Intercessory prayer. Oswald Chambers says it is “putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective” on the matter. The value of our praying in this way is what I call Partnership in the Divine. God is working in the earth, and you and I are His vessels. “John Wesley so believed God’s plan was to work on Earth through people that he contended, ‘God does nothing on the earth save in answer to believing prayer.'” Heaven holds the reality of the power of our prayers. In fact, heaven holds the record and the results. Revelation 8:3-4 speaks of the collection of the saints’ prayers and the ministry of those prayers to God: “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Can you imagine the sheer celebration we will experience upon realizing that we prayed something on the earth and then witness the reality of the answer in heaven?
The nature of Christ within you as His disciple manifests in a multi-faceted likeness to Himself. As Christ interceded in prayer for you while on His knees in Gethsemane, He continues today to intercede on your behalf; and you, also, are an intercessor.
We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26).
What things specifically did Jesus pray in the garden the night before His crucifixion?
- that the Father glorifies Him in His presence with the glory Jesus had with Him before the world began (See John 17:5).
- that the Father protects the disciples from the evil one by the power of His name, so that they may be one as Jesus and the Father are one (See John 17:11)..
- that the Father sanctify the disciples by the truth (See John 17:17).
- that those who believe the disciples’ message may all be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one, so that the world knows God sent Jesus and loved the world even as God has loved Him (See John 17:21).
- that all of those given to Jesus may be with Him and see His glory (See John 17:24).
Jesus’ intercession in that dark hour revealed those things most important to Him: revelation of Himself; protection of the believers; their ongoing spiritual maturity; unity of the brethren with God and Jesus and with one another; and our arrival into heaven.
Let’s look at the first-century Church: what prayer focus did they have?
- Acts 12:1-5,12- The believers prayed for Peter who was imprisoned and awaiting execution by Herod, and he was miraculously delivered from the jail cell.
- Paul emphasized that through the believers’ prayers, he would be delivered. He was confident that all he suffered as a prisoner would bring glory to Jesus Christ, whether by Paul’s life or death (See Philippians 1:19-20).
- Paul prayed for the Philippians (in all my prayers for all of you…) that their love would abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that they would be able to discern what is best and would be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ Himself (sanctification).
- Paul taught the believers in Ephesus how to 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” (Eph. 6:18). Paul emphasized prayer without ceasing in his letters.
- He went on to request their prayers for him- that he may “fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19-20). His need of believers to pray for him to courageously make known the gospel was a repeated request.
- Paul and Timothy prayed for the believers in Colosse that they would continue the process of spiritual maturation and would live lives that bring glory to Christ (See Colossians 1:9-12).
- Paul wrote to Timothy explaining that “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
What words would you use to summarize the focus of the believers’ prayers according to the scriptures above? In what way do you see the priority of the kingdom of heaven in these prayer directives? Do you see the same in your prayers?
Prayers for salvation should be the believers’ top priority, for it is God’s will that none should perish, but that all receive everlasting life in Christ Jesus. Pastor Jim Rodriguez shares the following scriptures to guide us in our intercession for others to receive the gift of salvation:
- Ask God to open their spiritual eyes (2 Cor. 4:4).
- Ask God to give them ears to hear (Matt. 13:15).
- Ask God to give them faith to believe (Acts 20:21).
- Ask God to give them the will to respond (Rom. 10:9).
- Ask God to send people into their lives to witness to them (Matt. 9:38).
- Ask God for opportunities and boldness to witness (Col. 4:3).
- Ask God for an opportunity to invite them (Luke 14:23).
- Ask God to set them free from spiritual captivity (2 Tim. 2:25-26).
- Ask for God’s love to be understood and embraced (1 John 3:16).
- Ask that they will have sorrow over their sin (2 Cor. 7:10).
Dutch Sheets, author of “The Beginner’s Guide to Intercessory Prayer,” writes, “Jesus said prayer would cause heaven and Earth to meet and, consistent with this, the Hebrew word for ‘intercession,’ paga, actually means ‘a meeting’ or ‘to meet with.’ The word isn’t always used in the context of prayer- any meeting can be a paga- but where prayer is concerned, heaven and Earth meet when we paga (intercede). Destinies are released, glorious horizons are revealed, and the Son shines through.”
One interesting meaning of paga is to hit the mark. In fact, the word is used to mean target practice in the Israeli armed forces. In our intercession, we are meeting with God to discern His mind and His perspective on a matter, which we liken to spiritual target shooting.
I’m taking this teaching to heart and heading into a time of prayer. There are targets to hit and my prayers of faith are the vehicle. I’m following the lead of my Lord and the first-century church and lifting up the believers and the pre-believers. We need unity, courage and protection, and they need revelation of Jesus Christ the Lord.
Sheets, Dutch. The Beginner’s Guide to Intercessory Prayer. Regal, Ventura California. 2001.