Living in true community is not easy. It is built up of many different personalities and we would be fooling ourselves to think that life in that colorful conglomeration of people would be without difficulty, confrontation, and frustration. I love this reminder from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that God has given us a powerful resource in intercessory prayer to combat this contempt we may find in ourselves toward another.
Prayer seems to be a great equalizer. Even Jesus taught us that we ought pray for our enemies. I wonder if that is for our enemies benefit or our own? Only by looking at my brother through the lens of prayer can I see him as a sinner in need of a Savior just as I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I hope this excerpt challenges you just as it challenges me.
A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner. This is a happy discovery for the Christian who begins to pray for others. There is no dislike, no personal tension, no estrangement that cannot be overcome by intercession as far as our side of it is concerned. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the fellowship must enter every day. The struggle we undergo with our brother in intercession may be a hard one, but that struggle has the promise that it will gain its goal.
How does this happen? Intercession means no more than to bring our brother into the presence of God, to see him under the Cross of Jesus as a poor human being and sinner in need of grace. Then everything in him that repels us far away; we see him in all his destruction and need. His need and his sin become so heavy and oppressive that we feel them as our own, and we can do nothing else but pray; Lord, do Thou,Thou alone, deal with him according to Thy severity and Thy goodness. To make intercession means to grant our brother the same right to we have received, namely, to stand before Christ and share in his mercy."