Knowing Your Seasons of Prayer: The Valley of the Shadow

four-seasonsTo everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.Psalm 23:4 

In spite of the title, I am not going to get mournful and depressing on you. In fact, I want to create the opposite atmosphere. The season of the valley of the shadow is a common intercessory experience, and is even God-appointed. We just shouldn’t stay there longer than God intends.

I remember the day when the Lord spoke to me about a lovely couple whom I was already praying a lot for: “They are going to go through the valley of the shadow, and I want you to go there with them in prayer.” It was not a physical death kind of thing at all, just a very, very hard time. I didn’t even tell them about what I had heard. But I experienced a measure of the pain they were feeling, as I walked through it with them via intercession. It was another of those very alone-feeling places.

When we experience an intercessory “valley of the shadow” season, it is a good idea to keep a couple of things in perspective. First of all, note what Psalm 23:4 says of this time: “I will fear no evil, for You are with me ….” Although we feel a measure of the pain of those for whom we are interceding, it is not exclusively our burden. Jesus is interceding for them, too (Hebrews 7:25), and it’s more about Him than it is about us. He is with them. We just have the privilege of joining Him as His assistants in the prayer process. He is with us, as well. We are not alone, no matter what it might feel like.

Secondly, Psalm 23:4 also tells us that in the midst of such a time, the Lord our Shepherd comforts and steadies us with His rod and staff. He does not intend for us to go off into a depression. That goes for the intercessor who is sharing in the valley, as well as the person whose valley it is.

Although at times we may purposefully enter the valley of the shadow in intercession by the direction of the Lord, we should be careful not to develop some kind of mournful delight in always interceding in dark places. Thinking that your special prayer calling is to be in the valley on behalf of others all the time is not healthy.

You don’t need to submit yourself to a “valley of the shadow” experience every time you feel something dark. Some prophetic intercessors are more sensitive than the average person to the spiritual atmosphere around them and to the people with whom they come in contact. They feel the spiritual condition of a region or of the people they encounter on the street, and can mistakenly think what they are feeling is their own emotion, when really, it is not.

For instance, if you are traveling in a country where depression or fear is prevalent, you may suddenly feel depressed or afraid without knowing why. Awareness of this tendency will keep you from being confused by it or being concerned that there is something wrong with you. You know that you are feeling the need of the region, and can simply pray in your prayer language for them whenever possible while traveling there.

The same can happen with individual people you run into. You may sense their sadness, trauma, or other problems, without even speaking with them. It doesn’t hurt to say a quick prayer for them and then release it to the Lord. But, in most cases, it is not up to you to spend the next few hours or days interceding heavily on their behalf. Becoming burdened with the cares of multiple people you don’t even know will lead to feeling overwhelmed.  Keep the light on inside yourself. Cast the care you are feeling upon the Lord and deliberately leave it behind, for your own emotional well-being, unless the Holy Spirit specifically directs you into further prayer.

This concludes the Knowing Your Seasons of Prayer series. I hope it has been an encouragement to you!

Knowing Your Seasons of Prayer Intro  
Previous: The Season of Inward Prayer Focus     

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