On Earth as in Heaven: Praying for Peace: 2008 Peace Sunday Packet
The Bible provides us with a rich and broad vision of intercessory prayer. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of examples of people offering prayer for others. Abraham pleads with God to spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; Moses asks God to spare the people after they worship the golden calf; Jeremiah exhorts the captive Israelites to pray for Babylon, the city to which they have been exiled. Throughout the Old Testament there are continual reminders to remember the orphans, widows, and strangers.
This emphasis on intercessory prayer was further strengthened by the example and teaching of Jesus himself. “Pray for those who persecute you,” Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, and then proceeded to do exactly that as he was being crucified: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
The early Christians believed that Jesus had passed this ministry of intercession along to them. The earliest pattern for corporate intercession is found in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, where he suggests that prayers should be offered for everyone, not just members of the faith community. Later descriptions of early Christian worship show clearly that the believers continued to take the ministry of intercession to heart, often spending a great deal of time in prayer for others.
The same was true for the early Anabaptists, who practiced frequent and fervent prayer. Intercessory prayer was seen as an integral part of their witness to the world, and was considered the privilege and responsibility of all who had been baptized. One of the earliest collections of Mennonite prayers includes prayers for “all who hate and persecute Thee and us and do harm unto us. Forgive them for they know not what they do. For that reason do not hold them guilty on our behalf.” The prayer then goes on to intercede for kings and all those in authority.
What do we believe about intercessory prayer? Does it make a difference in our world? Should the practice of corporate intercession be an integral part of our ministry to our world? Karl Barth has been quoted as saying, “To fold one’s hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” Through our corporate intercession we participate with God in bringing about God’s vision for our world. Through our continued cries of “hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” the people of God actively seek the in-breaking of God’s rule in our world.
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