You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. You see that my daughter gets a scholarship to your prestigious university and I’ll see that you get promoted to full professor. You give a significant gift to my political campaign and I’ll see that your company gets a juicy government contract. It’s a shadowy business, but it’s the stuff of the evening news. Fact is, it leaves people everywhere asking, Who can I trust? Is there anyone anywhere that doesn’t have an “angle,” who does a favor or offers a gift without expecting something in return?
The world is watching to see if this Christian thing works. Are there people anywhere who give without strings? Does the Christian faith have the power to transform normally selfish people into generous givers who ask nothing in return? Can the power of the gospel change a stingy, me-first mind set into a how-can-I-bless-someone-else attitude, asking nothing in return?
Leslie was nearly 7-months into an irregular pregnancy when she slipped and fell in the upstairs bathroom. Word spread quickly via the church hotline, and nearly a dozen of her fellow members arrived at the hospital to pray even before the pastor got there. Some of them sat up all night with Jeff, Leslie’s husband, until Leslie – and the baby – were out of danger. All night. Why would they do that? Because that’s what intercessors do. The thought of “repayment” never entered their minds.
We knew Norman and Sara when they had been married for more than sixty years, although through the last three of those years he had visited her daily at the Alzheimer Unit where she was a resident. When they said their last goodbye Norman was understandably devastated. The guys at the church signed up and took turns sleeping on his meager couch for a month and prayed him through his loss. Their payback? His tearful thanks was all he had to give. It was enough.
Intercessory prayer is one of the most unselfish of all the Christian disciplines. It’s a gift we deliver, often in private, asking nothing in return. It is one of the hallmarks of the prayer-saturated church and the beauty is that when God responds, He alone receives the credit. A church that has become a house of prayer did not do so to get honorable mention in the local newspaper. It is driven rather by members whose hearts have been made new by the time they have spent in the transformational presence of God.