many people at the meetings testified about experiencing miracles, and it wasn’t because of a dynamic sermon or great worship. It was because they placed their faith in God and spent time with Him in prayer.

Those wonderful people were not there to hear me.  They were there because they needed God. Being with Him was more important than any gadget, distraction or time-consuming piece of the puzzle. Because of that commitment and dedication to prayer, they experience breakthroughs and miracles regularly. They stand in line for God. We stand in line for stuff.

If you want to experience miracles, eliminate some of the useless pieces of your puzzle and replace them with prayer. As you spend time with God, you will see amazing breakthroughs in your life and in the lives of your loved ones and friends. God answers prayer, and He looks forward to answering yours.

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Read more –  The Seven Prayers God Always Answers by Jason Frenn

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photo: taken by me in Sta. Maria Yolotepec, Oaxaca

 

Don’t Pray Us Home

If we cannot be in the battle ourselves let us not seek to discourage others.  D.L. Moody

Not a few times have missionaries like us heard, “We’re praying you home.”

And we kindly and lovingly respond, “Don’t pray us home.”

We understand your concerns, your fears. With news of earthquakes, cartel activity, violent protests, and sickness or disease outbreaks, your reaction is to call us home.

“It’s time to come home.”

“Don’t you think you’ve been there long enough?”

“There is a need here you can fill.”

“We’re praying you home.”

Thanks, but no thanks.

What we ask is that you simply pray. For us. For our health and safety. For our faith. For our kids. For our work.

We need your prayers…of support.

We need your moral support. When you say to us, “We’re praying you home,” it’s discouraging. In essence you communicate that perhaps we’ve missed God, that we are no longer in His will.

You communicate that our ministry here lacks depth–perhaps importance or impact– and that it is easily uprooted and left behind.

Except you don’t see the tears we’ve sown, the lives we’ve touched, the relationships we’ve built. Neither do you know how lives here have touched ours, leaving imprints of love and a taste of God’s glorious kingdom.

Please don’t pray us away from that.

Instead, tell us you’re praying for us. Tell us you miss us. (We miss you too).

Tell us you’re proud of us, and you support our calling even though you worry about us. Tell us you pray that we prosper and bear much fruit in our work. Pray that we’ll be blessed and be a blessing.

But please….

….don’t pray us home!

Why We Hardly See Miracles in America

Today’s “Wednesday What My Friends Write” guest post is by missionary colleague and author Jason Frenn:

Recently, I spoke at a missions convention. Immediately afterward, a woman in her late ’40s came to my table in the foyer. The first question out of her mouth echoed what many people have asked me over the years, “Why don’t we see the miraculous things in North America that people experience in other countries?”

After living many years in Central America, I’ve learned that our lives are like a puzzle. In Asia, Latin America and Africa, where people experience miraculous breakthroughs, God is a very large piece in their very small puzzle. They lead simpler lives and focus on the basic necessities of life. In North America and Western Europe, God has been unfortunately reduced to a very small piece in our very large and complex puzzle. We fill our lives with insignificant things that overwhelm us. The key to miraculous breakthroughs is to make God a bigger piece of our life, and the best place to start is prayer.

People in the developing world understand that two of the most important pieces of the human puzzle are our need for God and the time we spend with Him in prayer.

In Latin America, for example, people clearly have a need. Their options are few and far between. Believers are consistent in their prayer lives and see miraculous things as a result. Many attend all-night prayer meetings. In some cases, churches hold prayer gatherings where people come and go over a 72-hour period.

In contrast, in the United States we don’t feel we need God. We have a plethora of options for just about any dilemma we face. As Steve Jobs used to say, “There’s an app for that.” As a result, God has been squeezed out of our lives, and we’ve replaced Him with the trivial — entertainment, gadgets, money and experiences that provide a temporal escape from the pressures we face.

Recently, I got up at 3 a.m. and drove as quickly as I could to get something that I had been anticipating for six months. The streets were empty until I reached the outdoor mall.  When I pulled in, there were 90 people sitting in lawn chairs who had arrived the day before. For the next eight hours, I patiently waited, and when I finally made it to the front of the line, the crowd had swelled to 2,500 — all for the latest iPhone. Ironically, I bought the device with the hopes of making my life simpler.

In contrast, for the believer living overseas, God is one of the highest priorities. Last year, I was invited to speak at a Tuesday and Wednesday-night prayer and miracle campaign in Buenos Aires. The pastor announced the two-night meeting the Sunday before, giving the people two days’ notice. At 2 p.m. Tuesday, I went to the church to record my radio program in its studio.

As I walked out of the lobby to return to the hotel, I noticed about 400 people standing in the pouring rain in a long line around the block. The person driving me to the hotel said, “These people are waiting for the service to begin tonight.” I was shocked. What were they doing while standing in line? Praying.

That night, the sanctuary was packed to capacity (2,500) and the overflow room had an additional 1,000 people. At the close of the service, the ushers had to check under every chair and pew, because people regularly look for places to hide just to get a decent seat for the next night. Two local hospitals sent ambulances with six children who needed prayer. Even the physicians there recognize the need for God’s intervention. Many people at the meetings testified about experiencing miracles, and it wasn’t because of a dynamic sermon or great worship. It was because they placed their faith in God and spent time with Him in prayer.

Those wonderful people were not there to hear me.  They were there because they needed God. Being with Him was more important than any gadget, distraction or time-consuming piece of the puzzle. Because of that commitment and dedication to prayer, they experience breakthroughs and miracles regularly. They stand in line for God. We stand in line for stuff.

If you want to experience miracles, eliminate some of the useless pieces of your puzzle and replace them with prayer. As you spend time with God, you will see amazing breakthroughs in your life and in the lives of your loved ones and friends. God answers prayer, and He looks forward to answering yours.

Jason Frenn is an AGWM missionary evangelist and the author of The Seven Prayers God Always Answers. 

Jason sent me this article which I originally posted earlier today on Tortilla Press, the blog site for the Latin America and Caribbean Writers Guild.

The Few, The Faithful, The Intercessors

Recently, I’ve asked God to prompt others to pray for us. Certain requests aren’t able to be put into words.

That’s when I remembered.

Years ago while in the US itinerating to return to Mexico for another term, our paths crossed with several highly important people.

Not too many achieve their distinction in life. They serve as ambassadors of both the most revered and despised Ruler known to the history of mankind. They take what they hear, know, or receive a burden for and offer it before this Ruler, pleading for life and grace, for blessings and mercy, for protection and peace.

They are known to thousands and applauded by legions; they are known to few and applauded by no one. Their fame is in heaven, their obscurity on earth.

These are, in my opinion, giants of the faith. They are the few, the humble, the faithful intercessors of our day.

One of the couples was elderly, well in their eighties already at that time. They told us they pray for us daily. Daily! Moreover, they have prayed for us since the day we were married. Before that, they prayed for Mike since he was a child and for me, namelessly, as his future wife. Forty plus years of daily intercession!

I remembered these few, these faithful.

We met two others in a church in North Central Ohio.  They had approached us and thanked us for the updated prayer card we handed them, as the ones they had from years earlier were worn and tattered. These two saints, both women, told us they too pray for us daily and have done so since the first time we spoke at their church in the mid 90’s.

They too are the few and the faithful.

Another is a man I’m not sure I’ve ever met.  But I had met his daughter in one church we preached in, who told me, “My dad prays for your family every day.  I’ll mention to him I saw you and tell him of your current prayer needs.”

Another of the few and the faithful.

Various feelings run through me when my journal reminds me of these people: amazement, awe, humility, unworthiness. To be honest, I suddenly feel so little, so nothing;  I want to just drop my head as the enormity of this love hits me.

Yes, they’re important.   But they’ll never get the recognition for their faithfulness here on earth. They are well known, not to the world, but to the Saviour in whose presence they worship and plead.

They are the humble warriors. They pray not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who Christ is and what Christ has done and will do.

They are the few, the faithful. They are the intercessors. I don’t applaud them; somehow it wouldn’t seem right.  But I do thank God for them, and those like them.

As we prepare to return stateside for another furlough in a few months, I wonder if any of them are still alive, still praying.

I look forward to meeting them and thanking them. And standing before them, once again, humbled in their presence. .

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Today: Prayer for the Persecuted

I invite you to pray for persecuted Christians around the world today.

I’m praying for the few I know, including several of our Chatino pastors who walk three hours in the mountains to another village to share the hope of life in Christ, even though they’ve been warned that their lives are at risk if they do so.

Ixtlán, Oaxaca

I’m praying for indigenous pastors and churches throughout southern Mexico whose churches have been burned down and whose families have been threatened with lynching or crucifixion. 

I also pray for a lady I know –and others like her from the Old Colony German community in northern Mexico– who as a teen was beaten, then locked out of her house with nowhere to go because she was drawn to the message of hope in Jesus Christ. (Her story told on post One of the Persecuted).

I’m praying because that is what the persecuted hope for.

I’m praying because I am part of the body of Christ, like them.

I’m praying because God is not deaf.

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