"Jesus’ mode of operation… is to call His friend, His bridal partner, one with whom He has shared the secrets of His heart, to His side.  He has given her the authority to stir His heart to do the work that needs to be done.  He will not do it on Hs own.  He will not do it without His friend.  So when Mary prays… the door is opened, all the power of heaven come to bear upon the issue of the day and resurrection power is released.”
– Gary Wiens (adapted)

In a previous letter we looked at strategic delay in the story of the ten virgins in matthew 25:1-13.  Five virgins were wise, and five were foolish.  Five had cultivated oil in their lamps.  The fuel for that oil is our intimate relationship with Jesus and the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Most of us struggle with times of delay.  Through our human eyes it’s hard to wait, and it feels so unnecessary and like such a waste of time.  But God wants to show us the authority of intimacy in two very familiar Bible stories in the life of Mary and Martha.  In luke 10:42 and john 11:1-44 we see the strategy in delay that leads to authority and resurrection power.

In luke 10:38-42, Jesus came to visit Martha and Mary in their home.  How would you feel if the living God came to visit you?  As you know in this familiar Bible story, Martha was distracted with all the preparations and Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to what He had to say.  Mary chose to sit at the feet of the living God.  Martha was distracted by all the preparations.  She was doing good things for God, but she was distracted and worried.  She said in verse 40, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”  We can understand her point of view.  After all, Jesus was there and the food had to be prepared.  From Martha’s point of view, it looked foolish or even lazy not to be serving food to Jesus at this time.  She didn’t understand God’s priority. 

But Mary was cultivating intimacy, and Jesus said to Martha in verse 41-42, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” 

So often we can be focused on our ministry instead of sitting at Jesus’ feet.  It’s not that ministry isn’t important.  It’s very important.  But we need to get the oil.  We must put first things first.  We can’t do the second thing first.  Ministry will burn us out, exhaust us, and cause worry and anxiety just as it did in Martha’s life if we don’t have the priority right.  Loving God is the first priority, and then everything else will fall into place.  Ministry can then be done with joy and gladness. 

The second story, recorded in john 11:1-44, is about Mary and Martha and their younger brother Lazarus.  He was very sick, and they called for Jesus to come to Bethany where they lived.  Jesus loved them, but He didn’t come as expected – it was a strategic delay – and He stayed where He was an extra two days.  How would you feel if you were Martha or Mary and your brother was about to die?  You also would probably be anxious for Jesus to come quickly and heal him!  I know I would.     

But Jesus delayed in responding to Mary and Martha when they sent word that Lazarus was sick.  In fact, He stayed a few more days away and did nothing.  The unthinkable happened, and Lazarus died.  Does this delay make any sense?  Jesus could have healed Lazarus but He didn’t.  From our human, common-sense perspective, an immediate intervention would have been perfect.  But instead, the situation looks absolutely hopeless from man’s point of view.  Time had run out.  It was too late!  Lazarus was dead.  This was outside the realm of human possibility.  Even Jesus said to His disciples that Lazarus was dead, and for their sake He was glad He was not there so that they would believe (john 11:14-15).  

Have you been waiting for God to answer some of your prayers, and the answer has not come?  The situation may look hopeless from every human standpoint.  You may feel that it is now far too late.  We have all been there.  Many of us are waiting right now, and the hour seems late.  We hear of rumors of revival and things happening around the world, and we think, “God, we need You here.  We need You now!”  But God seems to wait.  Could this possibly be a strategic delay?  Is he deepening our relationship and level of intimacy for a powerful intervention in the future?  Let’s continue with the story of Lazarus.

Jesus finally went to Bethany and upon His arrival there, he found that Lazarus had been dead for four days.  Martha came out to meet Him, but Mary stayed inside.  She said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Imagine her anguish. 

Jesus comforted her and said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (john 11:25).

She did not understand what He was going to do.  She believed in the resurrection, but could not comprehend that He could raise Lazarus from the dead by that point.  Her level of intimacy with Jesus was not deep enough to have faith and understand at this level.

Jesus then asked for Mary.  She came and fell at His feet and said the exact same thing that Martha had said – “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Mary began to weep.  Her intimate relationship with Jesus was deep.  She was like the wise virgin.  She was the one who sat at His feet and had cultivated oil for her lamp.  She had cultivated intimacy with Him throughout her life.  And the depth of her relationship in her words and emotions touched Jesus deeply.  When Jesus saw her weeping, the Bible says that he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  Jesus was touched so deeply by Mary’s sorrow, that He, the God of the universe, did the most amazing thing in verse 35:

“Jesus wept.” 

Mary had touched the heart of God with her prayer.  There was an authority in Mary’s intimacy with Jesus.  Her words and her heart of intimacy unlocked the power of God. The prayer of Jesus’ intimate friend, Mary, loosed resurrection power from Jesus.  She had the authority through intimacy to stir His heart to do the work.  He waited for the authority of intimacy to do the work.  He did not do it without his intimate friend.  So, Jesus, deeply moved, went to the tomb and told them to take away the stone.  He called to Lazarus to come out – and Lazarus rose from the dead and came forth from the grave.  He was alive!  Jesus had done a most amazing miracle that brought far more glory to His name now.  This strategic delay had brought forth the greatest miracle of resurrection from the dead. 

God can do this today but He will not do it without His intimate friends.  Let’s use this waiting period that many of us face in order to let Him build character and a deeper intimacy with Him.  Let’s thank God by faith for what He will do, for surely we shall see His resurrection power if we do not give up our faith. 

Let’s all seriously evaluate our lives and answer the following questions:

  • Am I putting an intimate relationship with God first?  Is Jesus my priority above everything else? 
  • Am I troubled by all the work and confusion of daily life, or am I sitting at Jesus’ feet and getting oil for my lamp?
  • Am I willing to prepare for God’s resurrection power and put God first in my life every single day?”
  • Am I willing to go the way of intimacy so that everything I do is done through the anointed power of God?

God wants to release resurrection power in these last days.  The power of prayer to do resurrection miracles will not happen without the power and authority of intimacy.  Do you want to be one who stirs the heart of God with your prayers?  Let’s invite Jesus to rearrange our lives and our agendas so that we can draw near to Him on a daily basis.  He invites us as His friend. 

“Jesus invites you… to come aside for a moment and put first things first, to allow the issues and agendas of the day to be set aside for a moment.  I am utterly convinced that those who draw near to love Him will find themselves on the receiving end of the earth-shaking power of the living Word, for He care about the issues and agendas of the day in an infinitely greater way than we do.  God talks to His friends so that they might be established in faith, that in the time of delay their hearts will not be shaken and that they might stir the very heart of God with their prayers.” – Gary Wiens

Together in the Harvest,

Debbie Przybylski is the founder and director of intercessors arise international, a part of the ministry of the Elijah Company, Inc. The vision of Intercessors Arise International is to see thousands of intercessors from every nation released in strategic prayer for the furtherance of the Gospel worldwide. Contact Deb at deb@intercessorsarise.org . Used with permission.