It happened years ago, but it’s etched in my memory. I peddled through the waking market area to the church’s small meeting room on the edge of town. The pedicab outside meant Mr Praise was already there. We started praying. Our focus: the provincial town that had become my SE Asia ministry home. We asked for the Kingdom to arrive in power, the grip of the dominant religion to be broken, the gospel to be believed, for a harvest breakthrough and for a transformation that reflects Jesus’ rule. We walked, knelt, wept, shouted, skipped with the joy of promise and ended with a praise song. Then I peddled back past the market, now bustling with new-day activity.

Suddenly a motorcycle shot out from a market stall, almost colliding with me. The young rider looked back and I let him have both barrels of the best (worst) scolding I had in my local language armoury. The market seemed to hush; heads turned my way. Then a seller spat her betel nut onto the ground and shouted: “Whoa! The foreigner scolds well! Everyone laughed, except me.

Was the motorcyclist reckless? Yes. Was it OK to be shaken by the near miss? Sure. But how could I justify the rage boil-over?  I had spent an hour blessing the town, but had just lashed out at one of its sons.

The afterglow of the morning prayer time was gone. It was a slow, heart-searching pedal home. I had been enjoying the prayer sessions, was excited about the vision, believed in the strategy, desperate for breakthrough and hopeful of answers. But something was missing.

Bible teaching, evangelism in schools and streets, literature hand-outs, concerts, English teaching, prayer for the sick and more were all parts of our ministry – and we loved doing it! But was I more in love with the service than with the served?

I had prayed enthusiastically for ministry success, but was I more focused on getting the answers than loving the lives that needed them?

The roots of the love priority go deepest and yield most fruit through prayer bonding.

We see prayer bonding at work in Paul’s life. In praying for his nation to be saved he does more than ask for an outcome. He lists eight blessings that are theirs, but which are not being enjoyed by them: adoption, divine glory, etc. He sees WHAT CAN BE (the blessings offered) and he sees WHAT IS (the void & futility of life outside the blessings). By holding the pictures side by side he feels the emptiness and pain of a nation that is stumbling, missing out on the goodness offered to them. His praying – without reducing his joy – opens his heart to a great sorrow and anguish for his nation (Rom 9:1-3). In fact, the roots of the love bond went so deep that he wished for an impossible exchange: to forfeit his own salvation if it would secure theirs!

We grow in the love priority by learning to LAMENT in the gap; seeing WHAT CAN BE and seeing WHAT IS, and being affected by the gap between the two. Feelings are stirred and deepened in prayer: on one end, the sorrow of human need and on the other, the joy of Christ’s answers. Prayer bonding deepens identification with both the sorrow and the joy.

We commonly skip along the surface of WHAT IS in our hurry to ask for WHAT CAN BE. Prayer bonding changes that; it allows the Spirit time to deepen our heart’s attachment to the one(s) needing the answers.

Here is a simple prayer bonding exercise:

  • Note (for prayer) a current need, crisis or struggle someone is experiencing.
  • What provisions are there, in the fullness of Christ, that answer that need? Write them down (the WHAT CAN BE), thank him for each, and tell him of your longing for the person(s) to experience them.
  • Write (bullet points) as much as you know of the WHAT IS (the cause, turmoil, consequences, pain, etc. of the situation). Ask the Holy Spirit to deepen your awareness. Then, as a prayer of lament, talk to the Lord about the struggles, tears, brokenness, desperation, etc. of the person(s).
  • Go back to WHAT CAN BE and again pray over those answers in Christ. Repeat this movement between the two pictures. Expect that, after each lament time, your bond with the needy person(s) will be deeper as you pray for the answers.