Have you ever felt called but unable? Have you ever had a burden so deep on your heart to move in a direction to serve God, but you remained struggling with fear?
Marianne Walsh, the coordinator of the Women’s Intercessory Prayer ministry, knows this exact dilemma. Thirty years ago she felt called to the Women’s Intercessory Prayer ministry, but she could not pray out loud. She would show up each Wednesday, but remained silent in her seat. A friend pulled her aside one day and asked her about it. Upon hearing Marianne share that she struggled with praying out loud, the friend then encouraged her to get alone with God and ask Him how she should pray. Marianne was bound in fear. Her mind would go blank and she would get really nervous. Speaking in front of people was difficult for her, something she had always struggled with. In God’s presence she asked the Lord how He wanted her to pray, and she felt the Lord impress upon her heart these three words, “Pray My Word.”
So she did.
During prayer she would shuffle through the pages of her Bible and when she got to a verse the Lord opened her eyes to, she would pray that verse out loud. She knew she was being led by the Spirit and that the Word of God is His will and that He would fulfill His Word. That helped her overcome her fear. It changed her prayer life. She was trusting God to release her from her fear of praying out loud, holding tight to the promise that “regardless of our shortcomings, God’s Word does not return void.”
The Women’s Intercessory Prayer was started years ago by Honey Simons. Dotty Stephenson then carried on the torch, and then Karen Brooks. Then Marianne was asked to lead. This ministry upholds not only Harvest, but issues within the nation and the world.
“Intercession is a calling.” It is living out Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
“The prayer group is a hidden gem of the church.” It is a place where you can grow in your giftings. “You learn how to speak, share, lead, and pray out loud.” The morning begins by opening in prayer and worship. One of the women prepares a mini devotional, and then the group breaks up into small groups to pray over the pastors. Once finished, another worship song is played to bring everyone back into a spirit of unity and then intercession is made for: Harvest, the salvation of the lost, revival, the government, the United States, President Donald and Melania Trump, the military, police, firemen, national disasters, marriages, families, abused children, children in all schools, prodigals, Hollywood and the media, Israel, security, missions, California, the persecuted church, believers, worship leaders, illnesses, and whatever else the Holy Spirit brings to mind. The women pray around the globe.
Not many people can sit for hours and pray for others, but there are those who are burdened with a heart for intercession. Marianne says, “As I am interceding here, over here God is healing my family and answering prayer and He gives me a peace that I am right in the center of His will, and He is working on my family and miracles are taking place.”
“He will take care of your household as you take care of His.”
Prayer is a battle, however, and learning how to combat the spiritual warfare is key. “One way we rise above the attacks is we plan for success and we guard that time. Good things will come up in that time that will take us away, but we put God first (Matthew 6:33), remembering we don’t fight against flesh and blood but against principalities (Ephesians 6:12).” There is a cost to interceding for others because the enemy does not want God’s will done on earth. It is having knowledge of the battle, recognizing that issues and trials may arise solely because the enemy wants you to stop praying for others. God hears your prayers and an increase in spiritual warfare is an indication that you are a powerful front. It is the call to count the cost (Luke 14:25-28) while appreciating the blessing that comes with it. The women simply continue to build spiritual muscles as they learn how to cope through the trials while continuing in ministry. Marianne, herself, has faced various hardships through the years as she interceded for others, but the group gracefully ministered to her and prayed her through. It is nice having people surrounding you as family, praying you through what the enemy wants to subdue you with.
Marianne is still amazed. “God took someone who couldn’t even pray out loud, and through His love, mercy, and grace, and having a teachable spirit, grew her to become the coordinator of the intercessory prayer group she was mentored in previously.” Each week when she gets to walk into the Women’s Intercessory Prayer group, she can’t believe what the Lord has done in her life and praises the Lord for His mercy that is new every morning. “I get to lead this group and what a privilege and an honor. I am humbled at the whole thing and it doesn’t get old. It is a privilege and honor.”
The Lord had told Marianne to serve Him where He gives her a burden. “Your burden is where your ministry is.” And for Marianne the common thread of the burden has always been serving the women. Right now, she has a heart for all churches to have intercessory prayer groups, and God confirmed this burden to her at a retreat. The women were encouraged to sit with different women at every meal of the retreat, and upon doing so, Marianne realized she sat next to a pastor’s wife each time who wanted to learn about Harvest’s established intercessory prayer group, so that they could start one at their own church. She prayed with them and shared insights on Harvest’s format to help them get started.
“If I can do this, you can do this. God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity. With that sound mind we can overcome all those insecurities—everyone has them.”