Bucket lists are beautiful. They show the open world we live in. Reflections of opportunity, freedom and unending potential of divine richness in God´s creation. Yes, praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow!
Obviously, they also show in stark clarity, that we´re not in paradise yet – and that we have to deal with our human limitations of time and space, but also of chance, seasons and our passing life and approaching deadline. Sometimes, they will remind us of missed chances, missed boats and worse.
Still, I love lists. Not just shopping lists or to-do-lists, but all sorts of lists in and out of season. One of these is my ever-growing, changing and sometimes also shortening list of prayer. It´s a way to help me out as my memory fails. Funny enough from early days in my ministry, this prayer list has been a mainstay – and kept people in mind and focus, who really mattered. Something of a reality-check compared with the highly fluctuating acquaintances in fleeting lives.
But it´s not just a memory-stick of sorts, but also a helpful guideline as God answers prayers. Sometimes people reach their destination and we don´t have to remind God about attending them. Sometimes our calling changes and with it our responsibilities, duties and tasks. That will reflect in these prayer lists too. Most of the time however, this list will grow steadily covering larger areas, time spans and off course people in the church and outside of it too. I think, that´s one of the things to look forward to during retirement – we´ll have more and more time to spend in watchful prayer for those, entrusted to our prayers. I know from my fathers – physical and spiritual ones – how they spent more and more time in prayer for the tasks at hand – in the holy Christian church, especially in … and all it´s bishops, pastors, teachers and missionaries, deaconesses in churches, dioceses, districts, congregations, seminaries, colleges, schools, hospitals etc. and for all people in need, families, lonely, old and young, poor, sick and dying… There´s a lot to pray for as the apostle writes…
First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all, revealing God’s purpose at his appointed time.
For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle—I am telling the truth; I am not lying—and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. So I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute.St. Paul´s letter to St. Timothy chapter 2:1-8
Well, reading the piece on „Intercession“ by James S. Stewart), I was reminded of this and was encouraged as I think of all the faithful prayers being raised in this time of quarantine. Suddenly, the church has opportunity to dedicate itself even more to this task – “Watch and prayer” – even after the Lententide and after the normal time of fasting is over. Obviously, there are many tasks unfinished and undone. Therefore let us be mindful, watch and pray – even as this churchman from Scotland encourages us:
Whether Your congregation be large or small a great part of Your task (as a vital member of the Priesthood of all believers WW) on its behalf lies in the realm of intercession. I do not simply mean asking God to bless Your people collectively – though, of course, You will do that – I mean praying for every family, each separate soul, by name. Let me assure You that this suggestion is entirely practicable, whether You have a hundred members or two thousand. Method and system, of course, are necessary; but is there any reason why prayer should not be methodical?
Take Your communion roll – or the family birthday calendar – or the area telephone book – or the town clerks registry. Use it as a directory of intercession. Single out, say, three families each day. Mention each member of these homes by name. Visualize their circumstances. Think of their work, their difficulties, their temptations. Remember very specially any who may have been growing indifferent to religious ordinances and drifting away from the church. Bear them individually upon Your heart to the mercy-seat.
From such concrete and particular intercession two results will follow. On the one hand, there will be a blessing for those for whom You pray. On the other hand, there will be revealed to You from time to time, even as You intercede for them, practical ways of helpfulness, new avenues of sympathetic understanding, opportunities of showing to this one of that other something of the kindness of God for Jesus´ sake.
And when You look into their faces on Sunday, as You lead their worship and proclaim to them afresh the all-sufficient grace of Christ, that background of Your hidden intercessions, of Your pleading for them name by name, will lift Your words and wing them with love and ardor and reality.
God will not refuse the kindling flame when secret prayer has laid its sacrifice upon the altar. And You will prove in Your own experience the truth to which that great soldier of the cross, Samuel Rutherford, gave expression long ago: “I seldom made an errand to God for another, but I got something for myself.”Dobberstein Pg. 376-7
Perhaps You know a good English translation for this hymn by the Reformer? Especially the 3rd stanza goes a long way to underline the previous… “He can save all those, who approach him. Lord have mercy!”
1) Jesus Christus, unser Heiland,
der den Tod überwand,
die Sünd hat er gefangen.
2) Der ohn Sünden war geboren,
trug für uns Gottes Zorn,
hat uns versöhnet,
dass Gott uns sein Huld gönnet.
3) Tod, Sünd, Leben und auch Gnad,
alls in Händen er hat;
er kann erretten
alle, die zu ihm treten.
Martin Luther 1524.