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“Lord, what can I DO?”

Most often this is where my thoughts go when I am on the streets of Brazil. Whether it is in outreach to the women in prostitution as part of the Father’s Love outreach team or when I am passing someone who is hungry and hurting in my everyday going-about-the-city business, my default response is, “Lord, what can I DO?” 

Recently, the Lord confronted me about this. During a team meeting, our base leader Pedro said these words, “Apathy can masquerade as empathy.” My first thought was, “Okay, that sounds good, but what does that mean?” And I thought, surely this does not apply to me…. Because I FEEL things, you know? Like I really FEEL them deeply and am affected by what I see and feel in the hardships and turmoil of others. Often this overwhelms me and I withdraw and almost shut down in this sea of despair that we see on the streets. 

I would for sure not classify myself as apathetic. 

But, for some reason, I felt that God wanted me to hear that word. So, I listened as Pedro explained that this looks like being busy doing “things” instead of having compassion. And I felt convicted. But why? I wondered. I have compassion and I weep and it is messy and hard!

The Holy Spirit was quick to reveal that instead of sitting with people in their pain – if I move to doing things, I can avoid the intensity of the emotions. In the doing, I perceive that I have some control and it feeds my need to be effective or helpful. You see, I will do things or try to solve the problems instead of just feeling. Are any of you this way? 

As this was revealed to me – I thought well, sure, God – I am trained as a social worker and someone who is highly driven to find solutions. This is my go-to way of being! I get tired of crying and then feeling shut down, because I can’t cry anymore and I don’t know what to do with everything that I feel, so I want to solve it all… today. What is so wrong with that? 

But God. God was speaking to me through Pedro to seek Him. His ways are higher. He wants me to be with Him and let Him have the space to show who He is for others in their loss, their hardships, and their needs. They don’t need more Robyn. They need Jesus.

And I felt lighter. But not resolved. Because… what exactly does that mean for me? (Remember – I want solutions!) 

That following Sunday I was in church here in Texas. The preacher was giving a great word and he took us to Acts 16 – the story of Paul being called to Macedonia and then imprisoned there. As he was talking, I felt Jesus saying, “Pay attention to this – it’s good.” 

Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship. Suddenly, a great earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. All at once every prison door flung open and the chains of all the prisoners came loose. (Acts 16:25-26 TPT) 

As Paul and Silas were in the prison, they praised and all of the prisoners were freed. I felt the joy of Jesus as He said, “Robyn, when you sit with them in their prison of pain and begin to praise – they will all be set free.” 

I took hold of that word and went home to meditate on it. Immediately, I was stuck… Jesus?? What does that mean – practically – to sit with them in their pain and praise? Surely you don’t mean that I am to go to the red light district and sing songs of worship and gladness over someone who is hungry? That would not seem to be the most loving thing to do. And then, it was like my eyes were opened that THIS is what intercession is. I have prayed and I have even been in intercessory prayer and on intercessory teams. BUT. This was a different call to intercession and prayer than I have felt before. 

So I asked Rachael, “What does it mean to you to praise in intercession?”

I want to share her words with you. I believe it will help us all become ones who can sit with people in their prisons and praise. We will see chains fall, jail cells open, and captives setting their oppressors free and leading them to Jesus. 


1. I fix my gaze on Jesus. I might sing in tongues or my own spontaneous song telling the Lord how beautiful he is. 

2. I’m very visual, so I let him show me how beautiful he is. As I respond, I’ll sing about what beauty he is showing me. 

3. Then comes the intercession: I bring a name to him, and ask for him to reveal the same beauty to that person.

The beauty of Jesus and His presence brings peace, provision, passion, purpose, and power. When we praise from a place of pain and imprisonment, He is faithful to shake things up, walk through locked doors, and turn hearts around so that families are restored and saved and free. 

My friends, let us be people who refuse to shut down and get busy, when all we need is to be still and sit in the pain. Look to Jesus and praise; welcome the presence of Jesus. After all, He is our Savior King. He is worthy of it all. His presence changes everything. 

My prayer for you is Ephesians 3:16-19 (TPT).

“And I pray that he would unveil within you the unlimited riches of his glory and favor until supernatural strength floods your innermost being with his divine might and explosive power. Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude[a] of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!”

Text by Robyn Owen-West, Missionary – Shores of Grace Recife

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