Sunday, May 22, 2011

Intercessory Prayer

A Meditation

We live in the finite; we live in our little world with our limited sight and our inabilities. God lives in the infinite: He is infinite! His world is without end. We look as far as we possibly can through the eye of the telescope: yet what of God’s unseen world? Who has beheld His Heavenly Masterpieces? And who can say that he knows the inner workings of the mind of God? We shall look at the mystery of Intercessory prayer. But who among us is capable of understanding and discerning it to any degree? I dare say that there have been many saints in days gone by who have prayed long and continual prayers of intercession who were not even familiar with the word. The discernment of intercessory prayer stems not so much from education as it does from meditation. Allow the Spirit to be your fellow/companion: He will be guide and director, counselor and tutor.

Intercessory prayer? It is a spiritual, an infinite matter. Earthly definitions fall short of comprehending its true meaning. It brings one into the courtyard of Heaven, even unto the Throne of Grace; into the Presence of the Eternal God.

Intercessory prayer is Heart Work. Complacency has no place, nor the attitude that it is my duty to pray in this manner: or perhaps God (or other people) will be impressed with my prayers. Fasting could be an ingredient; but the motivation is important: “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. . .Bur thou, when thou fasteth, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” Matt. 6:16-18.

Intercessory prayer is heart work: “Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh to you. . .Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” James 4:8-10.

Pretence with God is futile: “And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Rom. 8;27. Much praying will never reach the Throne of God if it is from the lips only and not from the depths of the heart wherein reigns the Lord Jesus.

What Intercessory prayer is NOT!

When a catastrophe comes the world is quick to say, “Our prayers are with you!” Are their prayers, prayers of intercession? Who is their “god?” Who, pray tell, is the object of their ‘faith’? “It is our prayers - not necessarily those offered to any god: but our prayers should count for something because they stem from a sincere heart! There is some magical strength in the prayer itself: it need not come from a god who may or may not exist.”

Praying in the name of Jesus? What a hot topic!

And it’s brought into the courts of our land with much dispute. What does the world find offensive about praying in the Name of Jesus? What do they not find offensive. . .? “To name the name of Jesus may be acceptable; after all he was a great man, a notable person. But praying in the name of Jesus? That’s like declaring him to be God or something! It is that which we find offensive!”

Intercessory prayers?

If one were to go through and catalogue all that are found in the scriptures, it would of itself make a sizeable book. Let us take a moment to meditate on three of them.

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto his people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--;

[I can see Moses choked up; his heart in his throat: the words will not come out; though he cannot speak, he is now making intercession unto God in behalf of his people] and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” Exodus 32:30-32. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” Rev. 3:5.

Did you see that? Our names, not only sealed in the book of life, but Jesus will openly acknowledge and confess our names before the Father! Hallelujah!

Consider the Apostle Paul: a great ‘prayer warrior’ indeed! (I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”) “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” Rom. 9:2-3. What did we read in James chapter four? “Draw nigh unto God. . . Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep. . .your joy to heaviness.”

Paul could wish himself accursed that his people might not be accursed: rather that they would receive the Blessing. Who can deny Paul’s tender heart and his continuing intercessory prayer for his kinsmen?

“Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. . and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came. . .” Rom. 9:4,5a. For these Christ came; that they might receive His promises: the Everlasting Covenant that God made in their behalf; being adopted, being made partakers of Christ’s glory.

Who are Israelites? (1) “as are led by the Spirit of God, (2) they are the sons of God, (3) they have received the Spirit of adoption, (4) The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit - we are the children of God, (5) heirs; heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ, (6) that we may be also glorified together.

“I could wish myself accursed from Christ.” Why would Paul say such a thing? Is it not that Paul loved the Lord with all his heart, his soul, his mind; and the will and purpose of God being accomplished for His glory meant more to Paul than his own life? What could be the driving force to bring the Apostle to such devotion to his Lord? “That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable to His death” Philippians 3:10). Further he said. “I follow after, that I may apprehend, reaching forth, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

The Intercession of Christ.

Not only does He make intercession for His people: He IS the Mediator and Intercessor!

“It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” Rom. 8:34. “He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Rom 8:27. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” Heb 7:25.

Christ could wish Himself accursed from God, that in His death we might be saved, being made the sons of God, receiving the adoption, being heirs of God, being made partakers of His glory.

The Intercessory Work of Christ on the Cross

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” This is a prayer of intercession, offered by Christ as Priest; He being the fulfillment of Leviticus chapter four “If a soul shall sin. . .if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance. . .when a ruler hath sinned. . .the congregation shall offer a young bullock. . .the elders shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord. . .the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock’s blood. . .sprinkle it before the Lord. . .and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them. . .And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp.” Jesus, on the cross was both Priest and sacrifice. He being the fulfillment of Leviticus four could lawfully pray, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Heb. 13:11,12) Thank God for that intercessory prayer!

“Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren what shall we do?” Acts 2:36,37. “But ye denied the Holy One and the just. . .And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead. And now brethren, I wot [to know, be aware, understand] that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” Acts 3:14,15,17. (Through ignorance: drawing their minds back to the Leviticus scripture of the “sin of ignorance”)

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Should He not have preceded that prayer with, “Father, these men are exceeding great sinners, and I present their sin before Thee, as they are even now, crucifying Your Son!” NO! “Father, forgive them, for even now, their sins are laid upon Me: I bear upon my head, their sins and transgressions against the Lord Jehovah. Therefore when You look upon their sins, Thou will find them laid upon Me! They were crucifying the Lord of Glory? That very sin was laid on Him; Jesus paid it ALL!

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” Luke 23:42,43. Amazing! The thief recognizes Jesus as Lord; and though He should die He would be resurrected and assume His rightful office as King. The thief also dying, would be resurrected, for he says ‘remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’

We must not end this segment without mentioning John chapter seventeen. It’s appropriately titled in most Bibles, The Prayer of Intercession.

“that they might know thee. . Thou gavest them me. . .I have given them Thy words. . .I pray for them; for thy are Thine. . .All mine are Thine. . .I am glorified in them. . .keep them through thine own name. . .that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. . .Sanctify them through thy truth. . .That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. . the glory which thou gavest me I have given them. . .that they may be made perfect in one. . .and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. . .that they be with me where I am. . .that they may behold my glory. . .that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy Son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!” John 19:25,26. Many expositors capitalize Son. A duel picture can be seen here. Mary, look upon Me; and then upon John. I entrust you into his care. Jesus, having been her Son will now be her Saviour. Here again, see the work of Christ as Intercessor in a very personal way: the bringing together of Mary and John.

One of the most quoted scriptures in all the Bible: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” Phil 4:19. It is by Christ Jesus: He is High Priest, He is Mediator, He is Intercessor. By and through the priestly work of intercession by Christ Jesus, God supplies our need. Christ has procured all we have need of by the effectual sacrifice of Himself on the cross. When we pray we may think “Unmerited Favor.” The intercessory work of Christ is much different! He “MERITS the FAVOR!”

O Lord God, look Thou upon the Mercy Seat. Is the Blood still there? Then He will acknowledge the desires/petitions of Christ in our behalf! Amen?

“Lord, teach us to pray.”

“one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray.” In answer to that disciple’s appeal Jesus laid out a pattern prayer for him. May we echo his request! If left to ourselves would we not pray in this manner: “My Father which art in heaven. . .give me [this week, this month, this year] my bread. . .deliver me from evil?

“Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” Matt. 18:19,20.

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” Matt. 6:6.

How do we reconcile these scriptures: “If two shall agree. . .it shall be done: Thou. . .enter into thy closet, shut the door, praying to the Father in secret? And it shall be done? We shall look further into this matter, but not right now!

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” Heb. 4:14-16. Is it, that I may obtain mercy; that I may find grace for myself alone? What if we pray, Lord, I come to the throne of grace in an appeal for my Brother; that I might, through intercessory prayer, obtain mercy, and find grace in his behalf, in this, his time of need. Should it not be the primary, the principal focus of our prayers as we approach the Throne of Grace? Is this not what intercessory prayer is about? What if I prayed, Lord, if I am to receive your Blessing; if any reward is to be given me - would you give those to my Brother; and lay his heartaches, his grief, his burdens upon me. That would be a hard prayer to pray, would it not?

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself [Himself] maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Rom. 8;26,27. What if we reverse the order, beginning with Romans 8:28: “According to His purpose, we are called; according to His purpose, we love God; according to His purpose, all things work together for good [for our good; for His glory]: according to His purpose, according to the will of God, He (Christ) maketh intercession for the saints. According to His purpose, knowing the mind of the Spirit, He searcheth the hearts. According to His purpose, the Spirit maketh intercession; according to His purpose, the Spirit helpeth our infirmities. And then we wonder that the scripture tells us to come boldly to the throne of grace? We come, not in or by ourselves; we have the Son and the Spirit simultaneously making intercession to the Father in our behalf!

“And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins” I John 2:1-2. Advocate, paraketos,

INTERCESSOR, also Comforter! Is it not comforting that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, has born our sins upon His own person, paid the debt for them in full, (our Mediator) and stands not before the Throne, as a lawyer of sorts, but sits upon the Throne with the Judge! Now that’s an Intercessor!

“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. . .If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” John 14:13-14, 15:7.

Many times we receive a letter or a document, perhaps from the president or other official of a company or school, etc. At the bottom, the paper is signed by the originator; and beside it are the initials of another, showing that, though they may have drawn up the material, the authority and power belongs to the official who was responsible for its issue. Why pray in Jesus’ name? Thine is the kingdom, it is Thy will, Thy power, Thy glory that authenticates such a prayer! (Mine are the small initials beside His name.)

We are exhorted to come boldly to the throne of grace? Yes! And we come with the Spirit and Christ Himself as Intercessors in our behalf. What then, is our part; how are we to be intercessors in behalf of another? And how shall we hope to pray according to the will of God?

As Jesus is intercessor for us, let us with Him, enter into the prayer of intercession. We ask in the name of Jesus because He is our Priest, our Prayer Partner. Let us not merely pray TO our Lord - let us pray WITH HIM! Talk to the Lord, and listen as He talks to you. Pray together with Him, with unity of heart. Lord Jesus, you faithfully bear my burdens; what is on your heart? What burdens are you bearing that You would share with me? How would you have me pray?

The 120 who gathered in the upper room; that ‘continued with one accord in prayer and supplication’: was Jesus not praying also; interceding for them? They were in one accord. Was Christ not their Priest, their Prayer Partner? Were their hearts not bound to His, seeking the Father’s will and His glory?

If we come to Jesus desiring to intercede in behalf of others: if He is already entered into intercessory prayer - why would we think that He would not welcome us with open arms; to pray as One with Him? In light of this, may we enter into intercessory prayer with confidence and great assurance believing that not only ourselves; but our prayers are also secured in Him!

Returning to that earlier pair of scriptures: “if two of you shall agree. . .it shall be done: But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet. . .pray to the Father in secret.” Now, if two shall agree: if you are in intercessory prayer with Jesus - that constitutes two, does it not!

Is it the will of God for you to pray? Would you pray willingly in intercession for the need of others? “I don’t think I can; I don’t have that kind of burden.” Then here is the first prayer that you should pray: “Oh Lord Jesus, I would be an intercessor; but I don’t have a burden: I cannot pray fervently.” Confess it to Him. And confess it again and again; until your heart is broken and you are grieved in spirit. “O Lord God, I confess, I have no burden.” Pray it until your prayer becomes fervent: Draw nigh unto God. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep, until your joy is turned into heaviness. Your first burden is that you have little or no burden. “O Lord, I have no burden.” Will He ignore your cry? Or do you think that He will grant you the burden for which you seek? Or will you realize that you have that burden, even while you pray? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you believe that? If you are forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness - The prayer of a righteous man availeth much!

If you now have a burden - what is it’s focus or object? You cannot have a self-contained burden. It must have an object. We pray in faith, Christ Himself being the Object of our faith. Therefore we must not pray with the circumstances as our focus, but the Lord.

The prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 29 and verse 13: “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me.” “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” Isa. 6:5. ‘Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” Isa. 6:6,7. Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon the Throne of Grace. He was greatly burdened: Woe is me! for I am undone. . .and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Notice the intercessory work of the Lord: the seraphim laid the live coal upon his mouth: “thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Isaiah is burdened about himself? Yes! - but this amazes me - “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah is confessing the sins of his people; he is burdened over them! He is an intercessor! “Lord, my heart is not pure; it is evidenced by my unclean lips. But my brethren are no different from me: they need your forgiveness and cleansing also! “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another” James 5:16.

Do you recall the account of Stephen? He being brought before the council, proceeded to speak to them concerning the history of unbelief of the children of Israel, and of their resistance to the Holy Spirit even at that present day. “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. . .ran upon him. . .cast him out of the city, and stoned him with stones. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” Acts 7:54,57b,60. (He is looking into Heaven; he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God; he gave witness that he saw Him. Approaching boldly the Throne of Grace and his Intercessor, he himself became an intercessor with the Lord: Lay not this sin to their charge. “Do you mean that the Lord would have me to pray, make intercession for my enemy, for him who hates me, whose intention may be to snuff out my life? It would appear so.

One of the shortest, yet most profound prayers is that of Mary and Martha: “Lord, him whom THOU LOVEST is sick. Notice, Jesus is the object; He is to be found between the sisters and Lazarus. They are intercessors for Lazarus, but they are “looking unto Jesus” the great Intercessor.

Who you pray for; What you pray; When you pray; Where you pray, How you pray; and Why you pray: this is a spiritual matter, and you, by all means, should seek the will of God, seek the face of Jesus Christ, and come before the Throne of Grace in lowliness of mind and openness of heart. When you pray do not think it is to an unsympathetic ear. Jesus is “an High Priest” who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” “He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Rom. 8;27b.

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty: And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” I Corinthians 1:27,28.