Let me introduce you to a young girl's prayer closet - mine. It was something I heard about in church and read in the Bible, and since I shared a room with two younger sisters, it was a perfect solution for my private devotions.
Most children are taught to pray when they are young - at least if their parents or grandparents understand the value of prayer, as it was a generation or two ago. Nowadays, we can't take that for granted any more, but do you recall praying as a child?
You probably started with little memorized prayer verses at bedtime, and at the table. Did you also move on to praying secretly to God on your own? That is understood to be praying in a prayer closet.
Now I should interject that I may have been a brighter, more imaginative child than others, but when I heard sermons in church about prayer and personal devotions, I tried to carry out as much of that as I understood. I imagined that Jesus and I would go for walks and sometimes we would just swing our hands together.
But I was a chatterbox when I felt safe with an adult and I would ask oceans of questions! I didn't always get answers when I asked them of God, but I chalked that up to not being able to hear or understand them. I was confident that God had answers for every question, and plenty more that I couldn't think up yet.
When I heard in Sunday School and church, that the Bible says we should go into our prayer closet and pray privately I understood that fairly literally. Sharing a bedroom with two younger sisters meant that I didn't have much privacy. But - by laying an old cushion on the floor of our clothes closet, (which was a little cramped for it was under the slope of the roof and hard to stand up in anyway), and by keeping the door open a crack for a ray of light to shine on my Bible on my knees, I worked at my memory verses, and I talked to God. I was about nine, going on eleven through that time.
I recall there were stretches of time when my prayers were mainly about my brother Ernie, who I feared was in our family by mistake. He just wasn't like me at all, and always doing things that made our parents scold him. But in that prayer closet I found verses in I John that talked about loving God, and if we hated our brother, we should not say we loved God, as that made us a liar. Okay, for Jesus' sake I was willing to be made loving to Ernie, but in the natural, I confessed it was impossible.
Later on, I had a chance to prove that, and to discover I did love him.
In church we would have visiting missionaries speak and show slides, and I began to make a prayer list of them, and of countries around the world that needed the gospel. Through that I became a true intercessor. That is, I prayed with tears for the lost. I wanted them to know my Best Friend, Jesus too.
Mom was sickly and often in and out of hospitals. Naturally, I begged for her healing and that she be able to come home again.
By trial and error I discovered what times of the day were best for me, and when I'd be least likely to be interrupted. Just before bedtime, since I stayed up later than my sisters, was good for the latter, but then I'd sometimes wake to find myself sleeping with my head on my Bible on my knees. Getting up early in the morning was hard if I'd been reading in bed. So I experimented with times of day.
Later, when I lived alone in my own apartment, there was no need to hide; my prayer closet was my whole space.
The best part is, it developed a life-long habit. There have been other stages in my journey as an intercessor for others before God, but I am thankful for those early efforts that begain in my pre-teen years, from about age nine onward. The most enduring image is of always pouring over my Bible, all marked up with verses I had memorized for prizes at Sunday School, and for the Mid-Prairie Scripture Mission, which sent around a representative to our schools to hand out prizes. (I won a Bible for one year's work when I was eleven, and two free weeks at camp when I was twelve).
I rather favoured Proverbs for easy to understand verses that gave advice or direction when I was reading serendipitously, or at random. When I read something that seemed intended especially for me, I would pretend to dialogue with the Lord over it. Very often when I asked a question, another verse I had memorized would pop into my mind, and lo, it had the answer! I had no trouble convincing myself that God and I were having a talk.
But I sensed that others, including the adults in my world, didn't have this happen, so I learned to keep my private times, private. Still, I knew that I shouldn't keep this very good thing all to myself. Jesus was great and powerful enough that He could easily have this kind of friendship with everybody in the word, and He could still give us all individual attention!
When I was sick with the mumps at age 12, I had a dream in which I wrote a book that would show the world how wonderful this friendship with Jesus really is. Long story shortened, I did write that book over the next two decades, and more. it is even published! But at this stage, I am trying to let the world know, (on a very short shoestring budget) that my book exists.
Have you felt this urgent desire to pray for someone else? Have you considered that God may be calling you to an intercessor's role? Even if it is for only one person. Though I suspect that once we intercede earnestly for one, our burden and compassion to pray for others will grow and we will be adding others to our prayers.
Perhaps you have already discovered that intercession for others is hard work. Because we do it privately most of the time, we do not get motivation and encouragement from others. I have to ask God often to give me a fresh desire to pray for someone I had promised I would pray for. Or even my whole list! Some days Satan works hard to distract us with other matters. But a cry to Jesus and He is right there to assist us. Thanks be to God!
Even more wonderful is the thought - pull this out often - that Jesus is constantly interceding for you and me, right at the Father's elbow! Dwell on that a while.
Not only that, but God has granted us His Holy Spirit, so that when we ache with desire and moan and groan for someone in prayer, and can't find the words to express how much we want that person to meet God - then His precious Spirit interprets those wordless moans and groans to the Father as a very articulate prayer. It's a perfectly effective prayer. Do not let lack of words keep you from praying!
If you are interested in private prayer retreats you might like to see my older article on this. More will follow on this topic of prayer. (Check the index to this section of this site).
Ruth Marlene Friesen
The Responsible One
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Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada