I don’t do 5 a.m. well.
Never have. Despite all the years I had to get up for early hospital shifts. And I sure don’t do 5 a.m. on purpose now.
In fact, sometimes I wonder if God is up at 5 a.m.
(That’s a joke. Of course He is.) God never sleeps. He reminded me of that the day after Easter.
Monday, April 5, I woke up at 5 a.m.—not groggy, but wide awake. That was unusual enough. But I distinctly felt God smack me on the shoulder to get up.
When that happens, I know He wants me to pray; so I’d best get to it. “OK, God, I’m here. What should I pray? Who should I pray for?”
God gave me a name. I knew that person’s daily struggles but had no details of something new or different that might be going on.
What do you do when God gives you a missive to pray, but you don’t know what to pray for?
(Hint: He doesn’t fill in the blanks for you. If He did, you wouldn’t need faith to pray.)
All you know is you need to stand in the gap between God and the person in need. Is there a formula for that kind of prayer? I’m pretty sure God isn’t concerned about that when He says, “Hey! Get up and pray!”
Life lessons from shoulder smacks
Here’s what I’ve learned when God smacks me on the shoulder to pray:
- Thank God for the privilege of prayer.
- Pray through all you do know about that person and their circumstances.
- Ask God to provide courage, strength, and wisdom for whatever the person is going through now.
- Ask God to manifest His love and comfort to that person in a tangible way.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to pray for the things you don’t know to pray for (or don’t know how to pray for).
- Thank the Holy Spirit for taking your imperfect prayer and presenting it in a perfect way to Christ.
- Praise God for what He’ll do with that prayer.
Then find a way to encourage that person beyond prayer.
In this case, due to distance and other restrictions, I emailed her.
I share this not to lift myself up but to show how awesome God is. She emailed back, saying how perfect God’s timing was that I would reach out right then. She detailed how difficult Easter weekend had been. I don’t know who was more blessed by that email exchange. It built up faith in both of us to see God at work.
I can’t take credit for that.
I got smacked on the shoulder. I got up and prayed.
God initiated. I responded.
That’s the gist of the Christian life, isn’t it?
If that sounds simple (or simplistic), I think it is. On purpose. God’s blueprint for our life isn’t meant to be complicated.
Uncomplicate your prayers
Sometimes we complicate the Christian life, especially when it comes to prayer. Worried about saying the “right” thing? The Holy Spirit “translates” for you. He even prays in your place when you can’t find the words (Romans 8:26). Wonder whether God will hear your prayer? He promises that He does (1 Peter 3:12, 1 John 5:15). As Pastor David Jeremiah said recently, “You don’t need to know what to say; you just need to know where to turn.”
Everyone needs intercessory prayer. It’s a key element of fellowship. Jesus has been interceding for us 24/7/365 ever since He ascended into heaven (Hebrews 7:25). How cool is that? It’s a great object lesson, too. It’s part of how God builds up the Church and the Church builds up its body. (See Ephesians 6:19, 1 Timothy 2:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:2.)
A dramatic example of intercession, complete with “God smack,” is in Acts 12. Herod Agrippa—the third generation of Herods that persecuted early Christians—had killed James and imprisoned Peter. Agrippa intended to do away with Peter after Passover, so the Church was praying fervently on his behalf. God honored their prayers by sending an angel to deliver Peter. The angel had to smack the apostle on his side to wake him up and lead him out of prison. The Church was so amazed when Peter showed up at the house of Mary (the mother of John) that they forgot to open the gate!
In my simplistic mind, intercession boils down to obedience. And an occasional smack on the shoulder.
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Have you felt God’s nudge or a smack on the shoulder? What was the outcome? Share it in the comments!