Months before my hospital stay I had seen the movie "War Room!" The movie truly struck a chord in my heart and I knew I had to create my own prayer book.
It wasn't long before I had several pages full of requests from family and friends. Each morning, I would have my Bible devotions and then I would pray for each request in my book.
Soon, I began to hear the Lord speak to my heart... "Do you love them?" I quickly answered, "Of course I love them Lord, why else would I be praying for them?" However, the question still needled me. Over and over my heart would hear the question... "Do you love them?"
One day as I lay in my hospital bed, my heart pondered the question... and I found myself asking, "Do I truly love those I was praying for?" It was too hasty and effortless to just say yes, so I began to pray and ask the Lord what was He trying to teach me?
Suddenly I pictured Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. As He cried out to His Father in heaven...saying, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Matthew 26:39
Jesus (sent to this world in human form) knew he was going to die... and I believe He knew how He would be crucified. Why else would He ask His Father if it was possible to let this cup pass from Him??
We all know we are going to die, but it is a nebulous and vague thought until we stare death "straight in the eye." It is then we recognize how attached we are to this world, when we ought to realize we are just passing through and our true residence will be in heaven one day.
So what kind of love would compel and persuade Jesus to obey his Father and die for the sins of all men?? What kind of love was worthy and powerful enough to not only die... but to knowingly suffer a brutal and merciless death??
I thought about how Jesus came to His disciples after His resurrection, He asked, "Peter, do you love me?" Not thinking, Peter answered, "Yes Lord, you know that I love you!" John 21:15 But, the word Peter used was the Greek "phileo" which is brotherly love. Peter didn't understand that Jesus was using the strongest of all types of love... "agape love!"
Suddenly, I found myself asking, "Did I genuinely and absolutely love those in my prayer book?" And, if I answered yes, I knew that I would have to go beyond just brotherly love! Agape love is the love God has for His children and agape love is the most self-sacrificing love there is.
I knew I would have to embrace their burdens, like they were my own. There could be no more days that I failed to pray, simply because I didn't have time or I was feeling sick.
So, I began to pray with a new passion and a new determination, there are even times when I feel the need to hold my prayer book close to my heart as I lie in bed at night and earnestly seek God! I would now make their burdens mine as I prayed for answers.
I now have a new love for my friends, family and even the strangers I am praying for. NO, my love doesn't match the agape love of God or His Son Jesus, but I hope my compassion and empathy for what others are going through will help me to pray more earnestly and I will learn through my own suffering how much more to appreciate those who pray for me.