Recently my church has been studying the book of Nehemiah. The prophet Nehemiah has been called by God back to Israel to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. It was a difficult time in history with lots of opposition to the rebuilding. There were times during the rebuilding when they stood with one hand on the work with the other hand on their sword to protect themselves (4:17-18). Other times, half the people worked while the other half stood guard over them (4:16, 4:21).
During biblical times, cities were protected by walls. These walls kept invaders from just walking in and conquering the population. Because these walls were so vital, their maintenance was of the utmost importance. When a gap became apparent, it must be repaired immediately so that the enemies of the city did not sneak through.
But God has an even more important wall He expects us to build and maintain. Brick by brick we are to build up a wall to protect ourselves from the advances of the enemy. Using His Word as the foundation, we, together with fellow believers, construct a fortress, a barrier as it were, against the forces of evil that threaten to destroy us. Individually we are weak but together our bond can be impenetrable. Each of us, using the gifts He has bestowed up us through the Holy Spirit, are important to the constructing of that fortress.
If a gap opens up in the wall around the fortress the enemy has a way to sneak inside. Sometimes he can even boldly walk through the gap you failed to see while you are concentrating on protecting the gate that is so obviously shut. So it is important to make sure that not only are we working together to constantly look for gaps that might open up, but if we do find one then we must have someone stand there protecting the opening while we work to rebuild it.
Sometimes we, in our weakness, actually become the gap in the wall. Through trials, pain, discouragement and sin, we allow ourselves to forget how important we are as members of the Body of Christ. We fall to the ground unable to stand before the onslaught of the world. But because we have a God who is full of mercy and grace, He has given us the Holy Spirit who, through His gifts, has provided warriors to stand in the gap for us.
Who are these warriors? Me. And her. And yes, even them. Each of us is called to be a warrior in the army of God. To stand in the gap to protect all that we hold dear. “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14 NIV).
So what does the term “standing in the gap” mean for you and me?
Sometimes someone is physically unable to stand perhaps through illness, injury, or exhaustion. In Exodus 17 we are given the example of Aaron and Hur physically supporting Moses as he led the Israelites in battle against the Amalekites. Because of their actions, the battle was won. Nowhere in that chapter does it say that Moses asked for help. Aaron and Hur obviously saw the weakness and stepped in to be strong for him. And so it goes with our fellow Christians. We must be diligent in seeking the whispers of the Holy Spirit about who needs our help.
Recently I found a great quote which helps me help someone who needs me to stand in the gap for them during a season of exhaustion or defeat. “If a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.” — Edgar Watson Howe
More often however, standing in the gap is accomplished through prayer. Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Whether they ask for it or not.
Recently a loved one had fallen hard into a dark place. They did not ask for me to stand in the gap for them. But I noticed the empty space and stepped forward, taking a heartfelt plea to my Father in Heaven to show them His mercy while they struggled to stand. I did not need to know the details of their fall. I just knew that I needed to pray for them to find strength in Him again. When I called on prayer warrior friends to stand in the gap as well, I did not give them any details. God knew the details and that was all that mattered.
Praying is not complicated. It doesn’t have to be formal. It can be done through speaking, music, writing, or just sitting still and letting the Holy Spirit wash over you. Because He can intercede for you with God when you have no words.
No matter where we are, no matter where in the Kingdom we live, we are all called to be a part of the army of God. Even when we can’t see the entire picture, we need to understand that each of us has a place along the wall that protects His Kingdom. If a gap opens up and we don’t protect it, the enemy will pour in. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NIV).
Will you pray this prayer with us today on behalf of someone who needs us to stand in the gap?
“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV).