A few months ago I celebrated my sixty-third birthday. I think – I hope – I have a few more years before I retire from active ministry. But I did ask the question: What am I going to do when I am too old to run around preaching, teaching and visiting people; when there is no “job” for me to do?
Here is an idea that gives me some hope. I have come to view intercessory prayer as a job. In fact I believe that it is the most powerful thing I do. Doesn’t the Bible say, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16)? I am learning to view praying for people as a job that I do, like writing a report or visiting a sick person or preaching a sermon. When I finish praying for the day I have a sense that I have achieved something.
This thinking is in keeping with a wonderful discovery I made when studying 1 Corinthians 13 recently. In Christianity love is an end and not just a means to an end. That is, we don’t love only because we want to achieve something through that loving. Loving itself is an achievement. When we teach or train someone our aim is primarily not to help someone pass an exam well or do brilliantly in sports. True, those are legitimate aims, but they are not primary aims. If we work like that, we won’t be able to help Jesus in the forms that He comes to us as described in the parable of the sheep and the goats. There He comes as a hungry person in need of food, a thirsty person in need of drink, a naked person in need of clothing, and a sick person and a prisoner in need of a visit (Matthew 25:35-36). You don’t achieve much in terms of visible earthly success helping people like that. Though there is a huge heavenly reward for such work, this is usually not recognized on earth.
Praying for people is akin to that type of loving. Few people will know that we do it. Paul mentions in ten of his thirteen letters that he prayed for his readers. And we too would do well to tell those we pray for that we are doing so, for it really encourages people to know that others are praying for them. But usually such prayer is not seen by others and is not recognized as a great achievement on earth. Rarely do people connect a huge success with the prayers of an individual, even though those prayers were a primary means of mediating that success. Today we are in the habit of giving awards for those whom we consider to have achieved something significant in their fields of labor. But I have never heard of an award being given for “the intercessors of the year!”
But to the Christian, love is an achievement! We have been successful when we have loved someone. Praying may be one of the most powerful forms of loving, and that is something we can do even when we are very weak physically. When the husband of Anna, the prophetess died, she gave herself to the vocation of prayer – which she faithfully fulfilled for several decades (Luke 2:36-37). Her job was to be a prayer warrior. If prayer is so powerful and if after retirement we spend most of our “working time” praying, then when we retire from being “big shots” in our professions, we are actually getting a promotion! Big shots are usually freed from supposedly “lesser duties” so that they can do the supposedly”significant work” that they have to do. Intercessors who retire from their jobs are actually being freed to concentrate on the most significant and effective work.
So, let us learn to look at intercessory prayer as a job that we do. Of course, if we are leaders then intercessory prayer should be part of our job description. Samuel, the leader of the Jewish people, viewed “ceasing to pray for” the people as a “sin against the Lord” (1 Samuel 12:23). So leadership should give us good practice for promotion to the prayer warrior vocation when we retire.
If we wait till retirement to launch into a life of prayer, we will invariably not succeed in the launch, unless we repent of our prayerlessness and God does a miraculous work of transformation in us. If we do not have the taste for long seasons of prayer while we are in active duty, it is unlikely that we will get back the taste after retirement. So we had better get down to it immediately. I must say with sorrow that sometimes I have been with Christian leaders in my travels and noted how little time they spend in prayer and that they do not use the opportunities when free time is unexpectedly available for being with the Lord. They are out of touch with prayer.
But what refreshment comes from intercession! Indeed intercession is a type of wrestling that may be spiritually exhausting (Colossians 4:12-13). But when we pray we are in vital contact with the eternal source of life and love. When we intercede, love is going out of our lives. But because the love-door is open, God’s love is coming in too. In and out…in and out…and we begin to glow with the love of God.
People filled with love become joyous people. So intercession is not only a prescription for preparation for retirement, it is also a prescription for joy! And if the key source of freshness in our lives is not taken away with retirement but rather given greater emphasis than before, then we have nothing to fear about retirement. Let’s become intercessors NOW! online casinoene