“Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.” Revelation 8:3-4. NKJV
Unbeknownst to most people, there are thousands of individuals hidden away from society who have chosen to give their lives over to the contemplation of God and intercession for this world. Many of these people live in monasteries, and have left all their worldly affairs in order spend time focused on God and praying for others. We know them as monks, and they are scattered around the world in monasteries. They follow an ancient tradition and live with their brothers and/or sisters and spend their lives in an ordered existence. They pray, work for the good of their order, and intercede for those of us in secular society.
Hermits are different. They have chosen a solitary life away from all society. They live in small huts or caves and spend their time in prayer and contemplation. They usually provide for their own living by growing food or scavenging from the land around them. Some are provided for by others who bring them gifts of food and firewood, in order to supplement their humble existence.
Anchorites are those individuals who have chosen to be shut away completely from society. They spend their time praying for the world and for others who may contact them with specific prayer requests. They are usually associated with a monastery or church and have their food delivered to them a few times a day. A person can choose to shut themselves away for a short time; a week or month, or longer if they so desire.
Intercessors come in various forms. They may be set apart from society by choice or by necessity, or are not set apart at all. Many live in care homes or in their own homes and cannot get out any longer. They have chosen to give their lives over to prayer and intercession for others. Other intercessors live within the confines of modern society but still have chosen to spend a great deal of their time praying for us and the problems of this world.
Why would anyone choose such a life? Does it make any difference in our world today that there are thousands of individuals who spend their precious time praying for us? To find the answer, one needs to only look around at our fragmented and troubled world. What is keeping it together? Why hasn’t it gone off the rails yet? I suspect that until we step into eternity, we will never know the efficacy of the prayers that have been prayed for us, either individually or collectively, by those who have chosen to live a sacrificial life in order to seek God and intercede for us.