“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43–45).
Jesus brought intercessory prayer and love together in the Sermon on the Mount when He charged His hearers: “Love your enemies and pray for those persecute you.” The two phrases in that sentence do not describe two different activities but rather one activity in two different ways. In other words, one way to love another person, even an enemy, is to pray for them. Or to reverse that idea, prayer for another person is a gift of love. Intercession is love on its knees.
The apostle Paul was a love-motivated intercessor. Burdened for the people of Israel he experienced “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in [his] heart,” to the point of being willing to be “cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of [his] brothers, those of [his] own race” (Romans 9:2–3). Motivated by that “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” he prayed, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved (Romans 10:1). That’s intercession birthed in a heart of love.
A Canaanite woman prayed a prayer one day that was born out of love. She came to Jesus crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession” (Matthew 15:22). Her pleas, which Jesus eventually granted, were motivated by a deep, loving concern for her suffering child. Her pleas represented the truest kind of intercession—a passionate request born of love.
–Adapted from Praying God’s Heart (Prayers that Make a Difference) by Alvin VanderGriend. This brand new resource will be available in the Fall at the PrayerShop Bookstore.
Father, please fill my heart with great love so that my prayers will be more passionate and heart felt! May I pray as the Canaanite woman did, pleading on behalf of people because of the depth of my love and concern for them. I want my prayers to be gifts of love, touching Your heart and connecting You to the lives and situations of people who need You desperately. Help me to especially love my “enemies” in ways that will make Your grace known to them through me!
Praise “God, who is rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4). Give thanks that, in that great mercy, God has made you alive with Christ even when you were dead in transgressions (2:5). Confess situations where you’ve been unwilling to let God’s mercy flow through you to someone who has wronged you. Commit to being merciful, knowing that this is where you also are shown mercy (Mt. 5:7). Ask God for the love and strength to be a merciful person.
Pray for missionaries who are introducing people to the God who saves, not because of righteous human actions but because of his mercy (Titus 3:5). Ask God to make his mercy-bearing believers merciful to one another.
–Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend (Click on the blue title for more information about this resource).