“He prayed like he knew us.”
I said this a few days ago after having a long conversation with a friend. When we finished talking, he prayed for me. And I had to stop and pause because my breath was caught in my chest.
“I’ll pray for you” is one of those things we say to a lot each other in the body of Christ. I hope we mean it. I suspect many times we do not. In those times, what we mean is that we hope things get better, or that we feel a measure of comfort, or that we don’t worry about the future. Even when we do pray, it is often with vague generalities. But not this time.
This time my friend prayed for me like he knew me. He prayed for my family and I by name, each one of us, and for each family member he prayed different things specific to their personality. He knows us, he loves us, and he prays as such.
It was an amazing thing to experience and to benefit from, for in a moment, I not only felt truly known and loved but also advocated for in a very specific way before the throne of God above. This is what we must pursue in the context of our groups in the local church.
We must not be content with the vague generalities that pass themselves off as prayer requests, but instead must know each other to the extent in which we can truly and deeply pray for one another. Of course, that kind of knowledge doesn’t come without risk, for all of us have at one time or another been the victims of betrayal. That kind of memory makes us gun-shy about what we do or do not disclose even in the body of Christ. But if you, like me, have the responsibility of leading a group, one of the ways we can serve our group is by taking that risk upon ourselves. It’s by sharing true needs and burdens, and in so doing, setting the expectation that here, in the church, we know each other and lift each other before the throne. Not generally, but specifically.
In thinking more about it, I have considered that this is but a shadow of what we have in Jesus who is praying for us even now. Hebrews 7:16 tells us that Jesus, the resurrected Jesus, now has an “indestructible life.” And what will He do with that indestructible life?
Just a few verses later, in Hebrews 7:25, we see that Jesus “is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them.”
This is no mere general intercession; consider the wonder that He, through whom all things were made and in whom all things live and move and have their being, is the same one who is praying for us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, the one who understands the darkest places of our hearts, the one who comprehends our deepest longings and motivations that even we ourselves don’t know, stands on our behalf before God.
Can you imagine the specific nature of that intercession? Can you hear Him call you by name and describe your situation in intricate detail? This is the intercession of Jesus. It’s not made up of filler words like “just” and “um”; it’s not comprised of vague generalities for comfort or provision; it is specific. It is loving. It is fervent.
Jesus, the one who is closer than a brother, prays like someone who knows you.
And loves you. So must we love one another.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua (10), Andi (7), and Christian (5). He serves as Director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. Find him on Twitter: @_MichaelKelley.