When you can’t be involved in Christian service as actively as you once were, you can find yourself standing on the sidelines of church life, feeling like a spare part. But the church is a body, with no dispensable members (1 Corinthians 12:12-25). There are important roles which only older believers can fulfil. In last month’s column we saw how elderly Christians can glorify God through their trials. This time we consider how you can do so through your prayers.
The prophet Daniel distinguished himself in his work when he was called out of retirement in his early 80s (Daniel 6:1-3). But at this stage in his life it was his prayers which proved to be his most valuable contribution to the Lord’s cause. When King Darius made it illegal to pray to anyone except him, Daniel disobeyed. ‘With his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God… making supplication before his God’ (Daniel 6:10-11, NKJV).
Daniel 9 shows that he was praying for God’s kingdom to be restored. He asked the Lord to forgive his people’s sins, bring them back from exile, rebuild Jerusalem and pursue his saving purposes for the world through them. The Lord granted that request; and centuries later, the Messiah was born to Israel — in answer to the prayers of this frail octogenarian.
As a younger man Daniel had resisted the temptation of the king’s food. He’d interpreted visions and served in high places. But his most vital service to the Lord was the prayers which he prayed in his old age.
God seems to have ordained that his plan of redemption will often be progressed through prayers of older saints. Saints like the old man Simeon; and the widow Anna, who, at the age of 84, still ‘served God with fastings and prayers night and day’. Their prayers were answered: they both lived to see ‘the Consolation of Israel’ (Luke 2:25-38).
When you’re younger, life can be crammed full of responsibilities at home, work and church. Spending time with the Lord is difficult. But retirement, an ‘empty nest’ and less physical mobility can leave you with time on your hands. Days can feel long and empty, and the nights restless. This is God’s way of leading you into a new avenue of service. Your Captain has promoted you to that part of his army which wields the most powerful weapon of all.
He’s keeping you back from other activities so you can bring earnest, thoughtful, detailed petitions to the throne of grace. He’s confined you to your home to make space in your life to pray for your church, and for the lost; for local outreach, the Government, the persecuted church, Bible translation and missionary endeavours.
A bedbound Christian told me that each Sunday he’d picture his congregation sitting in the chapel, and spend the morning ‘praying round the pews’, seeking God’s blessing on each person in turn. Another elderly believer I know doesn’t sleep well at night. She reasons, ‘the Lord must be keeping me awake because he wants me to talk to him’ – so she does!
How many souls have been saved, churches built up, backsliders restored and nations shaken, through the prayers of older Christians? Be encouraged! The pleas you raise from your bed or armchair are heard in heaven; and they may well prove far more effective in building Christ’s kingdom than all the service you rendered in younger days.
Matthew Cox, Pastor of Union Chapel Bethersden, Kent, and book reviews editor at Evangelical Times.