In the summer of 2018, I had the blessed opportunity to dine with Dan Burke and Deacon Colin Coleman, the founder of and a professor with the Avila Institute, respectively. As we shared our stories and talked about spiritual theology, our conversation narrowed on the topic of deliverance ministry, specifically for those struggling with addiction and mental illnesses.
As the conversation went deeper, Dan Burke stopped me and asked, “Can we pray for what is on your heart right now?”
“Yes,” I said.
Deacon Coleman then put his hand on my shoulder, and we began to pray. The three of us prayed intently over that dining room table for the souls on my heart. It was consoling as I felt the presence of God in our midst. Indeed, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). There is always strength in numbers!
As I look back on my encounter with Dan and Deacon Coleman, I recall being filled with more than just food: I was filled with the Holy Spirit. These two souls for Christ saw the need for prayer and prayed with urgency for God’s intervention. Their prayer did not say, “I’ll pray for you later, at some future time” — no. They prayed right there at the dining table. Dan and Deacon Coleman saw time as a gift — for judgment awaits us, and we need to see the present moment as the only gift of which we can be assured. Time itself is the great gift from God.
Intercessory Key: Pray on the Spot
As we say, “Yes, I will pray for you” with a spiritual fervor and faith-filled heart, we ought to do so on the spot. We should not waste time, “for salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11). Time is precious. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Recall that Saint Paul “urged” Timothy to offer up prayers of intercession (see 1 Tim. 2:1–4). He did so because intercessory prayer is a pressing matter!
In addition to the value of the present moment, praying on the spot brings about the presence of God (see Matt. 18:20) and assures the individuals in need that you are serious about praying for them. This is both encouraging and enriching for the souls who witness it.
Spontaneous prayer arises from the heart of contemplation. The more we withdraw into the deep caverns of our hearts, the greater the desire we will have to intercede on the spot.
Now Is the Right Time to Connect with the Timeless
As a parent, I have the pleasure of watching my four children open gifts five times a year (birthdays and Christmas). Each year, I watch my children spend more time playing with the bubble wrap than with the gift inside the wrapping. It is usually at this point that I turn to my wife and ask, “Why did we not just put bubble wrap in an empty box?” Not only would the kids have been just as happy, but a lot of money would have been saved.
In the most recent opening of gifts, I asked myself another question. In what ways have I been “putting aside” what God has gifted to me? After due reflection, the one word that was ringing in my ear was “time.” Time is the one thing we tend to ignore as a gift. Time can never be replaced. Most gifts we receive can either be exchanged or returned, but time is different — we can never get it back. For this reason, praying on the spot is an excellent use of our time and is quintessential to intercessory prayer.
To invite the Holy Spirit into someone’s need is to have the Holy Spirit move into that need — not tomorrow, but today, in the here and now. Next time you are asked, “Will you pray for me?” respond with prayer and watch the good Lord work in the here and now.
I tend to say, “There are not enough hours in the day to get to everything” — which indicates that I need to adjust my perspective on time. God got it right when He created the twenty-four-hour day. Generally, the more I pray, the less time is a burden, and the more I pray with others, the more it helps them overcome seeing time as a burden as well. Typically, when we pray with others, the Holy Spirit overshadows that prayer with a calming presence. In this way, praying on the spot is invaluable to intercessory prayer.
Unfortunately, when we are asked to pray for someone, we often hastily agree to do so but forget the paramount task that we took upon ourselves — praying for a soul in need. Imagine, when was the last time you stopped what you were doing, surrendered your time, and prayed for the soul who asked you to pray for him or her? To do so is to have a tremendous impact upon the soul for whom you are praying. Personally, when Dan Burke and Deacon Coleman prayed with me at that meal, I was changed for the better. God’s grace invaded my day, and I was more whole because of it.
If we are in the habit of “rushing to the next thing,” we don’t engage in intercessory prayer as we ought. We should slow down, recollect, and reexamine our prayer lives. If we are going to pray better on the spot, we need to be better about making prayer the center of our lives. The absence of a constant prayer life will lead to the absence of following through on prayer requests. We would be deeply offended by God if we thought He was not following through on our prayer requests, and we ought to treat others as we would like to be treated. The Golden Rule applies here in spades.
As we reflect on time, we can benefit greatly by considering the words of the preacher in Ecclesiastes:
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity . . .
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already,
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to happen
among those who come after. (1:2–11)
While the word “vanity” typically recalls excessive attention to one’s physical appearance, the Latin, vanitatem, best translates as “aimlessness” or “worthlessness.” The danger of vanity is not necessarily in the superficial trappings, but rather in our obsessions that lead to significant waste in time — time that is idle and void of any meaning. The preacher’s lesson is this: a life without a mind for the infinite is “full of weariness” (Eccles. 1:8). Without the advent of Christ in our hearts, our finite ways of thinking and use of time are without aim, futile, and worthless. With the advent of Christ, and the gift of grace that our souls receive, our new ways of thinking stretch to the infinite and our prayer gains more purpose.
Ultimately, how we use the finite gift of time determines how much fruit our intercessory prayer will bring forth. Making a point to pray for others on the spot, and generally to pray more for others daily, is a good place to start. Since we know not the day nor the hour (see Matt. 24:36), we remain vigilant in “devoted prayer” (see Rom. 12:12).
One way to live our lives, given God’s time, is to pray for the living and the dead and to comfort the sorrowful.