After moving into our home in Wyomissing, PA in 1993, we began the process of getting settled into our new situation. As usual, I moved ahead quickly and began to work in the office earlier than Barbara was ready for it.
Although she had been fully in favor of this move to the US, the adjustment was very hard for her. She had left behind a multitude of friends of many nationalities, a rich teaching ministry, a clearly defined role as a field leader’s wife, and not least, the Middle Eastern culture she had come to love.
Here in the US, she had no clear role, no teaching opportunities and a suburban culture where neighbors rarely showed themselves except for occasional glimpses when they waved at us from a distance
This was so different from the hospitality-rich situation we’d lived in for the last thirteen years. It took her a whole year to adjust. When she and Nat felt the loss of life in Tur.key, they would play Middle Eastern music, drink Middle Eastern tea and cry a little together.
In contrast, my role as assistant to the Overseas Director was clearly defined and I jumped right into it. We basically acted as administrators and pastors for all the overseas workers. Along with another coworker, the three of us divided up the twenty-one countries in which we had workers. Barbara and I were responsible for the countries from Egypt to Tajikistan. This included Albania, Egypt, our country, the UAE, Oman, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
When I arrived at the office, it had no email, so I signed up for Compuserve (one of the first internet providers) to speed up communication. Since the office telephone system did not support connections to the internet, I would spend two to three hours in the evening doing email correspondence at home.
The foundation of our work was intercession, and I persisted in the practice of praying regularly for all those within my spiritual responsibility.
Whenever there has been a shift in my assignment, I have made a corresponding shift in my prayer list. While in our Middle Eastern country, I prayed for each of our workers six days a week, and each day I had different requests for each one. I did not pray through my list on Sundays because serious intercession is hard work and I took a rest from it on one day.
This list had expanded over the years as we got to know more about each person and his or her needs, weaknesses and strengths. Now that I had a larger area of responsibility, the individual workers in our country dropped to a lower level of priority on my prayer list. At the top now were the leaders in each country for which we were responsible. I prayed for each leader six days a week. Individual workers in each country also were prayed for next, but only on two days a week–there were too many to pray for each of them every day. I now also included as priority the staff in the home office.
After a while I found that praying for so many people so frequently actually fractured my thinking and my feelings. So, I divided my everyday list in half, praying through one half one day, the other half the next. That made it much more manageable.
This ongoing shift in the ordering of my prayer list has had a positive side effect: it keeps my praying fresh. To enhance this I also vary the way I use the list. Some days I only praise God for what He is doing in each person’s life, a statement of faith in our prayer-answering God.
Sometimes I pray my list from the bottom to the top or from the middle out in both directions. I work hard to avoid becoming mechanical in my prayers, to avoid the legalistic feeling that praying through my list makes me a better believer, or more righteous, or better than others. The list is simply a tool to assist me in being more effective in joining God in His work.
I later started to print out a fresh copy of my list each month thereby being able to make frequent additions and changes. Also, each week I use what I call my “blanket prayer” for all those on my list for that day, “covering” them with God’s biblical desires . Most of these blanket prayers are passages of Scripture. Here are some that I use, and which you may want to use in your own intercessory prayers:
Psalm 1: Be a fruitful believer
2 Pet 1:5-7: Use what God has provided
James 3:17: Have heavenly wisdom
1 Cor 13: Have Agape love
Gal 5:26: Have growing fruit of the Spirit
Ps 143:8-10: Surrender
Prayer is not easy for me by nature. Being a Connecticut Yankee, I grew up with a strong work ethic that put value on doing things. Prayer was not visibly “doing something” according to this value system, so I had to struggle against the emotional push to “get to work” instead of spending time in prayer.
One thing that helped me to overcome this natural negative view of prayer was to combine intercession with an activity. We lived three miles from the office, so I began to walk to work several days a week, praying throughout the hour it took to get there.
That combination helped to keep my prayers fresh, kept me in shape and kept me from spending money on gas. At the end of the day I would catch a ride home with another worker who lived near us, so it also provided time for good fellowship.
God has multiple reasons for prayer. One of them is that He uses it to change us. Through this growth in my prayer life, God was in the process of setting me free from my natural narrow and legalistic views, bringing me into an eternal, spiritual perspective on what is truly important and foundational.
As I pray for others, especially as I pray Scripture for them, the Holy Spirit brings new insights, convicts me of sin, gives direction, deepens my commitment and changes my desires. Intercession is one way to spend time in the light of God’s presence and that always brings transformation.
Prayer is, in one sense ,a statement of our weakness and an acknowledgment of God’s power. By spending time in intercession we admit that we are not capable of handling life on our own, even though it may appear to others or ourselves that we can. We are weak; embracing that fact in prayer plugs us into the infinitely rich power of God. Intercessory prayer is our primary response to God’s invitation to join Him in His work.
pic. Us in 1993