There are times when prayer can be regimented and somewhat routine; times when it is fluid and coarsing; times when it is authoritative; times when it is frightening; times when it is purpose-driven; times when it is quiet and inquisitive; times when it is knee-jerk reaction; times when it is awkward and difficult.
I'm thinking about prayer a lot lately as we are in preparation for an upcoming healing service. I imagine that others who practice intercessory prayer as part of their ministry may feel equally challenged in their prayers. While the various methods of prayer are somewhat established and taught, it is the higher/deeper types of prayer that springs from the personal relationship with God that are the challenge for the intercessor.
The ACTS (Admiration/Contrition/Thanksgiving/Supplication) method serves as a good template for any prayer, but as an intercessor the primary focus is on the supplication part. One may be compelled to ask if they have admitted total admiration, made a complete act of contrition, and exhibited true thanksgiving, so that the supplication will be heard and acted upon.
I share these reflections because I know that others wrestle with their prayer life, and more specifically, how God answers our prayers. In the healing ministry, a ministry where supplication is the nature of the prayers, it is important to look to the gospel for guidance. Mark 9: 29 states that "these types can only come out by prayer and fasting". And therein lies the recipe for the work of the intercessor: Prayer and fasting.
In the 9th chapter of Mark beginning with the 14th verse:
14 And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. 15 Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. 16 And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?”
17 Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”
19 He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.
21 So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
And he said, “From childhood. 22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” 26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
Jesus gives the answer to the believing disciples. When they find that even as believers and followers of Jesus Christ they are incapable of casting out a demon, they can still do it but only after prayer and fasting. And that remains the case to this very day.
As intercessors we believe that God will answer our prayers. Some answers come quickly and through short and sincere shared supplications. Other answers require more. As Jesus said, "prayer and fasting" are required in more difficult situations. I know that God hears our prayers, and empowers us to invite the Holy Spirit to bring about healing and comfort. But for those situations like the demon-possessed child, God asks more than our faith, more than confidence, more than humility...much more.
So how does an intercessor pray? Not at all like church on Sunday morning.