The word, “pray,” has been diluted and assimilated into popular vocabulary as a communication of goodwill. When a response to a tragedy includes, “our thoughts and prayers are with them,” the speaker is expressing sympathy for the victims and their families. In many cases, there is no deliberate prayer associated with the phrase and the hearers anticipate none. One of my favorite memories is when my boss expressed that he was experiencing excruciating pain. Instinctively, I replied “I’ll pray for you.” Receiving it as an expression of compassion, he turned to leave. I placed my hand on his shoulder and prayed out loud for his healing. Not only did he receive relief, but he became a Christian several months later.
For this discussion, we’ll define prayer as a conversation with God. Nevertheless, many words describing our interactions with God have come to be considered synonymous with prayer. Just as human connections represent a range of emotions and dialogue, prayer has many forms and functions. Unfortunately, words such as Confession, Repentance, Worship, and Praise are sometimes used interchangeably with disregard for their underlying meaning. Intercession is one such word.
The Prayer of Intercession
By definition, Intercession is a prayer offered on behalf of others. Last week, I took strong exception to those who would repent for the sins of the nation. Repentance is a response to our personal sins. We cannot repent of the sins of this nation; the sin is too great and we are too small. On the other hand, what we need for our country is intercession. The word “intercede,” is from the Latin, “inter,” meaning, “between” and “cedere,” meaning, “to go.” The key to intercession is that we place ourselves between God’s judgment and the party to whom it is due. As long as God permits, we stand between God and the nation, asking God to have mercy and release revival. That sounds like hazardous work, doesn’t it? If we already have salvation in Jesus, why would we risk upsetting God by standing between Him and those whom we believe deserve His wrath? That, my friend, is an excellent question.
I’m here to disclose what has, regretfully, become somewhat of a secret among believers. God loves intercessors. He looks to find them; He is thrilled to encounter those who would stand in the gap.
“I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30 NASB).
Intercession is the character of Christ. As He has ascended to take His place at the right hand of the Father, Jesus prays continually for us.
“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 NASB).
The Persistence of Intercession
In the Book of Genesis, we read that Abraham and his nephew, Lot, travel together until such time that the abundance of their herds of livestock force them to separate. In Chapter 13, we see that Lot chooses to live in the green valley of the Jordan near Sodom and Gomorrah. Later, Abraham receives a visitation from the Lord and two angels as judgment is about to be released upon the evil cities.
“So the Lord told Abraham, ‘I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.’ The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham. Abraham approached him and said, ‘Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked?’ “ (Genesis 18:20-23 NLT).
Abraham knows that his nephew is in Sodom. Though God is intent on punishing the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham stands before the Lord to ask if the city might be saved on behalf of fifty righteous that might remain.
“And the Lord replied, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.’ “ (Genesis 18:26).
Abraham proceeds to “bargain” with God, asking that the city might be saved on behalf of forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty and even, ten righteous inhabitants. Though God did not find ten righteous inhabitants of the city, I believe it was Abraham’s persistent faith in God’s mercy that resulted in Lot and his family having an opportunity to be saved from destruction.
Persistence is a matter of faith in God. We see an emphasis on persistent prayer in Luke 18 as Jesus tells the parable of the widow and the unrighteous judge. The widow tirelessly pursues justice from a magistrate until the judge relents, fearing she will wear him out.
“And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ ” (Luke 18:6-8 NASB).
The Heart of Intercession
What is the difference between praying repetitious prayers and interceding persistently? Repetitive prayers are delivered by rote. Intercession comes from our hearts. We seemingly risk the grace in which we stand to request mercy for others. In so doing, we admit our utter helplessness but express complete confidence in God’s mercy and grace. In his book, “The Ministry of Intercession,” Andrew Murray, (1828-1917), writes,
“He so highly prizes our confidence in Him, it is so essentially the highest honor the creature can render the Creator, that He will do anything to train us in the exercise of this trust in Him. Blessed the man who is not staggered by God’s delay, or silence, or apparent refusal, but is strong in faith, giving glory to God. Such faith perseveres, importunately, if need be, and cannot fail to inherit the blessing.” (Murray, Andrew (2012-05-12). The Ministry of Intercession A Plea for More Prayer (p. 27). . Kindle Edition).
My friends, let’s stand in the gap for our communities, our schools, our nation and our world. We are in desperate need of revival. You’re absolutely right; this world doesn’t deserve it. But then, again, neither do we.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:3-9 NASB).
I am honored to see your interest week by week. Please pray for me that I bring the right message and that I bring it in a right spirit to turn hearts and minds toward Christ. I blog every Tuesday morning and I welcome your comments. If you sign-up in the form on the right, I’ll send you a link to the new post each week. As a thank-you gift, I’ll send you a link to my free eBook, “Thoughts on 21st Century Revival… Connecting with Millennials.”