Intercession - How it works
They willingly go boldly before the throne of God, not begging, but aware of the authority in Christ each believer has. They know the importance of the blood of the Lamb and the Word of God in defeating Satan with regard to the issue they are praying for.
There are some additional attributes of an intercessor that will be understood best as we discuss what is involved in being an intercessor. Before going there, I want to give 4 warnings for those with the gift of intercession.
You who spend much time in intercession will at times have a sense of not belonging to the body. This is because you exhibit your gift when nobody notices. Be careful not to let that bother you. Intercession is certainly not as glamorous as some other ministries. No one is seen or applauded in their prayer closet. And perhaps because of our human nature, that is why so few become intercessors. But without the intercessor, the church could not function properly. They glorify God behind the scenes……quietly but quite effectively.
2. Avoid using prayer as an escape from fulfilling other responsibilities.
As a general rule, those who are intercessors, spend a lot of time praying - sometimes hours or whole days. If you have other responsibilities, be careful not to neglect them.
3. Do not exhibit a "holier than thou" attitude.
Our human nature has a tendency to let extended times of prayer and spiritual intimacy with God display itself in a sort of spiritual pride. Be careful not to let that happen.
4. Intercession takes time.
Long after the Christian world retires for the night, and long before it awakens again, these prayer warriors are wrestling with a holy God. Intercession takes determination and persistence to get what we ask from God.
I heard a minister from Fort Worth, Texas tell about another minister who always began each day with an hour of prayer. One particular day, however, he felt a strong leading of the Holy Spirit to pray longer so he continued for a second hour. After two hours he still felt the need to keep on praying. So he persevered for a third hour, when he felt released from the need to pray longer. That afternoon, as he was mowing his lawn, he felt something repeatedly brush up against his leg. He looked down and saw a coiled rattlesnake trying to strike him. But the snake just couldn't hit him. Instead, it kept brushing either side of his leg.
Some would say, of course, that God doesn't need three hours of prayer to protect one from a rattlesnake. I would agree. He didn't "need" seven days of marching around Jericho to tear down its walls. But He chose to do it that way. He doesn't "need" to spit in a person's eye to heal them, but He did once. God could have healed Naaman the leper without having him dunk himself in the river seven times. But that's exactly what God required that one time. Why He requires certain things to be done, we don't always know, but we do know that for us obedience is the key. If he says, "three hours," then three hours is exactly what it will take.
Psalms 91:1 NKJV
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Jesus equates the "secret place" to the prayer closet in Matthew 6:6. The word "dwell", in Psalm 91, is the Hebrew word "YASHAB," which means "to remain to dwell in or inhabit." This is not a once-in-a-while short visit. Later in the same verse, the word "abide" means, among other things, "to spend the night."
Things that are involved in intercessory prayer
I want to begin our search of what is involved in intercessory prayer by reviewing a point made in our last lesson. It will help as a springboard to having a greater understanding. Last week we looked at a number of biblical example of people who were intercessors. Moses was one person on that list. He was an intercessor on several occasions. We looked at how Pharaoh asked Moses to intercede with Jehovah to have all the frogs removed from plaguing the Egyptians. We find this incident in Exodus 8
From this particular story, I mentioned five things we can learn a little more about "intercession." We can see certain key principles of what is involved in being an intercessor.
1. There is a "gap" between the subject (Pharaoh) and God.
I want to expand upon these to help us understand what is involved in the life of the person who is an intercessor. I won't spend any time of point number one. We have already discussed the "gap" and the fact that God is looking for someone to stand there in the lesson titled "Intercession - What it is".
1. The intercessor identifies with the person(s) they are praying for.
The clearest illustration of this truth is the life of Jesus himself.
Isaiah 53:12 NKJV
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
"He was numbered with the transgressors…" Christ identified with the "transgressor" - the sinner. And then Christ bore their sins, and became an intercessor for them. To gain the place of intercession, we must first of all identify with those for whom we are interceding.
Let me continue a little further about Jesus identifying with those for whom he was interceding. All of the New Testament - especially the book of Hebrews - brings out this theme very clearly. In order to intercede for us, in order to help us in our lost estate, Jesus had to become like us in every way. Even his birth in Bethlehem was part of His identifying with us, so he could experience what we experience birth, growing up, temptation, troubles, and even to taste death.
Jesus experienced the trials of life as we experience them. He learned obedience through suffering just like we learn obedience. Jesus was tempted in every way like us. He became sin for us, he died as we die. He did this all so He might be a fitting representative on our behalf. Jesus did this to gain the right to intercede or mediate on our behalf.
Hebrews 2:14-18 NIV
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil-
For sure, Jesus is the best possible example of an intercessor identifying with those He is interceding for. But there are many other examples in the Scriptures. Paul was an intercessor for the gentiles.
1 Corinthians 9:22 NKJV
22 To the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.Paul identified with those for whom he became the go-between - the intercessor.
In Romans 9, he goes even further for his Jewish brothers. In Romans 9:3 (NIV), he says
3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race,
Like Moses, he was willing to be cursed so that they might be saved. He was willing to bear the wrath of God so that they might be blessed by God's mercy. Basic to all intercession is identification. It is an unavoidable rule. If we want to help others with our prayers, if we want them to grow in faith, if we want the church to grow in strength, if we want the unsaved to come to salvation, we must first identify with them.
2. The intercessor identifies with God.
To be an intercessor, you and I must have a relationship with God. Being an intercessor won't be the first time you come before God. You are often found before His throne. That relationship is vital to you.
Let me give you several things that show the intercessor having a close relationship with God. You will find these exemplified in the relationship between Abraham and God. In an earlier lesson, we already identified Abraham as an intercessor on several occasions.
A. Intercessors are first to get the news or see an issue.
Look at what we read in Genesis 18:17 says, just as God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?" God did not want to destroy Sodom without letting Abraham know about it first. We find this to be a biblical pattern. God often informs people seeking Him what He intends to do.
WHO DOES GOD SHARE HIS SECRETS WITH?
Psalm 25:14 says, "The secrets of the Lord are with those who fear Him."
B. Intercessors understand the character of God.
If you were an intercessor and wanted God to spare a city, what angle would you approach God from? Abraham was a smart man. He knew God's character. Intercessors understand the character of God.
Genesis 18:23 NKJV
23 And Abraham came near and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?"He knew God would not destroy the righteous with the wicked.
Genesis 18:25 (NKJV) adds,
25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
Abraham understood that God was a righteous God and would do right. He approached God from that angle. Yes, the intercessor not only identifies with those for whom they are interceding, but he or she also identifies with God to Whom they are interceding.
3. The intercessor stands between God and others
The intercessor does not only see the gap between the subject and God. They are also willing to stand in that gap. There are two major aspects of standing in the gap for others.
A. The intercessor has compassion on those for whom they are praying.
A. Intercessors have compassion
Like most other people, Christians have this problem. They tend to shelter themselves and keep others at arms length. It's much easier and makes life less messy.
The character of love, however, pushes us beyond our pea-sized boxes of experience. It pushes us beyond the barriers we have around our lives, so that we might involve ourselves in the lives of others. Intercession will only start when we break out of our own barriers, and go beyond our comfort zones. Compassion calls us to be involved in the lives of others. The call to intercede is more than realizing there is a need. They will, in fact, have great compassion on the person with the need.
You will notice in the gospels that compassion is what characterized the life and ministry of Jesus. Christ was criticized for eating with "publicans and sinner." But, in eating with publicans and sinners and prostitutes, it was an act of identifying with the people for whom He was interceding. And a large part of that intercession involved having compassion on them.
The blind, the lame, the beggar, and the deaf, were commonplace in Israel. They were not a hidden institutions. They had to make a living off of the mercy of the nation. Most people in Jesus' time had learned to harden their hearts to them. It had become easy to ignore them and thus, refuse to practice compassion.
But Jesus was different. Jesus had compassion on them, and his compassion was the motive for his ministry of intercession on their behalf. He felt their pain, their agony, and it was because He was able to do so that He was able to bring salvation and healing to many people.
You and I meet and know people who are trapped in sin and are experiencing the consequences of that entrapment. As a Christian, we have the joy of sharing the good news of the Kingdom with them. But before I can do that, I have discovered that I need one thing first. COMPASSION !!
It is difficult sharing the gospel with a person effectively if we do not have compassion for that person. Only when I have listened intently, felt their pain, and in a sense experienced their hopelessness, can I spend time in impassioned prayer for them. Compassion becomes the power behind our prayer. That is because we are experiencing the compassion of our Savior. And, because of it, we are compelled to pray.
This brings us to a second aspect of standing in the gap for someone. Have you ever felt in your own body the pain being experienced by the other person. For one who has a ministry of intercession, this is often the case. It may not only be the feeling of the same emotional pain, but they could also experience the physical display of that pain.
B. Intercessors bear the burdens of others
When we have "entered into" another person's troubles, by compassionate listening, that prayer takes on a new quality.
Galatians 6:2 (NKJV) tells us to…
2 Bear one another's burdens , and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Bearing someone else's burden is more than just a passing urgency in prayer as a result of becoming aware of a need. Burden bearing is a load that remains on our shoulders. It is a call to prayer that may go on for days, even months, maybe longer. To be a burden bearer is to literally identify with another person's need, not just for a short while, but possibly for extended periods. It goes on quite often until the prayer is achieved.
To the intercessor, when they are carrying the burden of someone else, the struggle of the other person somehow becomes that of the intercessor. The pain of those we pray for become our pain. The weight on their shoulders become a weight on our shoulders.
This kind of intercession is seen in the life of the apostle Paul.
Romans 9:2-3 NIV
2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race,
Notice the words filled with emotion.
"I have great sorrow"
Do you and I have these kinds of emotions and feelings when we see someone else struggle? Are we willing to help that person, and in doing so, show compassion by helping them carry their burdens? Are you willing to do so, even when you think they don't deserve it?
Having compassion on someone can be time consuming, possibly expensive, and just plain hard. Compassion doesn't allow us to remain neutral. It involves being an encourager through specific actions on our part.
Have you ever enjoyed the support of someone in a difficult time? There are many times in my life when someone has come along with the right words or actions at the right time. I am so grateful for the times of support when I felt so weak and unable to make it on my own.
Unfortunately, sometimes the church is known more for its discouragement than encouragement. Many of you have probably heard this little poem before:
"To dwell above with saints we love,
Through the years, I must admit that I am amazed at how many people in the church are gifted in discouragement rather than encouragement. They really are very good at tearing down and not building up. They know how to identify the problems, but offer no solutions.
I've read that when a group of musk oxen face attack, they stand in a circle facing each other and, with their back legs, kick out at the enemy. Donkeys, however, do just the opposite. They face the enemy and kick each other! It is too bad that Christians are more often like donkeys than musk oxen.
Bearing another person's burden is more than saying, "I understand how you feel." or "I've been there." Compassion is more than just feeling sorry for someone. It is, rather, the sympathetic consciousness of another person's distress together with a desire to alleviate it."
Compassion should go further than acknowledging a person's difficult situation. It involves doing something instead of just desiring to do something.
One additional warning for the burden bearing intercessor
When the Lord lays a burden on you, he is calling you to pray. Don't be surprised at times when others do not share the same burden. You might be inclined to judge them for a lack of compassion. But don't! God may have called you specifically to be the burden bearer. Take these burdens simply as a call for you to pray. You may be the one who is best able to identify with the other person and their burden. Take this burden to the throne room of God.
We have looked at two aspects of what may be involved in being an intercessor.
A. Intercessors have compassion on those for whom they pray.
I have two more aspects of intercessory prayer that I want to speak about. Some might include them as sub-parts of bearing the burden of another. But I want to cover them separately today.
C. Intercessors become involved in Spiritual Warfare
We sing a song sometimes with the words "I went to the enemy's camp, and I took back what he stole from me." This is a song of spiritual warfare.
Just as Jesus faced the devil in the wilderness, a person interceding for others is doing spiritual battle. They are invading the enemies territory, and he doesn't like it. Two of the passages most commonly associated with spiritual warfare were written by the apostle Paul.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Spiritual warfare is a pro-active approach to our faith. We are to actively resist the devil when his hosts harass us. We utilize prayer as a weapon to penetrate strongholds that cannot be reached in any other way. There is not one area of Christian ministry that has not become a battleground against satanic forces.
James 5:16 (KJV) tells us:
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
When you intercede for someone, there is a sense of urgency and fervency about the issue. Most often, intercessory prayer means the difference between victory or defeat. (Ex 17:11-13)
D. Intercessors will often experience travail or agony.
Sometimes the battle -- where you stand in the gap for someone -- can be painful. Not only spiritually, or emotionally painful, but physically grueling. In Galatians 4:19, (KJV) Paul speaks of praying for the new Galatian believers.
19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
Earlier, we spoke about the intercession of the Holy Spirit Let's read that passage from Romans 8 again.
Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
The Holy Spirit agonizes in prayer through us. Yes, one aspect of intercession can be that of physical travail and agony. It might take on groans that words cannot express. It takes on the real drama of birthing the will of God in another person's life. It takes on the qualities of labor that will not be released until the job is done.
If the Lord gives us such great compassion where we can truly identify with the other person, then we should anticipate the "LABOR" of love. For truly, intercession is love on its knees.
We find this kind of love again in the prayer life of the apostle Paul.
Colossians 2:1-5 NIV
1 I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.
The simple truth is, the kingdom of God does not come about without effort. Sometimes these prayers can come upon us and we cannot express them in words. Possibly all we can do is to express our prayer in tears, or with groans. But as we do, we must remember that it is our privilege to be used of the Holy Spirit to pray on behalf of others.
Let's review what we have learned so far.
1. The intercessor identifies with those they are praying for.
4. The intercessor has authority in the situation
To be effective intercessors for others, we need to recognize that intercession includes authority to make change, since not only do we identify with those whom we pray for, we also identify with the God whom we are praying too.
There are a variety of ways that our authority is expressed in prayer. But in every case, our authority has to do with God's covenants and remembering what God has promised. To pray is to make an appeal to God based on the nature of his covenants with us. To pray is to remind God of those covenants, just as he has given us the sacraments to remind us of his covenants with us.
There are many illustrations of this in the scripture. One very clear one is Exodus 32:13, in which Moses appeals to God to spare the Israelites, and the grounds on which he makes the intercessory appeal is a covenant! He said,
"Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self "I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this Land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever."
And the very next verse tells us that, having been reminded as his covenant with the patriarchs, God relented and did not bring upon his people the disaster he had threatened. Moses took a promise of God, a covenant, and he appealed to the legal authority of a covenant so that from that position of authority, he might remind God of what was right.
The High Priestly prayer of Jesus, found in John 17, is also a prayer that invokes authority. Jesus who intercedes for us starts his prayer with the statement: "For you granted him authority over all people... that you might grant them eternal life" (John 17:2)
Then Jesus reminds the Father that he has done on earth what the Father sent him to do. That means that Jesus has fulfilled his part of the covenant by completing the Work that God gave him to do, giving God the glory. Jesus prays knowing that his part of obedience to God has been fulfilled, his side of the covenant has been, is being kept. Having fulfilled all righteousness, Jesus knows that the Father will hear him and answer his prayer.
Paul uses the same argument, arguing that the nation of Israel has a special place in history. He writes, in Romans 11:28:
"As far as the gospel is concerned, they (the Jews) are enemies on your account, but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."
God does not change. He does not change his mind as far as his love is concerned. He does not change as far as his faithfulness to his covenant promises is concerned. Because God does not change or go back on his word, Israel was not consumed.
We need to learn as Christians how to use with authority the promises and the covenants that God has given to us when we pray! Because we have become God's children through Christ by rebirth, and because God has made covenant promises to his children, we have the legal right to plead these agreements in our prayers to him.
Most of us do plead the authority of the covenant when we pray without even realizing it. We conclude our prayers "in the name of Jesus Christ." When we do so, we are reminding God that Jesus has attained for us a new and better covenant. In that covenant, we are told: John 14:13 - You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.
We are also reminded when we celebrate communion, the blood of Christ has everything to do with a legal covenantal agreement, by which we attain or receive the blessings of God.
God is a God of covenants, and if we are to pray effectively, with authority, we need to be people who learn the covenants and promises he has given to us so that we might appeal to them with authority. This focus of this kind of authority might be called our "God-ward" authority. It is the authority to appeal to God according to the promises (covenants) he has given us.
We also have a "Satan-ward" authority. This is an authority to command in the name of Jesus . As we intercede for others, it does not take long to discover that the ministry of intercession involves spiritual battles!
The Scriptures says an awful lot about this Satan-ward view of our authority. So much so, that I cannot do justice to it in the time that is remaining. I want us to notice just a few basic truths and essential scripture passages that will help us to grow in this area of our authority.
First of all, recognize that Intercession will involve battling the evil forces that pervade this world. Over 1/2 of the works of Jesus, our intercessor, were not first of all aimed toward God , or God-ward (with whom he had the covenant). They were in fact aimed at Satan, they were Satan-ward. They involved rebuking, silencing, kicking out, binding of satanic forces. There were basic instruction about spiritual dynamics.
Paul recognized that so much of his work was actually a battle against forces of evil. He says, in Ephesians 6:12:
"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
If you are thoroughly western in your mindset, scripture passages like this will probably mean little to you. Our paradigm in our technological society has been materialistic. Only those things that can be scientifically empirically studied and verified are real. But the perspective of scripture is not bound to the material! We need to have our eyes reopened to the reality that runs parallel to this material universe. There is a spiritual universe which effects everything that we experience here today.
We are in a spiritual battle that involves confrontation! The only way we will win any battle in this realm is if we understand the authority that we have in the name of Jesus. To gain in this battle, we first of all need to understand Christ's authority! The most helpful single part of the New Testament for an understanding of Christ's authority for the purposes of spiritual battle is in the letter to the Ephesians.
First of all, remember, Christ is Lord, and all authority is his.
Ephesians 1:22 tells us:
"And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."
We tend to say or sing "He is Lord" without recognizing the full impact of what we are saying. The simple truth is He does have ALL power and authority and he has all this authority for us, for the church, so that we might do the work of authoritative intercession that God calls us to.
Few passages bring this out more clearly than Acts 4:23. This passage occurs right after Peter and John had been rebuked by the Sanhedrin. Peter and John realized that the chief priests and the elders of the synagogue actually represented spiritual forces opposing the advance of the kingdom, and they choose to pray authoritatively in response.
The first words of their prayer, in verse 24, are so interesting, if not also instructive: "O Sovereign Lord" (NIV, RSV, Aplified). The Greek word that they used for the words "O Sovereign" was "has despotes." (des-POT-ace) When you transliterated that phrase into the English equivalent it is: "Dear despot!"
What do you think of when you hear the word despot. We tend to think of a "despot" as somebody who is corrupt because he has absolute power. But the wonder of our Lord is that he has absolute power on behalf of the church. He is a despot (absolutely powerful) and he is on our side, to exercise that absolute power as he wills on our behalf.
A second basic truth we have to realize is that this absolute Sovereign, Jesus Christ, has commanded us to proceed into this world, using the authority he has delegated to us to bring into reality his kingdom.
We are co - workers with Christ in overcoming territories of darkness with the Light of the Lord. Early in Luke 10, we find Jesus sending out 70 of his disciples with authority. When they returned, they rejoiced in that they were able to do mighty things in the Name of Jesus. In verse 17 of Luke 10, we hear the disciples say: "Even the demons are subject to us in your Name."
WHAT WAS JESUS' FIRST RESPONSE?
"I saw Satan fall down like lightening from heaven." (Luke 10:18)
Some might think this a strange reply. WHAT DO YOU THINK JESUS MEANT BY THAT REMARK?
The 70 had witnessed individual victories from city to city, but Jesus saw these victories as part of a larger war that dethroned and defeated Satan and his kingdom of darkness. When you and I go in the name of the Lord, we can bring havoc to Satan and his dominion. As the disciples saw it, they witnessed demons being cast out. Christ sees it as Satan falling.
We find something similar in John 12:31-32 NKJV
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world [Satan] will be cast out.
Back to Luke 10. The very next verse gives us another of His promises. Luke 10:19 (NKJV) reads:
19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
We have been delegated this same authority, authority to be used in obedience to Him so that the works of the devil might be destroyed. (Heb 2:14). As believers, we are weak in ourselves, but we can be "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." (Ephesians 6:10).
Paul pictures this authority for us in Ephesians 2.
WHERE DOES EPHESIANS 2 PLACE THE BODY OF CHRIST?
Ephesians 2:6 NIV
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,We are seated with Christ.
WHERE IS CHRIST SEATED? He is seated on His throne. Then, spiritually speaking, we are seated on the throne with Him. What is a throne? It is a place of authority. From that throne of authority Christ exercises power over the earth.
As we are co - workers with Christ, our intercessions are in fact an exercise of that authority in the battle of prayer. That I believe is the point of Ephesians 6:10. This passage tells us to put on the full Armor of God. A soldier in full armor is a soldier commissioned to battle with the full authority of his country to fight the battle. A soldier out of uniform was a soldier off duty, and he was not called to fight.
This is what we have learned thus far in Ephesians 6.
Verse 11 tells us to put on the whole armor of Christ. The pieces of armor are listed for us in verses 13 through 18.
Verse 12 tells us who are enemies are. We don't wrestle or battle against flesh and blood. In other word, other people are not our enemies. Rather, our enemies are "Principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. "
If our battle is not against flesh and blood, then these forces are not flesh and blood. These forces are, in fact, Satan and all his hoard of demonic beings.
Verse 18 is very interesting and critical. We have read it a number of times during this series.
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."
This verse is the last speaking about the armor of Christ. This passage makes a direct connection of prayer to all our spiritual armor. I believe it is telling us that the battle is, in fact, waged in prayer.
Verse 18 is in the imperative tense. The connection made here is that the battle is "through prayer in the spirit on all occasions." This would indicate that we are called to fight the battle, defeating the powers of evil, through the ministry of intercessory prayer.
One pastor has said: "No battle of the church is won unless it is first won in prayer." Are we are ready to go into training. And, by the way, training in the Scriptures is not first of all sitting in a class where we come to understand perfectly how it is all to be done. No, training in the scripture means to put into practice the truth we have come to understand.
|Questions, comments & suggestions to John Hoole||
Last Updated: Wednesday September 07 2011