When hearing the Father’s heart broke mine
At the age of twelve, I discovered that I enjoyed praying as it was a thrill to hear God speak to me. As I matured as a Christian, I found myself stepping into new territory: intercession. I slowly learnt what it meant to approach the cross in prayer and petition (Philippians 4:6) and began experiencing the intensity of shouldering the burdens from carrying the heart of an intercessor. As intercession took a larger stake in my life, I found it “dreadful” as it often left my heart naked and broken.
Have you ever been so heartbroken that it brought you to your knees? Have you prayed prayers that caused tears to burn down your cheeks as you were in a state of desperation? What about a time when prayer didn’t locate a solution to any of the problems prevalent in someone’s life?
In 2008, a 13-year-old girl walked into my life when I was a cell group leader. As I joyfully shepherded her, she began to talk about her spiritual baggage and inner hurts that accumulated over the years. Traces of these baggage started to manifest in her fractured relationships, gang involvement, rebellion, and sexual sin, just to name a few. She threatened to run away from home on many occasions and consistently attended “underage” parties where sex, drugs, compromising conduct and temptations were rampant.
One evening, while at a friend’s 21st birthday party, I received a phone call which broke my heart. Amidst the noise, I heard her wailing on the other end of the line, defeated, and all ready to leave her house after an altercation with her parents. I recall running to a corner, trying to calm her down so I could understand the situation better. She was barely able to speak coherently. While worry and anxiety ran through my veins, I put her on hold briefly, borrowed a friend’s phone, and called my leaders to ask for advice and wise counsel (for I had lost mine to panic). Thankfully, after much consoling and persuasion, I managed to convince her to stay home.
As I made my way back home that night, my heart started to carry a heavy load for her, and I helplessly eked out desperate prayers, pleading with God to bring peace and reconciliation to her household. While I expected answers as to why this was happening to her, all I got from God was: “Travail.” He instructed me to press deeper in prayer, and I obeyed. I spent the following day, tearfully fasting and praying as God tore my heart for her, interceding for specific needs and claiming back all that had been stolen from her life.
As I travailed through times where God broke my heart for things which were laden on His, I learnt three important lessons:
Let Him; be a willing vessel at all cost
I have learnt that prayer is not always about me. Intercession reminded me that the focus is not on me because the prayers that I make are not directed to me, but to a good God who is more than able to turn things around in an instant. Whenever I catch myself thinking about how a situation is affecting me — emotionally, mentally, and spiritually — more than the person God laid on my heart, I stop myself. I want to prevent myself from praying as if God “owes” me something because I responded to Him in obedience.
In Luke 22:39-46, Jesus prayed the most humbling preparatory prayer on the Mount of Olives before he was arrested: “In anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Jesus not only modelled intercession for us, He also modelled obedience as He willingly bore our sins at the cross. Surely we should follow Jesus’ example of obedience and availability in hearing the Father’s heart. My prayer is that every form of resistance or inertia will dissipate and that we will allow Jesus to break our hearts for what breaks His.
More than the problems that need solutions, prayer is a journey with a sovereign God who never lets you walk alone
In all honesty, I used to think that interceding was a lonely, daunting task from God. I had the mentality that it was a mission that I needed to fulfil alone, earning a badge of honour in the process. Romans 8:26 transformed this spurious thought of mine as it reveals: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness… but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Akin to a power bank charging a phone at the back-end while the phone remains in use, the Spirit strengthens you and is interceding for you as you intercede for others! So whenever you grow weary or discouraged, remember that you have a God who empowers you to do what he appoints you to do.
Pray until breakthrough comes
Some of you might be close to giving up praying altogether — maybe the situation is still bleak after much prayer, or someone dear you have been interceding for has not known Christ. I, too, have been in situations where I was running out of breath and on the brink of surrender; I have been praying for the same girl for seven years, yet she is still lost and struggling today. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is possibly the hardest verse to claim in seasons of heartbreak, but I would like to encourage you to “always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong in Christ Jesus.” Even when heaviness stares you in the face, may you take time to notice the sprouts of hope in your situation. I have known hope and joy in seasons of intercession because I learnt to celebrate the little breakthroughs. Whenever my sheep shares about a good day with her parents or stood firm and didn’t fall into temptation, I celebrate and give thanks with her. With time, joy and gratefulness will lead you to perceive intercession through new eyes.
When I was shambling in the arid valleys of intercession, God spoke to me as I travailed for my estranged sheep: “Natalie, through all the times you indulged in your sin, entertained your fears rather than My faith, and gave in to the standards of this world, I warred for you, I fasted for you, I travailed for you in spite of your failures. From the very day you were born right up till this day, I would choose to do it all over again. With each new day, I will continue to war for you, fast for you, and travail over you. Even if you fail me over and over again, I will still love you.“
As I heard His gentle voice speak to me, I found my heart buckling under the weight of His burdens for those struggling around me. I found myself needing and wanting to love them all the more because Jesus never gave up praying for me when I was stuck in the grimy pit.
Today, I believe God wants to lift your weary heart and restore you back to the bosom of His love. He longs to rejuvenate your blurry eyes, encouraging you that He is sharpening you through your persistent prayers.
Hang in there prayer warriors, for Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” May you carry such a hope and patiently await the day that those you have been interceding for will see the glory and love of Jesus in their lives and come running back to Him.