BY MIMI GREENWOOD KNIGHT
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions
with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always
keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
– Ephesians 6:18
Years ago, when my first three children were young, I had the opportunity to step back into my old life and play the role of Maria in The Sound of Music. Before kids, amateur theatre had been my life. Now, my kids were old enough that I thought we could enjoy this adventure together. I was a fairly new Christian and a full-time mom. Why couldn’t I incorporate the theatre into a life centered around the church, my husband, and kids?
The next thing I knew, I was in the limelight, singing with, dancing with, even kissing a handsome man who wasn’t my (very handsome) husband. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t ever in danger of having an affair or even entertaining the idea. But my thought life was a different story. I’d find myself going through my kid-saturated day and suddenly thinking of something he’d said or done the night before or how it had felt when we were dancing. It never went further than that. But it certainly didn’t feel “right.”
I wanted to ask a Christian friend to pray for me, but something stopped me. That something was pride. What would she think of me? Would she assume things had gone further than just stray thoughts? Would she think I was a bad Christian, a bad wife, a bad mother? Hello, pride. Hello, believing the enemy’s lies. Thank God for my friend, Cheryl, who matter-of-factly mentioned over coffee one morning that she was praying for me. Without me ever confiding in her, she’d known. She said something like, “I SAW that guy. I know how I’d be feeling. I’m standing in the gap for you.”
Now, I was convicted not just for failing to “hold every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” (Rom. 12:21) but for my pride in not being able to admit to my closest friend that I was human. That was my first experience with having someone stand in the gap for me in prayer. We finished the run of our show, and I had the time of my life, acting, singing, dancing, and connecting with the audience. My following shows were all-female casts, and I haven’t auditioned for a romantic role since.
What exactly is standing in the gap, and is it Biblical? In Ezekiel 22:30, God tells the prophet, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” In ancient times, cities were built with walls surrounding them to provide protection from enemies. When the wall was breached, the city was vulnerable, and citizens would risk their lives by literally standing in the gap in the wall and fighting the enemy. That’s what my friend, Cheryl, had done for me.
In Jesus’ day, soldiers’ shields were equipped with brackets that could latch onto other soldiers’ shields, creating a wall of protection. Once they were locked in this way, the soldiers could move forward as one in a barricade against the enemies’ attack. Alone I could only cower behind my single shield. But once I allowed Cheryl to latch her shield to mine, my defense doubled. And when that prayer was answered, it was a blessed for both of us.
The Apostle Paul understood firsthand the power of standing in the gap. In his letter to the Roman church, he implored them to pray for him, writing, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” (Romans 15:30). He likewise beseeched the church in Ephesus, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.” (Ephesians 6:19). Throughout his epistles, Paul urged his fellow believers to stand in the gap for him.
In Ezekiel, God had gone looking for someone to stand in the gap and pray for sinful Jerusalem. Is He calling you to stand in the gap for someone today? If He is, why not send that person a text and let them know you’re praying for them? Or do you need someone to stand in the gap in prayer for you? Ask Him to lay that person on your heart, put your pride aside, and ASK!