When I hear about people being in grave illness, especially cancer or other sicknesses for which there seem to be no cure, I feel helpless and hapless.
When I receive requests to pray for people who are wasting away with specific maladies, I often feel clueless and powerless, especially when there seems to be no change.
I wonder, what is the use of praying when you know there is no remedy for such dire diseases. I am puzzled by what is accomplished when I am called to intercede and petition for any one as it is obvious there is no cure yet for such ailment nor too much history of healing, compared to the numbers affected!
I wonder why I should pray and what is the use of my intercession!
When I faced a similar situation with a family member being hospitalized for a sickness, I was swamped with a feeling of despair and inadequacy to deal with it. In a state of numbness, I informed my family members and then sat back overwhelmed by the many thoughts of changes that would be needed in the event of such a sickness. I couldn’t pray, couldn’t comprehend what to pray for, why I should do so and how to go about doing it.
That’s when my dad, a true man of God and faith, wrote to me, first encouraging me by reminding me of a past incident when God healed his mother, my paternal grandmother, in answer to prayer. Then he sent me a quotation from Job 33 and therein I found my comfort and the answer to all my questions.
I read there that ‘God disciplines people with pain on their sickbeds, with ceaseless aching in their bones. They lose their appetite for even the most delicious food. Their flesh wastes away, and their bones stick out. They are at death’s door; the angels of death wait for them.‘ According this passage, God does this in order to ‘rescue them from the grave so they may enjoy the light of life.’ This about people who are going through the dealings of God.
What about those of us who are observers and bystanders, as well as loved ones and family members? What are we to do? Stand shocked or throw words of judgment and criticism against them, pointing our fingers at their misdemeanor? Not at all! Then what can we do? The answer to this is given in the same chapter.
Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them – let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth – then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being. And they will go to others and say, ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved. God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’
I see that all we can do is to stand in the gap and intercede for the person who is suffering. We have to be gracious towards the one who is in trouble and be an angel or a messenger of mercy to present their cause before God. We need to uphold the ransom paid for them on the cross by His Son Jesus and ask God to spare them. We need to be advocates of their case before God and petition for their restoration.
What is the effect of such a stance on the one who is suffering? The ones going through the dealing of the Lord are given special ability to pray in the midst of their trouble and find favor with God. They are given grace to ask for pardon and they will also find mercy in His sight. They will turn back and turn towards God, like the sunflower faces the sun! They will then turn witnesses of His benevolence and beneficence, rather be remain rebels of it! That is why intercession is important, because it enables them to turn to their Maker.
The impact of intercession and petition on behalf of a delinquent moves the already compassionate heart of God, making it possible for Him to extend His mercy rather than judgment. God is both the God of justice and God of mercy, keeping both these parts of His nature in perfect balance. Yet, according to James 2:13, mercy always triumphs over judgment, a fact illustrated and stated by Portia in the Merchant of Venice.
We see this same sentiment echoed by Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians when he writes that the prayer of many delivered his team and team from
God’s heart towards us is the heart of a Father and a mother, seeking to exhibit mercy rather than execute judgement, for He loves us dearly. Rare is the parent who, even in the height of anger, will not yield to persuasion by someone else who will petition on behalf of the erring child they are forced to discipline. A parent yearns over their child even when they have to punish and nothing makes them stay their hand as a grandparent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister or friend pleading on behalf of their own guilty child. They love the one who steps into the gap to rest the hand of harsh retribution.
So, also God, as the eternal lover of His creation, seeks for someone to stand up in defense of the one who is facing the rod of correction that His majestic justice requires of Him. When such a messenger is found or is present, God will gladly stay His hand of justice in favor of extending His Hand of mercy. If, in addition a ransom is also found, God gladly restores and rejoices in life rather than in execution. God cannot hold back His judgements, but He can be persuaded to deal favorably when an advocate of mercy is found.
That is why God loves intercessors and prayer warriors who stand in the gap and plead for His mercy on His humanity rather than those who demand reteibution.
God seeks to be merciful more than being harsh or judgemental. His Name that was proclaimed before Moses is “The Lord , the Lord , the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”Exo 34:6-7. When His very name and nature are compassion, how can He not respond to interceding petitions and prayers!
To my question of why intercession and of what use it is when all seems hopeless, I found that intercession and prayer birth repentance and rejuvenation in the one who is suffering and makes way for God to be merciful and restoring towards His people rather than judgmental.
The call is to be intercessors rather than accusers.
What will we choose to do?
*Pics courtesy unsplash.com and google images.