It was an amazing trip. We ate monkey meat and boa constrictor. We killed huge tarantulas, a nine-inch scorpion and a coral snake in our camp. I was attacked by ants which, unbeknownst to us, had taken refuge in the lumber we were hauling and sleeping on as we traveled all night up the river. We flew in old, rickety army planes and landed on fields from which goats had to be cleared prior to our arrival. (None of this has anything to do with prayer, but it lets you know how incredibly brave I am and how much I've suffered for the cause of Christ.)
Our leader, Hap Brooks, had me leading songs from the front of our long dugout canoe as we journeyed up and down the river. His favorite was "It's a Good Life Livin' for the Lord." He also made me utter my famous Tarzan call, which was incredibly good and would reverberate across the river and into the jungle. Natives from the villages would stand on the banks and listen. Having never seen or heard of Tarzan, of course, they were not terribly impressed-in fact they sort of had that "who is that idiot?" Look on their faces. That is, until the animals in the jungle began to come to me! They had the same expression. (This has nothing to do with prayer, either, but it lets you know how incredibly talented I am.)
Back to the purpose of the story. Prior to leaving for the jungle, we spent our first night (Friday) in Guatemala City, the capital of Guatemala. We had arranged months earlier for the Guatemalan airlines to fly us the following day into the jungle. On our arrival at the airport Saturday afternoon, we were informed that they had changed their plans and would fly us to our destination not that day but the next.
Feeling an urgency to go as scheduled due to the limited amount of time to accomplish our mission, our leaders pressed the airlines for three hours to honor their original agreement.
"No," the manager said in his broken English, "we take you tomorrow."
"But you agreed months ago to take us today," we argued. "We have no pilot available," they countered.
"Find one," we pleaded.
"What is your hurry? Enjoy the city," they encouraged us. And so it went for three hours, in and out of offices, meeting with one official, then another. Finally, in exasperation, one of them threw up his hands and said, "Okay, we take you now! Get on that plane quickly!"
We all ran to the plane, throwing our bags and tools into the baggage area ourselves. We wanted to leave before they changed their minds.
That night, while we were 250 miles away, an earthquake hit Guatemala City and killed 30,000 people in 34 seconds! Had we stayed in the city one more night-as the airlines wanted us to-some of our team would have been killed and others injured. We know this for certain because on our return to the city we saw the building we had stayed in the night before the earthquake-and would have been staying in again had we not left on Saturday with huge beams lying across the beds.
The connection between all this and our subject is that an intercessor from our home church back in Ohio had received a strong burden to pray for us on the second day of our journey. For three hours she was in intense intercession for us. Can you guess which three hours? Yes. The three hours that our leaders were negotiating with the airline officials.
We didn't know that our lives were in jeopardy had we stayed another night in Guatemala City, but God did. This intercessor didn't know it either. She only knew that for some reason she had a strong burden to pray for us. She was alert, as Ephesians 6:18 instructs us, and perceived the kairos time. There isn't a doubt in my mind that she helped create the protection and intervention we experienced.
There is a life in the secret place, but it's not automatic for believers. Although we are promised protection from our enemy, we have a definite part to play in the securing of it for ourselves and for others. The intercessor knows this and leaves nothing to chance, posting signs for all the forces of hell to see: "Under the shadow of the Most High. Keep out!"
Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets, p.88-90. 1996, Gospel Light/Regal Books, Ventura, CA 93003. Used by Permission.
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