The following post is adapted from an article I wrote for the Sep/Oct 2006 issue of Pray! magazine. I was challenged personally when I re-read it recently. I need to stay active on both the giving and receiving ends of “Agonizing Prayer.”
When I started to be more serious about prayer and realized the huge personal investment in time and emotion it really is, an odd thing happened. I became more hesitant about asking people to pray for me. I know how easily overwhelmed I can get by all the prayer requests that come my way—especially if I try to pray for them all in any kind of deep and significant way. I didn’t want to overburden my friends, but I did want people to pray who will make the sacrifice that powerful prayer requires.
But I was challenged about this hesitance when I heard Daniel Henderson of Strategic Renewal (http://www.strategicrenewal.com/) speak on praying for pastors and spiritual leaders. His key passage was Romans 15:30: “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” Daniel gave his audience the Greek meaning for the word translated “struggle.” It’s sunagonizomai, which can also be translated “agonize.”
The Apostle Paul boldly asks his friends to agonize in their prayers for him. My first impression was, “What chutzpah!” Who wants to ask friends to agonize about anything? But, as Daniel pointed out, spiritual leaders are on the front lines of the spiritual battle. For them, struggling, agonizing intercession is not optional—it actually may be a matter of life or death. Paul knew this, and we should be aware of it, too.
Daniel told his audience that he refuses to preach unless he knows someone is in his church’s prayer room praying for him. He follows the example of the great preacher Charles Spurgeon, who said that without prayer, his preaching “is nothing but the lifting of a dead man’s arms, or the lifting up of a blind man’s eye.”
If you’re a spiritual leader (and I suspect many who read this blog are!), I hope you will be bold like the Apostle Paul and ask people to sunagonizomai in prayer for you. And for all of us, leaders or not, may we be willing to make the sacrifice of struggling in prayer for our friends who serve on the spiritual frontlines. The intensity of the battle requires it.