When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.
It’s not an easy task these days for intercessors to try and douse all the wildfires springing up everywhere—the fires of this (and that and that and that) sick person, of people in terrible bondage, suffering, and danger, of financial crises, of feuding families, genders, and ethnic groups, of nations running amuck.
We’ve expended our time, our energies, our compassions, asking God to intervene on behalf of countless lives and situations. Day after day we pour out our tearful and often anguished requests. But before one wildfire gets snuffed out, another three are kindled.
Smokey the Bear couldn’t keep up this pace.
But God wants people healed. He wants them delivered. He wants them to prosper and be in good health, to live at peace with one another as much as is possible.[i] How can we not contend for those things? Out of concern for the welfare of others, I am protecting through prayer as many as I can. I am carrying them as far as my faith will stretch. As are you. I’m praying for God to deliver them from all sorts of plights, and by His grace I will keep at it until my last breath.
But if we intercessors aren’t careful, we’ll wear ourselves out trying to right every wrong, keep everything and everyone in proper working order. Overwhelming prayer needs will eventually make us want to throw up our hands and walk away from it all. Where will we and those we pray for be then if we let wildfires burn unattended? We must keep at it. But how?
Scripture says that long ago, the word of God formed the heavens and earth out of water and by means of water. Because sin became rampant, that world was then flooded through the same. All the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened.[ii] Everything perished. Second Peter chapter 3 says that by that same word (of God), the present heavens and earth have been stored up (reserved) for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly people.[iii]
Can a God-ordained forest fire be doused with a squirt bottle? It seemed that my fire-fighting prayers had need of assistance. My sights needed a slight adjustment.
So, what was this slight adjustment I needed, to keep me from burning out? Should I modify my prayers to compensate for the unaccountable lull between my prayer requests and answers? Do I invest in firefighter protective gear and keep fighting people’s problems head on? Maybe if I lowered my expectations to avoid getting overwhelmed. But wouldn’t that allow the painful here and now to compromise the absolute substance of things I hope for and the reality of things not yet materialized?[iv]
“What is it you’re after, Debbie?” I asked myself. “What is the crux of your expectations when you pray for people?” Was I expecting a cushioned life for my loved ones and for those I intercede for? Was I hoping they would be free from worry, from pain and disappointments, free from any kind of upset or disruption in their daily lives? If that was the sole focus of my prayers, I had set myself up for sure failure because new crises keep striking matches above already overflowing tinderboxes. Jesus said to expect that . . .
In the world you will have tribulation.[v]
Or could it be that what I want above all else—the bottom line of what I really desire for people (and myself) when I pray—is for Jesus to meet us on our individual roads to Emmaus?[vi] When the pain is raw, and the fire of confusion and disappointment vie for lordship over us, what better healing balm than to suddenly recognize that the Lord is in our midst? Where wildfires meant to destroy are turned into burning hearts of love because He’s revealed Himself in the thick of our painful temporal, for the duration of our painful temporal, and beyond our painful temporal.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned . . .