I woke up this morning with an urge to grumble against a friend. My flesh was eager to go with the urge, but The Holy Spirit hijacked the impulse and turned it into a burden to intercede. While praying for my friend, God mercifully made me aware of the unhappiness of harboring contempt, and the futility of my attempts at passive aggressively persuading people to relish truth, mercy, beauty, grace, forgiveness, kindness, gentleness, generosity, etc. I cannot force feed anyone; food will only be eagerly received and relished by the humbled hungry. I cannot force anyone to embrace blessed desperate dependence (not even myself!) …so I forsake my self-effort and self-reliance (and all the impatience and faithlessness that comes with it) and I call upon The Holy Spirit! Instead getting shrill, I am silent. Instead of making a passive aggressive critical comment, I ponder. Instead of imposing pressure upon myself to change people, I put my trust in the LORD who alone possesses the power and promise to change us.
In an effort to embrace my limitations and neediness I decided to accept the help which God offers to me via the liturgies of Doug McKelvey. Prayer is the cry of the needy, and I am so needy that I need help even to pray! In addition to the mysterious and infinitely powerful prayers of Jesus Christ and the groanings of The Holy Spirit (who helps us in our weakness, knowing full-well that we do not know what to pray for as we ought – so He Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words!), we are also offered prayer help via the Psalms, and helpful non-inerrant resources like The Valley of Vision, The Book of Common Prayer, and Every Moment Holy, etc.
Here is Doug McKelvey’s liturgy for those with a sudden burden to intercede:
I sense Your beckoning, O Lord, and I willingly respond,
entering Your presence to plead on behalf of another.
Spirit of God, You alone know the specific needs of the one for whom I am suddenly burdened to intercede.
Therefore guide my prayer.
Tune my thoughts, my words, my empathies
to articulate Your greater heart, Your deeper purposes.
I yield to Your intentions, even unto the breaking of my own heart for that which breaks Yours.
Through me, O God, may it please You to bring forth effective petition
for the one whose condition has so moved Your heart that You have now moved mine,
calling me to fervent prayer – to cry out, to contend, to do battle – on their behalf.
Breathe through me, O Spirit, Your thoughts, Your words.
Kindle in me, O Father, your sorrows and consolations.
Teach me, O Christ, how to serve and to love by intercession.
[Silence is kept, for the centering of the heart and the sensing of the Spirit’s promptings in prayer. Now make petition and intercession on behalf of those you are burdened for. When the time of the prayer draws to a close, you may end with these words:]
Intersect our moments with Your mercies, O Lord.
Intersect our days with evidence of Your grace.
Let this burden remain or return as often as You would have me carry it again to You.
You are ever at work in this world.
So let my compassion be always active, and my heart sensitive to Your movements,
Your promptings, Your revelation.
Call us, Your children,
always to care for one another in prayer and in action,
in our various times of need.