(c) Morris Ruddick
In Memory of Our Grandson Isaiah Bird
April 1, 2004 – December 24, 2014
“Been praying for you.” How often do we hear, as well as voice these meaningful words? Praying for one another and depending on the prayers of others can be critical, with the substance behind these words deserving closer examination.
Several years ago, on an overseas mission, I recall a time when I entered into a situation with an outcome that only could be redeemed by God. Not even having the presence of mind to know what to pray for at the time, I found myself desperately crying out: “Lord, mobilize some intercessors to pray for me!” Within minutes, I had a calm descend upon me, with an awareness of being prayed for — and the impossible situation was indeed redeemed.
At the other extreme, I recall a time when, at the urging of a friend in ministry, I spent some time praying with a brother who had hit a season of turbulence. I continued with follow-through for him in my own prayer closet. Some time passed without hearing from him. Then I got a note from him expressing annoyance at receiving a quarterly prayer letter from me. Despite the demands on his time, this man had taken far more time to express his displeasure in my asking for his prayers, than it would have taken to just shoot up a couple of covering prayers.
Even genuinely called intercessors can hit times when the pressures mount and priorities are not clear.
Yet, the reality is that there are times when confronted with spiritual challenges that extend beyond our own faith and prayers in which it is the prayers of others that become the deciding factor. It is the way the Body is supposed to operate. While not every believer is called as an intercessor, we are all called to intercede. For each of us, we have entered a time in which the words of the prophet Samuel should be a constant reminder: “God forbid, that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” 1 Samuel 12:23
We each have vulnerabilities that can be compensated for — by the prayers of others. Peter Wagner wisely advises that those in ministry should have a prayer shield of those who pray for them. His model for a prayer shield includes a handful who serve as a frequent-contact inner circle; a second level of those with whom we are in regular contact, but not with the frequency or detail of the inner circle; and then a third and larger group who we only connect with periodically with a big-picture outlook of developments.
The Reciprocity Factor
Relationships that carry the expectation of people praying for you cannot extend very far, without operating in reciprocity.
Reciprocity is a mutual dependence, activity or influence. It is a cooperative exchange of effort or considerations between two parties, with each looking out for the other. It is a relational thing that in effect serves the common, but higher good. Reciprocity takes maturity and trust to operate. The trust for reciprocity stands on a maturity that is never afraid to risk supporting others and working cooperatively. It operates openly and both ways.
The apostle Paul expressed it this way in his letter to the Galatians: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Reciprocity in intercession is a significant reflection of the Body operating maturely because of the way it facilitates the paving of new ground that neither party could have accomplished without the other.
Reciprocity will be a key factor as the Body faces a season marked by great turbulence and change. Reciprocity and the combined authority it evokes will have a unique bearing on advancing the Kingdom.
On the other hand, there is a need for wisdom as it relates to the manner in which we extend our availability. Wisdom is needed from the Spirit to avoid over commitments or matters that would inadvertently distract or suck life from us.
God forbid that mature believers should ever fall short in extending reciprocity. Operating as a giver of Life, rather than being a taker, was reflected in Paul’s words that expressed both the cost and the supernatural impact tied to being Life-givers.
“That the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-always carrying about in this body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
God forbid that our zeal for accomplishment in our own callings should blind or override our ability to have a balance in bearing the burdens of those within our sphere.
Judas was the epitome of one-way relationships that never quite grasps the reality of the higher good and approaches relationships as a means to their own end. In a word, Judas was a taker and not a giver. He didn’t trust, because in his arrogance he knew he couldn’t be trusted. He failed not only because his zeal blinded him to what God was doing, but also because he misused the authority of his position to do his thing independently. The Judas factor illustrates an immature purpose-driven zeal built on an outdated and distorted model.
“God forbid, that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.”
Levels of Intercession
Not unlike Dr. Wagner’s model for prayer shields, our model for praying for others should encompass different response levels based on a mix and balance of the burden from the Lord and the relationship with the individual.
The most basic level would involve simply lifting the name of a person before God’s throne of grace and asking for blessing and fulfillment in their lives. An intermediate-level response might suggest a more robust form of intercession as described in Ezekiel 22:30. “I sought for a man among them who would make up the hedge and stand in the gap.”
This involves discerning the gap or lack in the situation-and then praying in faith with the appropriate scriptures that seal off that gap. Then, the highest level of intercession is what old-time Pentecostals refer to as “praying through” or travailing in prayer until there is a release that affirms that the answer is at hand.
Holding the Rope
Within these levels of intercession is an illustration in Acts 9:25 of “holding the rope.” This is the story of when the brethren saved Paul’s life from the plots of his persecutors by letting him down the city wall in a basket at night. Those holding the rope of the basket being lowered, which held Paul, illustrate the role that our intercession plays in the lives of those in our sphere.
There will be times when there is only one or two whose spiritual alertness is such that the rope will even be held. Sadly, there are times in which the zeal, the preoccupations and the distractions can be such that there are none to hold the rope. This should not be so.
Again, our willing readiness to grab and then hang onto the rope will be determined by a mix between the burden from the Lord and the relationship with the individual. The degree to which we sacrifice for others in holding the rope or standing in the gap is a mark of spiritual maturity. However, the degree to which the Body is functioning in maturity by standing in the gap or holding the rope for those within their spheres, at each level, was spoken of in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
“From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:16
Core Prayer Issues
Abiding in God’s Presence. Foremost at the core of praying for others is the reality of the time we spend in God’s presence. That time is not designed as an exercise or an obligation. There should be a passion for His presence that turns us into firebrands who go around igniting revival. What we impart to others should be an overflow from that time spent with Him.
“That the excellence of the power may be of God and not us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
While we each need time alone with the Lord, our lives should simultaneously reflect an ongoing consciousness of His presence, a reciprocal flow of spiritual oneness. Jesus described this ongoing oneness with the relational dynamic He had with the Father: “The Son can do nothing of Himself, He can only do what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does also. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He is doing.” John 5:19, 20
This truth parallels what Jesus imparted about our “abiding” in Him.
“I am the vine and you are the branches, whoever abides in Me, and I in Him will bear much fruit. Apart from Me, you can do nothing. But if you abide in Me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you will and it will be given you.” John 15:5-7
The closer we are to “abiding” when we pray, the closer we are to knowing WHAT to pray, in order to bring results in a given circumstance. THIS is spiritual reciprocity in action — the dynamic designed to overflow into the way the Body as a whole functions. The Apostle James’ decree that broke long-standing Jewish traditions for Gentile converts reflected this reciprocal abiding unity when he said, “it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Acts 15:28
Imparting the Presence of God. In John 15:13-15 Jesus outlines a level of reciprocity that marks seasoned, mature believers. It is the lifeblood for operating as instruments of God’s purpose with results that defy what we consider as the natural order of things. It involves embracing and then extending the presence and friendship of God to those bound by the devil and the precepts of men.
Psalm 15 is a bedrock truth that outlines the parameters for operating in and extending the friendship and presence of God. It deals with some nitty-gritty issues, such as slander and reproach that are tied to how we should be responding to members of the household of faith. Yet, at its core pivots the truth of “walking in integrity, working righteousness and speaking truth in our heart.”
For our time in the presence of the Lord to be real, approaching His presence has the requisite of speaking truth in our own hearts. That should not be confused with obsessive introspection. However, it is foundational to extending the love and grace of God. It also means that for us to be able to stand in the gap for others, without being spiritually pummeled as a result, we need to have a realistic appraisal of what is operating in our own hearts.
Operating in our Sphere of Authority. Each of us has a sphere of authority that is tied to our calling. The parameters of that sphere vary with each of us. However, a realistic grasp of the individual scope of that sphere for the mature believer defines a very powerful arena when it comes to petitioning the Lord on behalf of others. Moses reasoned with the Lord following the Israelite’s transgressions in the wilderness. Nehemiah petitioned the Lord on behalf of restoring Israel’s dominion over Jerusalem.
Yet, beyond the boundaries of our individual spheres are thresholds that will require a combined authority to truly see the answers to our petitions manifest. It is why unity within the Body is so important to issues such as transformation and the miraculous.
While the importance of individual time in the presence of the Lord can never be diminished or sacrificed, there is special power in prayer that results from the meshing of anointings that reflects an overlap in the “authority spheres” of those praying together for common purposes.
The Spontaneity to Pray
When these core issues converge, there will come a spontaneity-for-prayer-and with that spontaneity, a new level of the Body functioning in maturity. Body maturity and the increase of the miraculous can be expected to go hand in hand. For the miraculous to become the mode rather than the exception is going to require a shift within the Body. While many within the Body do flow on this level, far, far too many are still guided by the precepts of men and operating according to their own strengths as described by 2 Corinthians 4:7. It is a path that falls short.
The shift is from the self-focused mind-set to mind-sets that are intent on imparting Life. Evelyn Roberts used to speak about bringing God into the “everydayness” of our lives. The gap in the dichotomy between the lives we live and the meetings we attend to get a mere touch of His presence should and can be bridged by entering the place in which His presence is ongoing.
Jesus gave a lot of focus to teaching on prayer. Transforming, miraculous prayer is an activity for every believer, rather than it being reserved for those who might be referred to as “the God squad.” It was at the core of the vibrancy and spontaneity of the Jesus movement in the late 1960s and the 1970s.
Jesus modeled our priority for prayer and the importance of our time in God’s presence by spending entire nights with the Father. However, at a time when everything that Jesus had come to do was converging and in the crucible, the forces working against our seizing the initiative in prayer is illustrated by Jesus’ own inner circle falling asleep.
While at Gethsemane, Peter, James and John were simply unable to stay awake to keep watch and pray with Him-for even an hour. Yet, simultaneously, in that very hour, Jesus’ own travail in prayer was of such a fervor, that the scripture (Luke 22:44) describes it as Jesus agonizing in prayer to the degree that His sweat was as great drops of blood falling to the ground.
The Apostle James outlined the dimensions of a range of needs and our prayer-response to them. He began with those who were afflicted or suffering evil by telling them simply, to go pray. So often when we’re oppressed or depressed, we look for someone to do something for us. James simply said the answer is to get alone with the Lord-and to pray.
James went on to note, that if someone is sick, that it will require getting others involved-to pray over the one who is sick. When that occurs he tells us that the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick and the Lord will raise Him up. Then he adds something else. He says: “And if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven.”
Then James gives the admonition to be open in our relationships by being real about our sins and shortcomings — AND to pray for one another. This is the model for the type of spontaneous gathering together that happens when there is revival in the air. It is from that point, that he takes a jump to describing Elijah as having been a man with a nature no different from ours; yet who prayed fervently and saw remarkable things happen. So it should be with us today.
The scope of matters covered by James brings this conclusion to the issue of “been praying for you.” Prayer needs to be ongoing. It needs to be spontaneous. We should each have what weapons’ specialists call a hair-trigger to pray. A hair trigger is one that you barely touch and it goes off. It relates to bringing the Lord into the equation in each dimension of our lives. It should be the natural order of things.
When we hear the words “been praying for you,” it should evoke a response of “well then, let me tell you what God has been doing!” When we share the words, “been praying for you,” it should be a reflection of imparting Life and holding the rope until we can share in rejoicing about God’s intervening goodness. Reciprocity is at the heart of both ends of the spectrum of prayer and intercession. The reciprocity from abiding in and extending God’s presence will nurture Body maturity and fuel revival, the miraculous and societal transformation.
The apostle Peter sums it up with these words:
“As every man has received the gift, even so minister the same as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10
Morris Ruddick has been a forerunner and spokesman for the call of God in the marketplace since the mid-90s. As founder of Global Initiatives Foundation and designer of the God’s Economy Entrepreneurial Equippers Program, Mr. Ruddick imparts hope and equips economic community builders where God’s light is dim in both the Western and non-Western world.
He is author of “The Joseph-Daniel Calling;” “Gods Economy, Israel and the Nations;” “The Heart of a King;” “Something More;” “Righteous Power in a Corrupt World;” and “Leadership by Anointing,” which address the mobilization of business and governmental leaders called to impact their communities with God’s blessings. They are available in print and e-versions from www.Amazon.com, www.BarnesandNoble.com and other popular outlets.
Global Initiatives Foundation ( www.strategic-initiatives.org) is a tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 non-profit whose efforts are enabled by the generosity of a remnant of faithful friends and contributors whose vision aligns with God’s heart to mobilize the persecuted church to be the head and not the tail. Checks on US banks should be made out to Global Initiatives and mailed to PO Box 370291, Denver CO 80237 or by credit card at firstname.lastname@example.org