Intercessors tend to be sensitive people. We tend to be very empathetic (thus the term Christian Empath) – constantly feeling things for others – and God wired us that way so we’re able to pick up on the things He wants to prompt us to pray over. But this same sensitivity can create confusion and even depression if you don’t understand it or know that it’s happening. [Note: I include a brief video at the bottom of this post as well]
Burden bearing is a term that is used by intercessors to describe the sensation we often have when we’re being prompted to pray. If you don’t have a framework for understanding this concept, it can feel a little like your emotions are going haywire. I found for myself and others that simply putting a name to it and acknowledging that it’s happening can be a huge relief – even a paradigm shift – for the one experiencing it.
What is a Prayer Burden and Burden Bearing
In the same way you might squeeze someone’s arm to get their attention, God will sometimes lay a “burden” on you to prompt you to pray. I find what this looks like can be as individual as each of us are, but the common theme is it will be noticeable (because it’s intended to get our attention).
For me, I will often find myself experiencing emotions that have no relevance on my current situation or mood. Often these are prayer burdens and they will lift once addressed. But if I don’t know to address them or what they are, they can be the cause of confusion, frustration, and even depression.
Sometimes I will have an ongoing burden for a person or situation, but I find the “weight” of the burden will fluctuate based on the urgency of prayer need at any given moment. In the same way as when you are ballroom dancing and the one leading will apply increased pressure to give direction, so God will increase and decrease the prayer burden to indicate what He wants you to do.
I think of burden bearing as the act of carrying a prayer burden. So if you are sensing a prayer burden, ongoing or one-time, that is burden bearing.
How-to Recognize a Prayer Burden
Recognizing a prayer burden is like developing a language of sorts in the sense that you learn how to communicate effectively over time with the Father (which is the same as with every area of your walk with Him). There are two key things I look for and listen for: anomalies and patterns.
I look for anomalies in my feelings and emotions. An example might be that I’m having a wonderful and productive day when suddenly I’m hit with a wave of fear. Since nothing in my current situation or mood caused it, it would likely get my attention quickly.
I’ll be honest, the first thing I’d do is check my female tracking app because let’s be real, any woman knows hormones can bring a fair dose of crazy with them – LOL! But once I’d assured myself that wasn’t the cause, I’d recognize this was likely a prayer burden.
I also listen for patterns when I’m talking with others in the body especially those I know are intercessors. So for example, if everyone seems to be experiencing waves of “funk” and the description of it sounds similar, there’s likely something in the Body of Christ that we intercessors need to band together and pray through.
A Pitfall to Avoid
Note the key here is communication; communication with God and each other. As intercessors we often can feel isolated, frequently we’ve been misunderstood by people and likely felt judged by them which often results in us keeping things to ourselves. In doing so, we make the burdens heavier.
We need each other. We need the reminder we are not crazy. We need the prayerful support. We function better and in a more healthy way when we come together and talk about how intercession happens in our life and how it effects us. It’s also how we learn which allows God to increase the gifting in us.
I encourage you to resist the urge to retreat. Because we’ve often been judged (and since we’re sensitive in the first place) it is easy for us to retreat to avoid judgement. As an intercessor it’s also easy to become focused on the things we’re pushing through and on protecting ourselves from outside criticism in our execution of our gift.
I know this is a bit of a sidebar, but this is important. Don’t let yourself be isolated. It makes you too easy for the enemy to target you. Connect to other intercessors or at least with people who don’t judge your gifting and how it flows.
How-to Press Through the Burden
Once you’ve identified a prayer burden, you also need to know what to do with it. Let’s start by remembering God is the power. This is important to remember because it isn’t about how much or how long you pray, it’s about obedience to what He is asking for and then trusting His power and authority to do the work.
Sometimes simply saying “yes God” and coming into agreement with Him in your heart is enough for the prayer burden to lift. Sometimes He is asking you to press in more. Sometimes He wants you to rally the troops, gathering other intercessors together to address the burden corporately. Whatever it is, trust His Holy Spirit to lead you.
Don’t be put off if what He’s asking for seems “silly” or doesn’t make sense. He uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, so just obey. If He asks you to blow a shofar over a building, just do it. If He asks you to shout “freedom” over a person, just do it. These prophetic acts often accompany intercession (though they don’t have to), so don’t allow yourself to be derailed or frustrated by them or how you feel doing them.
We often don’t understand what our natural actions are doing in the spiritual realm, and that’s ok. He’s had me stomp my feet when I’m praying to symbolically break chains. He’s had me speak into someone’s belly (not someone who was pregnant although those too), or any number of sounds or gestures. Yes it is humbling because you often feel ridiculous, but it is more important to obey than to maintain “dignity.”
With that said, you do need to submit to the leadership you’re under. So if you’re in a church and they aren’t ok with you doing “fill in the blank”, that needs to be respected. Remember God put them in the position of authority, so your submission honors Him. There is grace for the intercession in the midst of that.
So logically when you sense a prayer burden, put out your spiritual feelers. Ask Papa God what or who you’re supposed to be praying over and what that should look like. Then do what He says. Nothing more, nothing less.
Intercession is a strange and wonderful gifting. It allows us the benefit of deep intimacy with the Lord. He shares secrets with us to pray over. And we need to honor that sacred trust both by holding close what He shares in confidence and by meticulously obeying. As we cultivate relationships with other intercessors, we will find a deeper understanding of our own gifts. What an honor and privilege it is to burden bear. Like an expectant mother, carrying to term and rejoicing in the fruit of her labor, allow the fullness of each burden to take its course and rejoice in the outcome.
Bless you as you walk in your gift!