I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
- 1 Timothy 2:1-4
Then the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before.
- 1 Kings 13:6
The second Scripture is a strange Bible story, rarely preached upon, but maybe it should be. The man of God from Judah went to the king of Israel on God’s request, but with the strict orders to return immediately. He was tricked into staying just a bit and he did not live to see Judah again.
Before we go any further, a word on abandoning one’s post. In the military, abandoning one’s post is about the worst thing you can do. Falling asleep while on guard duty is right up there with it, but the thing is that the lives of many of your fellow soldiers depend on you doing your job while they sleep.
I hereby confess that I recently abandoned my post.
That was a short declarative sentence with no equivocation. I could have said that my wife was preparing for surgery and undergoing the surgery or that I was behind on my writing or that I was researching what we would study next in Sunday school when we finish our study of the book of Acts or when some of the above excuses become urgent, I find that I have several hundred e-mails in the inbox – at least checking to see if I wish to read them or simply delete. I did not make those excuses. I made the statement without any pleas for leniency. I lay my life before the court, and I only plead mercy.
What post did I abandon? I am one of about fifty members of our church’s prayer team. I am the secretary that prepares the list that goes out to all the team, near the beginning of the month. As I write this, my copy of the list is about eight inches (20cm) from my right hand as I am typing this. That close in my workspace. We are supposed to read the list every day of the month. Whether I miss a day or not would be yet another confession, but I am not piling on – one at a time.
The prayer list goes out once each month. Then the leader of the group sends e-mails as new requests come in. Some of the team who receive the e-mails read the new requests, or updates of old requests, and they call someone on the list that does not have an e-mail address. It is a very efficient system. Then the “inner circle” of the team, eight to twelve people usually but all are welcome, meet for a little socializing and then a tedious update of the list – tedious in that some people do not provide updates and some people are supposedly in the hospital with a dread disease and someone in the group saw them last week at the grocery store doing cartwheels down the aisle. (Note: Slight exaggeration but similar things have happened.)
The other prayer warriors (the about fifty minus one, me) were probably keeping up with the updates. I even noted to myself that we were halfway through the month, and we only had one update e-mail.
Then my wife asked me, “Hey!! Secretary of the prayer team!!! The guy that must keep up with all these changes to make sure next month’s prayer list is up to date!!!! I have gotten about a dozen e-mails from our leader, and you have not read any of them.” Note: If I had, they would have been under old mail rather than new mail. I could not escape my culpability.
I decided to try to squeeze in a little time to catch up, why not a little additional frenzy in my writing schedule. The dozen e-mails turned into about twenty new requests and updates with complicated details which means I have to get creative in expressing the need for prayer but keep it short. My little bit of updating my spreadsheet took me about an hour.
One of the first prayer requests was someone who had COVID. I do not know about you, but when you type a prayer list and you see COVID, the intercession doesn’t go in the same slot in my brain as a brain tumor or a simple thing, but dangerous, of a wound that does not heal. When COVID prayer requests first came in 2020, the mountain of requests was overwhelming, and you never knew if they would live or die. After six-months on the list, you knew they were either passed to the Lord or they were healthy, but that is where the failure to update the list comes in. These days with the lesser variant, not as deadly, the urgency is not as much unless they are in the hospital, on oxygen, and not responding to treatment – again why updates are necessary.
We were getting so many COVID requests that each month I rearranged the requests so that COVID became its own little sub-block. You pray for all the broken bones, minor surgeries, etc. and then COVID patients: Anne, Brad, Carla, David, Esther, etc. Note: The list is confidential, and I made up these names. Besides I list them in the order received, not in alphabetical order or alternating girl, boy names.
But as I started typing the new requests into my spreadsheet, that I compare to the leader’s spreadsheet at the meeting – because we have both failed to transfer a name at times, rarely, but… I saw that first COVID patient had an update. Three days after being placed on the list, because I was about a week behind in making my personal updates, that first COVID request for the month turned into “on life support.” And then in a few days, the person had passed to the Lord. From on the list to pray for the deceased’s family and friends, and I had missed it.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had abandoned my post. I know that God had that person in the palm of His hand. There were roughly fifty people praying for that person every day, but I was not among them. It was my duty to be among those praying, and I let a lot of legitimate excuses keep me from checking the e-mail that my wife and I share.
Some days you go to God in prayer, and you can think of some minor sins that you need to confess, but today I have a big one. We have a section for those who pass to the Lord, but this one is somehow different.
Someone died on my watch.
If you know a prayer warrior, give them a hug. This job is not easy.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.