Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13-18 ESV
Last week, we met Barb Astrino, United Adoration’s Lead Intercessor. Today, she takes us on a journey to becoming an intercessor. Catherine Miller interviewed her:
Catherine: How did you become an intercessor?
Barb Astrino: I never used to see myself as an intercessor, so this is all rather comical to me. I do pray, and I have been involved in a lot of prayer, but intercessors in my mind were something much holier than I am, and much more disciplined, and much more organized. They were people who had memorized whole books of the Bible and just quoted chapter and verse and I actually have memory disabilities, I have learning disabilities, I have fairly decent raw intelligence but I have all kinds of issues.
Catherine: [smiles] Me, too.
Barb: [laughs] Let’s hear it for the out of the box people!
Catherine: I have ADHD. It makes it very difficult.
Barb: It does, it does, and you just have to pull it together and shut everything down to get anything done, I understand. So I never just saw myself as that kind of a person, but I believe that if the Lord opens a door you have [to] at least put your toe in the water. Otherwise, you’re just doing what you can do, and you know – it’s just not going to go anywhere. We need to do what desperately depends on Jesus, because then you get to see the supernatural stuff, then you get to see the amazing healings and the amazing fruit. So I am here doing this job constantly battling “You’re not qualified, You’re not good enough, you’re not fast enough – whatever.” But years ago, the Lord told me that the James 3 passage about competition and comparison are very evil and an open door to every evil practice. I was just floored by this and I said, “Well, I have to know how I’m doing!” and he said, “No, you ask ME how you’re doing.” And he said, this is your 11th commandment, this is so important in your life, because if you don’t stop this now, if you don’t stop evaluating yourself constantly, you will never do what I made you to do. And so I sit before you with fear and trepidation, because I don’t have it – I’m not all that, I’m not that polished or that anything.
So how do we become intercessors?
One of the most common ways to become an intercessor is to attend a series or conference that exposes you to the realities of intercession. Barb says, “Most people have no idea how many millions of people are praying and praying and praying.” Barb attended a series in a woman’s home through Lydia Fellowship International. The experience planted a seed in her. She didn’t become involved in her church right away, because she felt like she wasn’t enough – mature enough, grown up enough, whatever. But she did slowly begin to get her life into agreement with scripture. She says, “The intercessor brings their life into agreement with scripture, and the intercessor, it’s an ongoing process, but one of the basic principles is you don’t want to pray for something [that you yourself are vulnerable to. That’s like fighting even though] you have a giant hole in your [own] armor, in the back. Because if you’re praying for an issue for a stronghold or a life dominating issue or whatever, and you have the same issue in your own life, you haven’t dealt with it, then you become very vulnerable spiritually. That is not wise. So the principle is that you bring your own life into agreement with scripture and then you begin to pray in authority because you can stand in authority because you’re under the blood, then you can pray boldly, come boldly before the throne, and make your requests.”
Over time, Barb says she grew to realize that there was a disparity between the Christians she knew and the descriptions of holiness in Deuteronomy. Studying the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy, she says, “I got to that passage and all I could think about was that everyone I knew looked like the bad side – and I thought, wait a minute – we’re the believers, we’re the good guys – somebody has to pray about this. Somebody has to bring these two things into reconciliation. If this is the promise of God, what is wrong here?”
The intercessor is someone who stands “in the gap” for others. It’s as if they are saying, “We aren’t here yet, but we are headed towards what you’re asking us to become, Lord.” In Barb’s prayer life, she practices asking God what is on his heart to pray for. “What is on your heart, Lord?” she will pray. She gets quiet and listens, which she acknowledges takes practice to be able to do. “We are to be like HIM [Jesus]. We are to take on the image of Christ,” she says.
At United Adoration, we feel a special calling to minister to people who call themselves “artists” but also to teach those who do not see themselves that way that we are all called to be creative, because God created us and we are to reflect His glory. As we intercede with Christ on behalf of the artists we meet and their communities, we ask God to release people from the strongholds in their lives that are keeping them from living their full life in Christ.
If you feel called to begin an intercessory prayer ministry (or join an existing one, such as United Adoration’s), here is a list of resources Barb recommends:
With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray
The Ministry of Intercession by Andrew Murray
Prayer by E.M. Bounds,
Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
Intercession Thrilling and Fulfilling by Joy Dawson
Beyond the Veil by Dr. Alice Smith
Possessing the Gates of the Enemy by Cindy Jacobs
Resources for starting a prayer ministry at your church:
First and foremost meet with your pastor and find out his/her desired approach and format. It is very important to be in unity with the pastor and to move at the pastor’s direction and pace. This builds trust and keeps you under the covering of the pastor’s spiritual authority.
There are many good models online. For example:
Lifeway.com has a great introduction to launching a church prayer ministry. Or check out Lydia Fellowship International. You will be amazed by the wide variety of options online representing every denomination and prayer focus. Find out what is out there in the areas that you are passionate about. Join with the like minded and pray in agreement and watch the Holy Spirit move!
Resources for Global or International Intercession:
The gold standard is Operation World which has a wonderful app that gives you access to all the statistics, prayer needs and cultural realities of each country and region. The app joins you with hundreds of people from around the world as they pray each day for the chosen prayer focus. This app will expand your vision and prayer world as you gain a true kingdom perspective on the world wide church in all of its glorious expressions!
Global Anglican Intercession can be found at Fuel For Prayer at gafcon.org.
If you are not Anglican check out the resources online for your own denomination. If you don’t find any…perhaps you are called to pray that in or start it yourself!