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Friday, February 01, 2008

Burden Bearing

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. Gal 6:2

I have seen some remarkable answers to prayer this week, one within just 5 minutes of praying. These answers have all come in response to interceding for others. I'm very conscious that much of Prayer College has been devoted to our personal relationship with the Lord and we haven't given much consideration to prayer for others. Intercession has to be founded on a strong walk with Jesus in order to be really effective. But if all we're doing is glorying in the wonder of His presence and not working with Him to meet the needs of others we aren't loving Him with all our heart.

Bear Your Brother's Burden
It is a command of Scripture that we bear one another's burdens. There is a saying that a trouble shared is a trouble halved, but that is not the message of Gal 6:2. The implication in Paul's instruction is that we take responsibility for the whole load. Whilst we may not always be able to do this in practical terms, it is something we can do in prayer. When someone shares a need with us we can take full responsibility for praying about it. In fact, we should pray as though the only thing that will be effective in the situation is our prayer. We should pray as though there is no-one else to pray. We should pray as though the only solution is a miracle from God.

Cast Your Care
The very word "burden" implies something which is difficult to carry alone. That means that it is not an easy thing to get alongside someone and take their load upon ourselves. It may well seem heavy to us too. When interceding for others we have to be careful we don't simply become anxious on their behalf.

Particularly when praying for loved ones, it is all too easy to become consumed with concern for them in their difficulties. But we are told, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you," (1 Pet 5:7). This applies to our own concerns, but also to the burdens of others which we have taken up in prayer. Their cares become ours and as we pray we give them to the Lord and leave them with Him. Since we are fulfilling the law of Christ, described in Gal 6:2, we are taking His yoke upon us which we should find light and easy to bear (Matt 11:28-30). If the burden seems heavy we should ask ourselves whether we're really praying or just worrying.

A Cord of Three Strands
There is a belief in some circles that being able to battle on alone without sharing our burdens with others is somehow a badge of greater spirituality. This is not scriptural. Even the great apostle Paul humbled himself to ask for prayer from others (eg Eph 6:19-20). The much neglected book of Ecclesiastes has something extremely valuable to teach us about the importance of sharing with one another. "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken," (Ecc 4:12). We know that our enemy the devil is looking for opportunities to pick us off (1 Pet 5:8). If we stand together with someone else we are stronger. But we become potentially undefeatable when we stand together in prayer because we involve the Lord as the third strand.

Prayer College Assignment
Ask yourself how willing you are to share your burdens with others. If this is something you have been reluctant to do, try to find one thing, no matter how trivial, that you can ask a Christian friend to pray about this week.

If someone asks you to pray for them make sure you do two things. Firstly, actually pray. It is all too easy to say you will pray and then forget! Secondly, let them know periodically that you're continuing to do so. From my own experience it is a great encouragement when someone tells me they're still praying for a situation that isn't yet resolved.

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