I believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. But I don't know as much as I'd like to know about how the different manifestations of the One True God interact with each other. If I ever unravel that mystery, I'll then try to understand what role each member of the Godhead plays.
The hymn writer captured perfectly the concept of intercessory prayer when he wrote about our "Redeemer... who ever prays for me." I wish I understood that better, but maybe it's enough just to rejoice and be grateful for the Savior who defends us, intercedes for us, and prays for us — ever prays for us.
Will You Come and Pray?
Being a chaplain volunteer at our regional medical center was an obligation I needed to shed. A little over a year ago when Mary Margaret moved to a nursing home, I moved to a nearby apartment. The limitations of age and health demanded attention. But, I loved the chaplaincy too much to give it up and asked to be placed on "inactive" status. So, I was surprised when my caller ID showed an incoming call from the hospital.
The nice lady apologized over and over:
So sorry to bother you... know you are inactive... can't reach any of the other three chaplain volunteers... a man is dying, his family is gathering, they've requested a chaplain. Could you possibly...
"Hey," I interrupted, "It's ok, you've caught me at a good time (small fib), I'll be there in a few." Living two miles from the hospital has its advantages.
The patient was terminally ill, but his death was not imminent. He was alert enough to carry on lucid conversations with his family and me. After a few getting-acquainted minutes, the conversation went something like this:
I began with a personal observation and an invitation to talk, "Tell me about the medallion you are wearing."
"That is the blessed Virgin Mary," he responded, "sainted mother of our Lord and Savior!"
"Would you be more comfortable if I called a priest?"
"No, I'm not a member of a local parish, and, besides..."
"I'll be glad to call," I suggested, "I have the number right here in my phone."
"This priest that you might call, does he pray better than you do?"
"Well," I answered, "I'm not the one to make that judgment."
"Does God hear you when you pray?"
"Yes, he has promised to do that."
"Then," the patient said, "let's pray!"
Who Would I Want to Pray for Me?
As I was leaving the hospital, I wondered, who would I want to pray for me if I knew death was near? My family? Friends? Preacher? Shepherds? All of the above, plus One.
A friend who grew up in a church environment similar to mine made an observation about an old hymn we had both grown up singing. I like the Fred A. Fillmore 1917 version because the male voices echo the female voices. I could pretend to be a basso profundo even when my adolescent vocal cords wouldn't cooperate:
I know (I know) that my Redeemer lives,
and ever prays (and ever prays) for me...
He ever prays for me?
I remember that Jesus went off by himself to pray, taught the disciples to pray, prayed for strength to carry out the Father's will. Someone has counted 38 times in the Gospels when Jesus prayed. I haven't verified that count. But the count that really matters most to me is that he ever and always prays for me!
The apostle Paul had a vision of Jesus, at the right hand of God, interceding for us (Romans 8:34). The Holy Spirit reminds us that "he [Jesus] always lives to intercede" for those who come to God (Hebrews 7:25). And John, concerned as always for his "dear children", wrote them with a specific purpose in mind:
[S]o that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One" (1 John 2:1).
It means a lot to have friends pray for us, but even more to have the One who ever prays for us. He doesn't just say a prayer and leave. He prays and stays — stays with us to the end and beyond.
A few years ago, as I was preparing a message for my brother-in-law's funeral, one of his sons recalled something his father had often said to his family and friends:
My fondest dream is to get to heaven, have Jesus take me by the hand, lead me to the Throne, and say, "Father, this is Mack. He belongs to us."
We are His, precious in his sight! He not only paid an awful price for us at Calvary, but he continues to speak in our defense, intercede for us, and pray always for us.
What a Prayer Partner!