"I need to borrow your faith for this one." - Words I've used on several occasions in conversations during the hardest and most trying seasons of life.
In Persist I, I reflected on unanswered prayer and stubborn hope in the midst of difficult circumstances in our own lives. I reflected on prayer and our faith being in the nature and character of the one we are asking. Persistence looks like continuing to call on the name of God despite the difficulty of the present or the weight of the past. It looks like continuing to seek God on a matter past the usual time - even when the miracle hasn't manifested in the timeline we overtly or unconsciously gave God. It means choosing to apply God's truth again to the places that currently taunt and torment us and silence our prayers for a breakthrough.Part I was focused on persisting in prayer in our own lives. Part II is about persisting in prayer for the lives of others.
Every few months during our discipleship program, we ask the girls to write out their prayers on sticky notes. As a team, we collect these prayers, put them in a jar and later list them out to intentionally pray for the young ladies we have a privilege to grow alongside. On one such occasion at the beginning of the year, I stared at the mason jar full of prayers on my desk. These were handwritten, heartfelt requests of girls who needed God to intervene in their different situations - in their family dynamics, finances, mental health, sexuality and education. They had situations that had persisted past the usual time. Their faith to write out what they needed prayer for was a reach for intercession. It was a request for someone who would stand in the gap and pray for them. Someone whose faith they could borrow and lean on for their impossible situations. Those who would persist on their behalf when it was no longer comfortable and convenient.
I've had such friends in my own life. In fact, I've not just had such friends, I have depended on such friends for the last several years. I've depended on them during the times that I have needed to see God in my circumstances. Times when my own faith has been weak, when I have lost the ability to pray for myself or have sunk into hopelessness and struggled to believe that God would ever change specific situations going on in my life. I've needed midnight friends.
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11: 5-10
In Luke 11, we are introduced to the parable of the friend at midnight. Over the course of this year, I've reflected a lot on what it means to be a friend at midnight to others. There are times we will have friends, family, acquaintances and strangers, online and offline, who reach out requesting prayer for seemingly hopeless situations. Take some time to reflect on the people in your circles. Chances are, several of them may be going through significant trials this season - health concerns for them and their loved ones, loss of a loved one, prolonged unemployment, strained family relationships, moral and mental struggles...the list goes on.
The Lord has been my own friend at midnight. He's remained alert, attentive, available and compassionate at all hours and in all circumstances. He is the God who inclines His ear to listen to our cries (Psalm 116). He is the God who keeps track of our sorrows, collects our tears and kept record of them all (Psalm 56). He's the God who invites us to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking.
The midnight knock of others may come at an inconvenient time. The parable narrates the friend who went at midnight. One who went past normal visiting times. This friend had come unexpectedly. Part of what this parable has reminded me is that these requests will sometimes be costly, uncomfortable and inconvenient.
The midnight knock came with a request for the supply of a need. We may have a friend at midnight who knows their need for God in their circumstance. We may have a friend at midnight who may exhibit a lot of symptoms of other issues and they may not even recognise that beyond all the symptoms on display in their life choices and struggles, their real root issue is that they ultimately are in need of Jesus. In one of the "I am" statements of Jesus He calls Himself the Bread of Life (John 6).
If we are called to ask, seek and knock, are we willing to pound on heaven's door in prayer persistently for needs other than our own?
For some of us, it may be easy to persist for ourselves, our situations and needs. We may never even actively and consistently think about anyone else's needs. Every now and again, it may be a fleeting thought and we drop a prayer emoji or "I will be praying" message without these words ever transforming into deeds.
For others of us, it may be difficult to persist for others when we can't even persist for ourselves. How could we possibly even begin to pray for anyone else when we can't even pray for ourselves? Our own lives may feel so spiritually dull, dry or dead that we feel like we have neither anything to offer nor the strength to carry anyone else. How could we possibly get them to Jesus when we can't even get ourselves to Him?
Persisting in prayer for others may look like responding to the midnight knock of others. It may also look like the men who carried the paralysed man on a stretcher and tore through the roof to get him to Jesus.
And some men were carrying a man on a stretcher who was paralysed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. But when they did not find any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. And seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”
Jesus saw the faith of the men who lowered the paralysed man through the roof and not the faith of the paralysed man himself. I think about places where my own pain has paralysed me, and where my spiritual sickness has immobilised me. It's taken the faith of friends. I've reminisced of times on friends' couches, backyard porches, passenger's seats that I've cried in about painful situations. I've thought about friends, acquaintances and strangers who through messages, voice notes and calls have borne my burdens as their own even when distance has been in the way.
I'm a product of those who have offered me the Living Word and the Bread of Life as nourishment to keep me going. Those who have committed themselves to reminding me who my God is when defeat has deafened me. Those who were willing to be inconvenienced and made time for me during my difficult times. Those whose faith I have borrowed when my own faith has been depleted. Those who've made the load of this weary, weather-worn sojourner lighter by how they have born my burdens as their own and carried me to Jesus when I've been unable to get myself to Him.
I've needed reminders that I am not alone and that being born again into the family of God.
"I need to borrow your faith for this one. I feel defeated. I can't pray about this anymore. I have lost hope. I don't see God changing this. Please pray for me." These have been the words I've used on several occasions in conversations during the hardest and most trying seasons of life.
I've resigned myself from always having to be the spiritually strong one. Our position on this journey of life is never static. Sometimes, you are the one responding to someone's midnight knock on the door and are the one carrying others and lowering them through roofs to get to Jesus. Other seasons, you're the one knocking at midnight, knocked down by life, paralysed by pain and in need of someone carrying you to Jesus.
I'm still learning to pray for others' situations with the same fervour and persistence that I pray for myself. I'm learning that in times when I feel like I have nothing to put before the friend who may be knocking at my door, I know where to knock. I have my Father's address and no prayer is ever raised in vain. I'm learning that in some seasons, my own faith may be stirred back up when I lend my faith to others' situations. And as I let them borrow my faith to see their breakthrough and healing, I get to see the God of midnight at work in their circumstances. During these times, I too am reminded that God is in the neighbourhood and He will surely not pass me by.
For you, who reads this and whose heart has been reminded of the situations of those around you that need persistent prayer and those who in this season need to respond to your friend's midnight knock, here's a prayer:
"Lord, when I feel like I have nothing to offer my friend in their midnight hour,
I pray that You may fill me up with more of You,
more of Your compassion, more of Your Truth.
By Your Spirit, help me grow in Christlikeness,
interceding for others as You have modelled by how You have and continue to intercede for me.
Teach me to stop and pay attention to the needs of others.
Help me not get so lost in my ambition or pain that I become deafened to the midnight cries of others
and blinded to their present paralysed state.
Deliver me from selfishness or busyness,
teaching me to take up the burdens of my brothers and sisters as my own.
Teach me how to embrace inconvenience, for You, Lord have shown up for me in inconvenient times.
Help me be a beacon of light when I come across those who are in darkness.
Help me be an arrow pointing heavenward when I come across those who are feeling lost.
Give me the spiritual stamina to tear through roofs and to use my faith to fight for others and get them to You.
Teach me how to carry others to You without needing to be glorified for my spiritual strength.
Teach me how to be humble enough to ask for help when I myself have no spiritual strength left.
When I feel like I have neither the right words nor the comfort that they may need,
Teach me to practice the ministry of presence, being a listening ear and an available shoulder,
That even in the shadows and in the storms those around me may know they do not stand alone.
And even as I practice the ministry of presence, continue to teach me how to close the door behind me,
Speaking to you about others on their behalf,
Even when they may never know it and may never thank me for it.
May I ultimately always remember you alone, Lord, are their nourishment and sustenance and not myself.