Pauline

I went in to pray for Katie as I do most Fridays. Nevin, her husband, told me that there was a new aid there today. The plan was to warn her that I was there to pray and that she could join if she wanted. God had different plans for us that day.

Katie is a young wife and mother of two young kids. In 2016 she experienced a traumatic brain injury because of mistakes made by doctors in the ER. They told us she’d never come out of the coma and that she’d be a vegetable the rest of her life. So we prayed. She eventually came out of the coma. She eventually became responsive. They told us she’d never get off of the trach. So we prayed. She now breathes on her own. They told us she’d always need to be in a care facility. So we prayed. She returned to her home in September 2020. She still doesn’t have control over most of her body or her speech. She still can’t eat food. She still needs a lot of care. So we keep praying that God would continue to heal her. (I invite you to pray with us for her complete healing.)

I visit Katie on Fridays to pray with her and for her. Robin, her mom, is usually there with me along with Katie’s 6-year-old daughter. But this time it was just me and Katie’s aid. So far, all of Katie’s aids have been French-speaking west African women who speak with a thick accent. They have all been Christians and all have joined in quietly in the background as we pray for Katie. This day was Pauline’s first time being Katie’s aid.

I introduced myself and asked if she wanted to pray with me. She said that she did and she was emphatic about it. I figured she would pray in the background as the other aids did. I was wrong. As I began praying for Katie, Pauline stood to her feet and raised up her arms. At first she mostly just agreed with what I was praying but I could sense that something was different. Pauline prayed with tremendous faith. The power of God filled the room as she and I prayed together.

Then, as I got toward the end of my prayers, Pauline began to get louder. She stepped over to Katie’s bed, kneeled down, placed her hands on the bed and began to intercede. And I mean REALLY intercede. She wasn’t launching “wishful thinking” kinda prayers. She was dropping bombs in the Spirit. She was praying for Katie, who she had never met before and doesn’t know, with a fervor that was palpable. She was on her knees crying out to the Lord for Katie’s healing. She was praying with power, with boldness, and with faith and trust. It was clear she has spent a LOT of time on her knees. The only thing I could do was kneel down with her.

As she and I prayed back and forth for the next few minutes, it was incredible. She was a true prayer warrior and she was going to battle for Katie–a stranger but a sister in Christ. When we finished and got up off the ground, I gave her a hug. She started the morning an unknown African woman from Cameroon and I an unknown white man from America. But by the end, we experienced the “unity of the Spirit”(Ephesians 4:3). She was family. I was her brother and she was my sister. There is nothing more unifying than the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that bonds people together who are so very different than the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the beauty of the Church!

I asked her about herself and she mentioned that her ministry was intercession. She was a member of a global prayer chain connecting French-speaking Christians from America, Canada, Europe, and west Africa. She also said that, originally, she wasn’t going to accept the job of being Katie’s aid because she lives an hour away. But now she understood why she was there. She was there to pray for Katie. Before I left she promised to put Katie on the international prayer chain. So, now people from all the world are praying for a miracle for Katie. God is good!

During our prayer time together, the Lord showed me something about myself and Pauline. In the world’s system of privilege, I–a white American man–am at the top, and she–an French-speaking African women–is near the bottom. Even in the religious system of the Church, I am a pastor who ministers publicly and she is a medical aid worker who works behind-the-scenes. But God’s Kingdom is an upside-down Kingdom.

It was clear from our prayer time, and from the years she has spent on her knees, that she was the one with special access to the throne room of God. She, not I, had the VIP All-Access pass into the Presence of God that morning. Her faith was so much more powerful than mine, her “privilege” in the Kingdom so much greater than mine. It was an honor for me to pray with her. I was in school and she was the instructor. It’s yet another reminder that “favor” in the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with one’s race, sex, or socio-economic status. It has nothing to do with whether you are a pastor on staff at a church or a medical aid worker. It has everything to do with surrender. It has everything to do with faith.

I hope to pray with Pauline again.

Mediation

So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?”

1 Samuel 2:23-25

Eli had his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, ministering with him as priests. But these two sons were engaged in the two most notorious scandals a minister can be involved in. They were stealing from the offerings people were giving to the Lord and they were sleeping with women who were serving at the place of sacrifice. Money scandals and sex scandals have long been tabloid fodder for people in positions of power.

Eli finally confronts his sons and, even though they don’t listen, Eli’s confrontation is a foreshadow of Christ. It is one thing to ask God or a judge to mediate conflict between two people. But who mediates the conflict when we’ve sinned against God? God has become the one who has been sinned against and the only one who has enough authority to mediate between Himself and other. The implication here from Eli is that there is no one to intercede for us if we sin against God and so a guilty verdict will surely be the result.

The beauty of the gospel is that God saw this reality and decided to do something about it on our behalf. He loves us so much He couldn’t leave things this way. So He sent Jesus–God in the flesh–to become the mediator between us and God. Jesus took our guilty verdict upon Himself and in turn gave us the inheritance that was His alone. He took upon Himself what only we deserved and then gave us what only He deserved. He identified with the consequence of our sin–the crucifixion, death, and burial–and then gave us the opportunity not only to identify with Him in the resurrection–giving us new life–but also the chance to be seated with Him in the heavenly places–allowing us to reign with Him–receiving His inheritance and authority.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus…

1 Timothy 2:5

…Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 9:5

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 6:3-4

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…

Ephesians 2:4-6

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God…The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:14, 16-17

Can you see that the Mediator Jesus did not come to make sure both sides, us and God, got a fair deal? What Jesus got was not fair. It was sacrifice. What we got was not fair. It was grace. Justice was satisfied as our sin was paid for, but the gospel goes way beyond justice. Because of His great love for us, God put all of His chips on the table. He went all in to bring about our reconciliation to Him.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

This is why we call it good news! In moments where I am just quietly driving and reflecting on the goodness of God, there are times when the absolute beauty of the gospel hits me. I become overwhelmed with the grace and kindness of the Father. I become undone by the reality that God gave me what only Jesus deserved because Jesus took upon Himself what only I deserved. The weight of the love involved in that exchanged becomes so real that I break down crying in the car.

This is the gospel! We don’t earn it with good works or religious duties. We simply believe it. We believe and trust in what Jesus did for us, and it changes everything!

Jesus, thank you for this beautiful exchange! I don’t deserve all that You’ve given me, but I receive it by faith. I surrender my life to you, Jesus, and I invite the Holy Spirit to come and change me from the inside out. Your love for me is overwhelming! Your grace toward me is life-changing! Help me to live from that place of being seated with you at the right hand of the Father. My life is Yours! Amen.

Praying in the Spirit

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Jude 1:20-21

One way to build ourselves up and keep ourselves in God’s love is to pray in the Spirit. Paul mentions to the Ephesians that praying in the Spirit is one of our spiritual weapons as we put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:18).

What does it mean to pray in the Spirit?

I believe praying in the Spirit means that we are submitting to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we pray. It is going beyond a list of petitions and into a kind of praying that hears from and connects to the Holy Spirit. This includes praying in tongues and normal intercession. Both can be forms of praying in the Spirit.

When teaching the Corinthian church about tongues, Paul writes:

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit… Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves…

1 Corinthians 14:2, 4

So we know that there is a self-edification, a building up, that happens when a person is praying to God in tongues. It has a way of supernaturally strengthening the spirit of the one praying. I have experienced this firsthand.

Do you know that feeling of connection and intimacy that you have with the Lord after a great worship service, a great sermon, a long prayer walk in the woods, or time in solitude with the Lord on the beach? Most of the time it takes time for our minds to calm and our spirits to begin to connect with the Lord. But after a while, there is a intimacy we feel with Jesus. We begin to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Now imagine it took about half an hour to go from “normal life” to that sense of real intimacy with the Lord. What happens with tongues is that it takes you to that place of intimacy in 30 seconds rather than 30 minutes. This is why it is listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:10. It’s a great tool to have.

Tongues quickly draws you into the supernatural Presence of God, which is why it is so edifying for the person who is praying in tongues. It’s also really useful when you need to pray for someone, and you need to connect with the Lord to hear from Him, but you don’t have an hour to soak in His Presence.

But this isn’t the only way to pray in the Spirit. Paul encourages the Corinthian Christians to pray in tongues and to pray with their mind.

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.

1 Corinthians 14:14-15

So when we pray in the Spirit by praying in tongues, it is as if our spirit partners with the Holy Spirit and takes the lead. We don’t understand what we are praying, but there is a building up happening in our soul and spirit. When we pray in the Spirit by praying with our mind, it is as if our mind partners with the Holy Spirit and our thoughts are led by the Spirit.

Jude advises us that if we want to keep our faith strong and keep ourselves in God’s love, then we need to regularly be praying in the Spirit.

Eternal Intercession

but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Hebrews 7:24-25

Jesus is alive. He is at the right hand of God the Father interceding for us. While the enemy hurls accusation after accusation at us, Jesus declares what is true about us. Paul said it to the Romans this way:

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Romans 8:32-34

Have you ever had a friend tell you that they are praying for you? And not just in the casual way. But you know this friend is truly interceding for you night and day. It is humbling. Praying is one of the most loving acts that we can do for one another.

What these passages of scripture are saying is even better than that! Jesus Himself is interceding for us. He is advocating for us before the Father. He is representing us to the Father. He is our eternal high priest that goes into the Most Holy Place. He is our sacrificial offering, our bread of presence, our light from the lamp stands. He is our scapegoat and our spotless lamb.

This is why Paul can declare with confidence:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31, 37-39