Intercessory Prayer, We Miss You!
By Martyn Ballestero Sr.
This is just a line to let you know how things are since you’ve gone. It’s not the same without you, nor will it ever be. Although our lives seem shallow and empty when you’re not here, we’ve learned to make up for you in other ways. We’ve learned to live without you.
We now run the aisles, leap for joy, jig to the music, sing catchy choruses, and tap our feet in time to the rhythm of the drums. We use sticks, banners, black lights, and our sign teams do a tremendous job acting out recorded music. We’ve learned to worship without you.
The prayer rooms are mostly silent now. Those that do go there, for the most part, come away dry-eyed. A lot of praying now is chanting and singsong style. That’s how we know we’re in the groove. We pray memorized phrases that come automatically. We love what we call Prayer Walks. Most of us don’t even close our eyes anymore during prayer. We just walk and pray while we look around. We pray because it is required. No one prays till they break through anymore. We just pray till our 10 minutes are up.
Too, Too Busy
Family altars are almost unheard of now. You can’t imagine how busy we are and how hectic our schedules have been. It’s unbelievable. We get up in the morning and never stop till we go to bed at night. We do try to make it to church most services and get some praying in there during the service, but prayer at home is kind of out of the question. That may be another reason you haven’t heard much from us.
Oh sure, we still believe in prayer, as such. But not very many of us are anxious for you to come back. (You were always the polite type, you know, never forcing yourself on anyone. You never came uninvited. You only left because you were ignored.)
The sad truth is you’re not really needed anymore. You see, most of us have hospitalization insurance now. (It sure takes away that old desperate feeling we used to have.) So now, there’s no need to pray more than the few minutes it takes to drive to the Emergency Room. Also, we don’t have to ask for our daily bread like we used to. We now have better jobs with good benefits and government programs to fall back on.
If we lose our jobs, there is always unemployment or welfare. If we retire or become disabled, Social Security now supplies our needs. So, you can see, we’re doing okay. Other things have filled the void in your absence. Sure we miss you. But we’re getting over it somehow. Actually, we’re too busy to entertain you right now, even if you tried to come back. I hope you understand.
We are having revivals now without you. It’s not hard. The pastor fasts and prays, along with a couple others. The evangelist preaches mostly just to sinners now. Most of us try to get to church in time for the first song or two. We justify the fact that the number of new converts is down. Yes, there seems to be diminished conviction, less lasting victory, fewer miracles, and many young people are backsliding. We agree, however, that it’s not us that are at fault here; it’s just the times we’re living in. It’s like this everywhere.
As your friend, I’m writing this to you, knowing how much it must hurt you to have folks say they miss you . . . and yet in their material and intellectual progress, they’ve weaned themselves away from the haunting memory of you.
What hurts, I know, is that we were children you personally raised. You were always there when we needed you. (But now we don’t.) You taught us about faith. You taught us about miracles. You taught us about a move of God. You taught us about revival. You taught us about how to touch God. Thank you for that, but you see, this is a new day and we are trying to go to the next level. Our services are structured differently now.
Can you believe that now when you are ever mentioned in church, everyone gets real quiet? (They all feel guilty I’m sure.) It’s like they experience a momentary twinge of guilt while they consider their part in your disappearance. Once in a while some even get misty eyed when we talk about the old times you shared with us. Yet all that feeling vanishes along with the pizza right after church.
By the way, do you remember all the folks of yesteryear coming into the sanctuary with red-rimmed eyes? Remember the baggy looking knees in mens’ suits? Remember all night prayer meetings? Remember the depth that was in worship? Remember when sinners couldn’t sit in their pews any longer, and would run to the altar? Remember when you could feel unity and brotherly love? When folks helped bear one another’s burdens? When the saints didn’t watch the clock? When they could hardly wait to enjoy the after service atmosphere, praying around the altar until the wee hours of the morning? Boy, those were to good old days. We call that “Old School.”
Well, it’s pretty much all gone now. But you ought to see our new Hammond C-3, our new drum set with a cage and everything. Electric bass guitars are just awesome and the electric guitars, too. We use praise singers to help cover up the fact that our congregations don’t sing like they should or used to. We let them do most of our worship for us. Our choirs just do terrific on the new style songs. Old saints don’t like the new songs much, but the younger crowd seems to like them. Many music directors don’t even know some of your old favorite songs, so they don’t get played much anywhere.
You would be proud of our church buildings. Carpet on the floors, there are pews now instead of benches and they are padded besides. The arched beams are beautiful; we also have the loveliest of imported chandeliers. Our pastor has polish too. He doesn’t preach long. We are more concerned about sermon length now, than content. Our pastor spices up his sermons with cute sayings but I guess that’s progress for you. “Win some, lose some.”
Speaking of “lose some,” we’re losing a surprising percentage of our young people. An unbelievable number of marriages have gone on the rocks. Many lives have been in jeopardy. But that’s to be expected, I guess. Teenagers seem to be at war with their parents and want to dress more and more like the kids at the public school. Our youth meetings may not have much in the way of prayer, but we have great icebreakers, skits and games.
No Offense Intended
I hope you’re not offended. I don’t mean for you to be. You’ll always have a special place in my memory. You were kind and generous to me. You sure got me out of some hard times. I can’t thank you enough! Still, this is a generation now that doesn’t know you at all. Your coming would probably scare them.
Remember the night when my mother sat at the piano bench and you joined her there? Remember how she wept and groaned in the Spirit and slumped to the floor during the revival service and how some tried to call the ambulance because they thought she was sick? They never knew you and her were talking.
That’s what I mean. A good many never got to know you well. And most never knew you at all. Those that knew you personally have waited so long to talk to you that they are now, to say the least, embarrassed.
So while we are trying to work out our feelings about you, and see where you might fit into our plans in the future, you might try your luck someplace else. Try Brazil, Ethiopia, or how about the Philippines? You might have better luck in Third World Countries, or behind the Iron Curtain. You might even luck out and find someone to talk to you in some little storefront on the other side of the tracks. Surely someone somewhere needs you.
We’re terribly sorry, Intercessory Prayer, we miss you, but we really don’t need you . . . right now!
This article “Intercessory Prayer, We Miss You!” by Martyn Ballestero Sr. is excerpted from ninetyandnine.com.