I am going to do my best to help you become an intercessor. I have already tried to plow a furrow in your soul about having a sense of responsibility. Unless and until you get a burden for prayer, you will never be a real intercessor.
I am a passionate person by nature. Things I believe in, I believe in with all my heart. Things I don't believe in, I detest. I am that way when it comes to prayer.
I don't know how to pray for things I don't really care about. In fact, I don't.
It doesn't make sense to me to pray for something you don't really want or need. That is why you have to start with caring before you can really make intercession for somebody. But it is not difficult to care when you learn to put people's needs into their deserving perspective.
Why do I pray for somebody with cancer if I am not their close friend? Because cancer hits really close to home with me. I lost the most precious wife a man could have to a horrible cancer. So when I hear somebody has cancer, I really relate to what they are going through, and I think that I want to pray for them.
Why, you may ask, didn't I get a miracle for my wife when she had cancer?
Well, do you really want to know? Hang on, and I will tell you what I think.
Dixie and I had just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary when the doctors found that she had Stage 3 colon cancer. It had already spread to her lymph nodes. For over a year, she had, on three different occasions, asked her doctor to examine her, but he repeatedly told her that she was young and didn't have any reason to believe that it was anything serious. We finally went to a different doctor for another opinion, and that is when she found out she had cancer. They removed a large segment of her colon the next day and told us they thought they got it all. Sure.
I immediately went on a 21-day fasting and prayer vigil for Dixie. The doctor started her chemotherapy and radiation treatments. That went on for a year. That was a very, very difficult year, but she got through it, and her first-year exam was a good report. That was followed by four pretty good years. At the five-year mark, they told us she was cancer-free.
But that same month, she became desperately ill. She was lethargic and weak. The doctor told her that he thought she had contracted West Nile Virus. He told her to go to bed until it ran its course. Five weeks later, it still had not run its course. She could hardly get out of bed.
They ran a fresh CAT scan, and said they wanted to do exploratory surgery. On my fifty-first birthday, the doctor met me in the hospital counseling room and told me that he found cancer throughout her body, and there was nothing else he could do for her. The tumors were everywhere. He performed a colostomy, and two nephrostomies - tubes running out her back from her kidneys, and put her on oxygen.
The next thirteen months were hell on earth. In over thirty years of ministry, visiting sick folks and hospitals and intensive care units, I had never seen anyone suffer the way Dixie suffered. The cancer got into the sciatic nerves in her hips, and the pain was unspeakable. In her last months, she was taking 160 MG of morphine hourly to mask the pain. No doctor or nurse I have spoken to since that time has ever heard of anyone taking that much pain drugs.
During Dixie's last year, I spent more time in prayer than in any one year of my life. I fasted 21 days for her on one occasion, and 30 days on another occasion. Many nights, while I attended to her at bedside, I spent the entire night on my knees in prayer, asking God to heal her.
You don't have to believe me, but I will tell you anyway that we never expected her to die. From the first day I learned she had cancer, I made up my mind to trust God for her healing. She did too. All the saints in the church we pastored were there for us, too. Ministers and friends all over the country called and sent letters of prayerful support. Everybody believed that God would heal Dixie. Some preachers came hundreds of miles to pray for her and express their faith that she would be healed.
We never discussed her dying. Never bought a cemetery plot. Never discussed a funeral. We believed she was going to get well.
Maybe you think I'm crazy, but if you do, that's your problem. I have seen too many miracles in my day to doubt that God can do a miracle like that.
So, just about two weeks before Dixie died, one night as she lay in bed, and I was tending to her, she said, "If I die, it's because God has something He wants to do with you, and He needs me out of the way."
She wasn't just saying that for nought. She really, really believed it.
In her last year, she was in and out of the hospital many times and had several brushes with death. Despite all that, she never missed going to church every time we had service. She only missed church about three or four times that entire year. Finally, the tumors did so much damage that she could not stand up. We got a wheelchair for her. She missed church that Sunday. After I got home from church, I tended to her; we talked, and fell asleep at about midnight. About an hour later, I was awakened as she went into a seizure. Twenty minutes later, as I sat beside her, holding her in my arms, she simply stopped breathing. It was in the wee hours of Monday morning.
I called the kids, and they came immediately. Then I called the mortician. And it was all over.
I went into shock. I didn't realize it at the time, and didn't really know it for months. But I knew it when I came out of shock about seven months later.
That Monday she died, I sat down and wrote down a vow to myself. I vowed to myself that I would not allow Dixie's death to destroy me, body, soul or spirit. I vowed to myself that I would never get bitter or accuse God rashly of anything. I vowed to myself that I would maintain a right relationship with God, that I would continue in prayer and living for God. I made a firm declaration that I still believed that "ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD" for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. It was about a 300-word commitment to myself. And I have lived every word of it since then.
So why have I included this story in the chapter on "How to Intercede"?
Because I want you to know that if you are ever going to be an intercessor, you are going to have to learn to intercede for people no matter what kind of response you get out of God. If you think that by making a commitment to intercession, God is just going to jump on His chariot and come running to you every time you pray, you are going to crash and burn.
If you are the kind to pray one prayer, then not pray anymore until you get what you asked for, you are never going to have the slightest idea what true intercession is all about. If you are only going to pray when there is a major crisis boiling in your life... Lord, have mercy on you.
Intercessors never quit. Intercessors don't know the meaning of quitting.
Intercessors are like Daniel. They pray under threat of death. They pray when the whole world says "stop praying." They pray as a matter of principle. It is the right thing to do. Always. And if they go to prison, or a lion's den, or a dungeon, or a hangman's noose, oh, well. God is in control.
Intercessors are like Esther. "If I perish, I perish." But I am going to pray and see what happens. Intercessors figure they have nothing to lose. And they don't.
Intercessors are like the Syrophonecian woman. When she got a "NO" for an answer, she argued with God and won. She made her case and stayed on the job. Jesus changed His mind and performed her miracle, even after He had already refused to.
Intercessors are like the man who pounded on his neighbor's door at midnight, asking for food for his unexpected guests. You have to swallow your pride. You have to throw convention out the window. You have to convince yourself that it doesn't matter what time it is or what anybody is going to think. Your need is bigger than any of the rest of the facts, and you are going to knock on heaven's door until Somebody answers.
If I have ever learned anything about God over these years, it is that He really is in charge, and He does all things well. You can't second-guess God's strategy. He knows the end from the beginning, and He promised that He would never leave us or forsake us - that He would be with us as long as we would be with Him.
So what do you do if the thing or the person you are making intercession for does NOT get what you are praying for? You just keep praying. Either you are going to get a break-through, or you are going to get whatever alternative that God decides is better than what you are praying for. You can't doubt God's response. I know that whatever God does - after I pray - is what He really wants to do, so I accept the answer and give Him praise.
And as far as Dixie is concerned, as much as I miss her, and my kids and grandkids miss her, I know that she is, at this very moment, standing in the Presence of Jesus Christ, and the holy angels, and all the saints who have already gone on. It's really hard to believe that there is anything wrong with that. She is home free. How can I complain?
One morning, Ezekiel was prophesying before all Israel, warning of God's harsh judgments that were about to come upon Israel for their sins. In the afternoon, Ezekiel's wife died. That night, Ezekiel was back out in the streets prophesying again. Sometimes, that is just the way God does things.
Keep on making intercession. The heartening thing about it all is that you ARE going to see many, many victories. You ARE going to get the answer you were praying for again and again and again.
Sometimes God is going to say "NO," and there isn't going to be a thing in this world you can do to change His mind. But more times than not, God is going to be pleased to give you the very desires of your heart. That is why you must make a career out of being an intercessor. By the grace of God, you are going to make a difference in your world.
Say it out loud: "I am an intercessor!"