Selfless Intercession

by Tim Hall
David McCullough in his biography of Teddy Roosevelt shines an impressive light on the president’s father. Theodore, Sr. (“Thee,” as he was known) undertook an endeavor during the Civil War in which he successfully lobbied for an Allotment System. Under this plan, soldiers from New York regiments could send some or all of their earnings back home to their families, easing some of the suffering on the home front. For months Thee and others traveled on horseback among the Union camps, explaining the program and receiving funds from the soldiers.
One might think, “Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. must have gained a great deal of wealth through this plan.” But he didn’t. He was not paid a single penny for his time and the risk he undertook. His actions were entirely selfless, devoted to helping the struggling families of Union soldiers.
Another example of selflessness is found in Numbers 14. Israel had rebelled against God’s plan for them to take the Promised Land, convinced they were not up to the challenge. They began drawing up plans to return to their former slavery in Egypt. God was outraged by their unbelief. His words to Moses were filled with anger: “I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they” (Numbers 14:12, NKJV).
A lesser man would have seized the opportunity. Here was a chance to create a lasting and honorable legacy. But Moses was not interested in promoting himself. His only concerns were the welfare of Israel and the honor attaching to God’s name among the nations. His intercession that followed reveals one reason why God had chosen him for this task.
Christians are called to intercede for one another. James 5:16 is one of many such calls: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Praying for one another is one of the identifying marks of Christ’s followers.
But what’s in it for me? You ask me to take time from my schedule to seek God’s blessings for you. Is there any reward for me? Perhaps not in this life. But in following the example of Moses and many other godly individuals of the past, we allow God to shape us into the people he wants us to become. By selflessly interceding for my neighbor, I’m enlarging within myself the heart of Christ.
Prayer is a powerful tool given to God’s people (read James’ words above if you doubt that). But the power is not just for those for whom I pray; it also helps transform me every time I turn my attention away from myself to the needs of others.

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