I recently found a stack of sympathy cards that my husband and I received from our friends years ago after the loss of our unborn baby. Many of them read, “You are in our prayers.”
I wondered if our loved ones had really been praying for us or if they jotted those words to provide comfort for the moment. It’s not that our friends are bad people – I am sure they meant well – but, some of them were not even believers at the time.
And if I could be honest, there have been times when I have written and verbally shared those same thoughts to loved ones and I did not follow through with those prayers. It’s not that I didn’t want to pray for them. It’s just that I allowed time to pass and as a result, the promise slipped my mind or I had such a busy day that I felt too tired to pray.
But as valid as my excuses may seem to me, it doesn’t make my behavior OK. Instead, it reveals my lack of integrity. If I say I will do something, I must mean it and do it … right away. Besides, who is to say God is not counting on me to pray on behalf of whoever is in need of a miracle or blessing of some sort? I don’t ever want to let an opportunity to pray for someone slip my mind only to find out that their circumstances took a turn for the worse.
In the Old Testament, the Book of Ezekiel records the sins of the people, mainly the prophets and priests (God’s leaders) and princes (political leaders). According to one passage, they “have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice” (Ezekiel 22:29).
God was getting ready to unleash his wrath on them and was looking for someone who would pray on the people’s behalf. He said, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one” (v. 30).
In other words, God was looking for someone to be a hedge of protection for the people because they were going to need it. The people were so sinful that there was no way they could pray for themselves. It is written: “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29). Because there was not a righteous person to intercede for the land, God carried out His plan to punish the people.
There are other cases in which God was looking for someone to “stand in the gap” for the people and actually found some volunteers. In one case, Isaiah volunteered to preach the Good News to the people so that they might repent (Isaiah 6:8); Queen Esther prayed and fasted on behalf of the Jews, who were facing execution, and God protected them (Esther 4:5); and Moses stood in the gap for the Israelites when they complained, demonstrating their ungratefulness (Exodus 32).
Each of these individuals took initiative to pray in the midst of a crisis. They did not hesitate or allow enough time to pass for the situation to get worse. They recognized the danger and took advantage of the opportunity to pray.
Today, God is still looking for people to pray for the lost, the grieving, the needy and the oppressed. He is looking for people to “stand in the gap” for the church and world leaders.
The great thing about it is that he is not looking for a perfect human being. He is seeking believers with a willing heart and a spirit of readiness.