A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day.
Offering intercessory prayer means nothing other than Christians bringing one another into the presence of God, seeing each other under the cross of Jesus as poor human beings and sinners in need of grace. Then, everything about other people that repels me falls away. Then I see them in all their need, hardship, and distress. Their need and their sin become so heavy and oppressive to me that I feel as if they were my own, and I can do nothing else but bid: Lord, you yourself, you alone, deal with them according to your firmness and your goodness.
Intercessory prayer is also a daily service Christians owe to God and one another. Those who deny their neighbors prayers of intercession deny them a service Christians are called to perform. Furthermore, it is clear that intercessory prayer is not something general and vague, but something very concrete. It is interested in specific persons and specific difficulties and therefore specific requests. The more concrete my intercessory prayer becomes the more promising it is…
All this proves that intercessory prayer is a gift of God’s grace for every Christian community and for every Christian. Because God has made us such an immeasurably great offer here, we should accept it joyfully. The very time we give to intercession will turn out to be a daily source of new joy in God and in the Christian congregation.
The paragraphs above were Saturday's, Sunday's and today's email devotionals by Bonhoeffer sent to me from Bible Gateway. Two days ago when I read the first paragraph I wasn't surprised when the Lord immediately brought to mind a dear friend who has chosen not to speak to me for about a year. This broken relationship has weighed heavily on my heart off and on and when I couldn't make sense out of any of it, I would just pray. I would pray for my friend. I would pray that I would have humility and see my contribution to the break down. I would ask God to work. The prayers ended up being wordless, because I didn't know what else to pray.
I read the three devotionals and thought I will just keep praying. She is my sister-in-Christ and I love her. We're sinners, but we're still a part of the Body and even if I can do no more towards restoration, I can still pray. I prayed fervently over the past three days, often times barely able to keep her off my mind.
While I was showering today I thought, "I'm going to see her today." Logically, I knew it was possible since we both homeschool and one of our local Universities was hosting a school performance of The Christmas Carol. We've been to many of these plays and I've never seen her there before, but today I just had a sense that would be different.
My girls and I arrived 45 minutes early. We live over an hour away from the University and driving in DC...you never know how much time you'll need. My girls and I went up to the foyer's balcony and waited for the theater doors to open. I sat on a bench while my girls kept running from their perch overlooking all the incoming attendees back to me to inform me of all they saw. When Tara came running back and told me that she saw the friend mentioned above and her two daughters, I knew the Lord had orchestrated this time.
They came up to the balcony and we greeted each other with hugs. My next door neighbor also came up at the same time and we joked that we should have carpooled. It made the situation lighthearted. We all sat next to each other and I chose to fall back and sit right next to my estranged friend. We fell into easy conversation about sicknesses, haircuts, homeschooling, our children, work, etc. We chatted easily for a long time. The show got a late start, but I think that was in His plan, as well.
At the end of the show we said our good-byes and hugged, but still ambled out to the parking lot together, commenting here and there as we walked. When we got near our parking spots my friend turned to me crying and asked for forgiveness. I, of course, broke into tears, but was honestly taken by surprise. (I missed the Lord's preparation of my heart in some ways.) Out stumbled some stupid words that I immediately knew would be hurtful; I was defensive, but through tears also let her know that I missed her friendship dearly. We talked a little more and then went our separate ways.
All afternoon the Holy Spirit was telling me to call and apologize for my defensive words. At first I thought, "but they were true and she didn't know it." He gently reminded me that truth wasn't needed. What was?
After dropping my girls at Grandma's I called my friend and apologized. It was exactly what was needed. My words had hurt and I was wrong. We then talked for two more hours about everything we had missed in each other's lives over the past year. I'm sure we didn't get it all packed in, but it was so good. How I missed my friend!
I just kept thinking, "Lord, this is a great Christmas gift! Thank You!"
We've promised to set up a time for dinner together once we get into the new year. I'm just so thankful that the Lord doesn't give up on us. These three devotionals have challenged me even more to pray...really pray for my family in Christ. He can do miracles and I've just experienced a Christmas one.