“Hear me, O lord, for your loving kindness is good; turn to me according to the multitude of your tender mercies” (Psalm 69:16).
Catherine Marshall was born in Johnson City, TN, the daughter of Minister John Ambrose Wood and his wife Leonora. In 1936, Catherine was married to future U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall. Peter’s tragic death at age 46 in 1949 from a heart attack left her a relatively young widow with a 9 year-old son. Somewhat as a response to considerable public affection for her husband’s memory and partly to establish a means of supporting herself, Marshall wrote her husband’s life story as she witnessed it.
She first had success compiling her husband’s sermons and prayers in a well-received book, titled Mister Jones, Meet the Master. Her best-selling book titled A Man Called Peter, first published in 1951, was made into one of the top grossing motion pictures of the year in 1955. Its nationwide success in movie theaters prompted her to continue writing.
Catherine and Leonard LeSourd (who was editor of Guidepost magazine) met and married ten years after Peter Marshall’s death. Through Catherine’s biographical books, Meeting God at Every Turn, and Beyond Our Selves, she received many thousands of letters from readers around the world expressing the grief they felt due to their own personal struggles and trying circumstances. Others wrote seeking a way to minister to the needs of those in need of prayer. She followed these successes with numerous devotional books and three novels, two of which, Christy and Julie, became bestsellers.
Marshall felt compelled to help alleviate the suffering so many expressed in their letters to her and gradually sensed the Lord’s desire burning in her heart. Catherine’s prayer for God’s solution was answered as God began to reveal to her a ministry that would do just that - bring together individual needs and those willing to pray for them.
In a vision she saw the two components of supply and demand. She said that “one was of this huge group of people, wounded, thirsty, frightened sheep who had lost their way and were reaching out frantically for help. The second was a growing number of Christians - those with the time and the desire to do something for others. In letters I received, they said all around me people are in need—folks needier than I am. My heart goes out to them. Yet how can I help?” God gave Catherine the vision to match these two groups of people: those with prayer needs and those Christians who wanted to be part of a ministry.
God’s original “insight or word of wisdom” to Catherine eventually developed into the Breakthrough International Ministry of Intercessory Prayer beginning in 1980 with her husband, Leonard LeSourd working at her side in Lincoln, Virginia. Breakthrough has never lost the vision of that original insight.
Prayer requests may be sent by mail, phone, and fax or via the internet. Your prayer request will be sent to six of Breakthrough’s 4,000 intercessors around the world who will pray for 21 days for each request they receive. Individuals requesting prayer will have their own team of dedicated intercessors holding your needs up before the Lord. People often report an increased peace of mind and sleep well during the 21 day prayer phase. Pray requests are identified by first name only and are never sent to intercessors in the same geographic location as the prayer requester.
The 21-day prayer period is based on the story in Daniel Chapter 10. For 21 days Daniel prayed without ceasing and interceded before the heavenly court on behalf of the people of God. After those 21 days, the angel Michael appeared to Daniel and informed him that “his words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” Michael explains to Daniel that spiritual warfare had delayed him for three weeks. This chapter demonstrates the immense power of prayer that can even call angels from heaven to help God’s people.
“Our intercessors are mature Christians who sacrificially pray for others,” says Elizabeth Smith, a former Breakthrough Board Chair who now serves as Vice Chair. Smith says the number of people who are focusing their petitions on an individual request magnifies the power of prayer. When half a dozen people are praying for a specific need for three weeks, an extraordinary amount of God’s power can be released.
Smith became a Breakthrough Intercessor 25 years ago after reading one of Marshall’s books. “I was interested in making my personal prayer life more effective,” Smith recalls. Once she joined the Breakthrough team, prayer became an integral part of her life. She has been on the Breakthrough board of directors since 2001. “Intercession is a sacrificial calling where the person praying cares deeply,” Smith explained. “Many prayer warriors come to us as new intercessors with a love for prayer. Often deep caring for people follows after we have invested our prayers into their lives. Although relatively few Christians have a passion for pursuing being intercessors, those who do so absolutely love it.”
About 125,000 prayer requests are received yearly. “Breakthrough Staff meets daily for prayer to pray for the most urgent requests,” Smith said of the process. The “culling” of mail is done at their computers as they screen requests and assign them to intercessors. The prayer request number surges after a natural disaster or terrorist attack such as the tsunami in Japan or 9/11.
Prayer requests are routinely received for the salvation of loved ones, physical healing, restoration of marriages and finance or deliverance from drug or alcohol addiction. “We ask intercessors to be spiritually discerning about scripture,” Smith says. “God may lead them to certain verses in the Bible that speak to the needs of those they’re supporting through praying.”
Breakthrough provides Christian intercessors with a continuing series of examples of how God answers prayer. Breakthrough equips its intercessors with its magazine about prayer, The Breakthrough Intercessor, and also with the Breakthrough Handbook for Intercessors, prayer conferences and special teachings.
Breakthrough has guidelines and advice on how Christians can operate prayer groups in their churches as many congregations are into regular intercession and thereby are discovering the joy of prayer. Many Breakthrough Intercessors are elderly Christians who are no longer able to actively participate in on-site church activity but find meaningful ministry at home as a prayer warrior. Breakthrough advocates Christians’ journal prayer requests. “It is a great encouragement to maintain a prayer journal and record how God answers prayer,” says Smith.
Breakthrough Intercessors may receive scriptural insights from God for the prayer requester. These messages, in the form of Scripture verses, are forwarded to the person requesting prayer. In the same fashion, prayer requesters send their answers to prayer to Breakthrough Staff which are then sent to the intercessors. The written responses to prayer act as encouragement to the intercessors for their faithfulness in praying so diligently. Intercessors have a conviction just as Watchman Nee proclaimed: everything good happens because of prayer and nothing good happens without it. “The Bible tells us we have a responsibility to pray,” Smith says. “We assist people to develop faith to know that God absolutely answers prayers.”
Smith concludes, “A commitment to prayer is not something people sign up for unless they have a heart for it. It’s the Lord’s work and it requires diligence. Being an intercessor requires that we be responsible when we commit to pray for others, but it does not require that we be experts. When I look over my many years as a Breakthrough Intercessor I realize that I have ‘grown with the job’. In the early years I just focused on trying to be faithful to pray for people with needs. A simple desire to pray for others is the only prerequisite needed to be effective as an intercessor. We’re not a glamorous type of ministry. We quietly gather information and do undercover work.”
Breakthrough Prayer Ministries needs are great. Their fax, e-mail, and mailbox are filled with prayer requests every morning. They invite those who feel called to pray for others to contact them and receive more information about how to be a part of this prayer ministry. Breakthrough also extends an invitation to those requiring prayer to visit their website and place your requests on-line. All prayer requests are kept confidential.
A FINAL THOUGHT:
Intercessory prayer is the act of interceding to God on behalf of others. An intercessor is called and gifted to be the go-between, who stands/goes before God to petition on behalf of a person, situation, or need, like the priests of Old Testament.
A prayer warrior is an intercessor, with a gift to do battle employing a strategic mindset, bringing God’s strategy for victory on to the field of battle with an authority that allows them to identify the appropriate weapon(s) required and the know how to get heaven involved. Prayer warriors may pray for individuals or for an entire city, state, nation or nations.
Both intercessor and prayer warrior have variations of the Lord’s gifting/mantles based on His grace or desire.
For more information you can contact Breakthrough by:
Mail: Breakthrough, Inc., P.O. Box 121, Lincoln, Virginia 20160