Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
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The Meaning of Intercession
Every believer is called to pray (1 Thes. 5:17). We pray for one another, for the church, for the nation and her leaders, and above all, for God’s will to be done around us. Thus, praying is the natural life of the church and the believer. Prayer is to the believer what water is to fish; prayer is the air we breathe, the life we live. However, when prayer moves from the general to the specific; when prayer moves from being a collective to a personal duty, it becomes a calling, a life-long ministry in the Body of Christ—the ministry of intercession. And the person in this ministry is called an intercessor. Therefore, not all believers are in the ministry of intercession in the specific sense of a calling.
Intercession is: Entreaty in favor of another, especially a prayer or petition to God in behalf of another. Mediation in a dispute ( The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Ed. Copyright© 2006).
Interesting! God has a problem with man; someone stands in between and pleads with God to stay His anger. The Bible refers to such a posture as ‘standing in the gap’ (Ezek. 22: 30). According to Ezekiel, God is looking for such people from among believers. This means that intercessors are important to God in achieving His purpose on earth; they are an important part of the Body of Christ.
God needs the intercessor, someone that is sensitive to His feelings on issues. God needs the intercessor, someone with whom He shares the kingdom burden. God needs the intercessor; someone He can confide in (Gen. 18: 17-21). Most of us think that God does not have a need on earth. He does. In Gen 1: 26, the Scripture tells us the origin of the grace for intercession. He handed the earth to us. Therefore, He would like to consult us whenever He wants to do something on earth, or whenever something goes wrong on earth. There is mutual cooperation between God and man, which a true intercessor is sensitive to.
An intercessor works with God (2 Cor. 6; 1); and this places a responsibility on the person. He or she must meet God’s standards for an acceptable work. How do we achieve this? We must put sin out of our life because we are dealing with a holy God (2 Cor. 7:1). We have to be in His presence every moment of our life. We have love others as Christ loves us (John 15:12). We have to love what God loves, and get our kingdom focus right ((Col 3:1-3)). These personal disciplines help us remain connected to the Lord, and committed to the work.
Intercession raises the level of prayer because God is actively involved; and it deals more with kingdom issues than our personal material needs. This is the first lesson in intercession. In working with God, the intercessor gets into God’s private kingdom business, shares kingdom burden with Him, and takes part in discharging it. And of course, God’s burden comes first.
Intercessors strengthen the church by providing it with undercover spiritual support—a sort of structural underpin. In order to accomplish this, the intercessor must love the church as the Lord loves it (Eph. 5: 25-27). Intercession goes beyond the local assembly; the intercessor’s allegiance is to the church without walls—the universal church. He or she does not take sides in issues in the local church; the desire and prayer is that the church operates under the Holy Spirit to achieve the Lord’s purpose. When we take our mind away from the local church, its politics, and its worldliness, we focus on the real ministry of prayer. Then, intercession becomes interesting, absorbing, and fruitful.
However, intercession demands that we should be close to the church, understand the church, and know what the Lord intends it to do. In so doing, we will be able to know when something goes wrong, when the devil or worldly values infiltrate the church. The intercessor prays as a passionate, unbiased insider, who understands the strength and weaknesses of the church.
Intercession is a ‘closet’ ministry. It takes the intercessor straight into God’s heart while it hides the one from the public. This places yet another type of responsibility on the intercessor: he has to learn the discipline of secrecy. Kingdom issues are not for the headlines; they are not shared freely unless the Lord so directs. In the age of glamour and public glare, some intercessors open their mouths too wide too soon; they unwittingly undermine the kingdom cause.
Intercession is a demanding occupation, both on the one that prays and on God. It is demanding on the intercessor because it takes something out of the person, sapping energy—Christ prayed until sweat dropped as blood (Luke 22:44). It is demanding on God because the intercessor does not give Him rest until his prayer is answered (Is 62:6, 7).
Intercession is warfare between the kingdom of light and that of darkness. We’ve taken side with God; there is no retreat. The intercessor has to press on by faith until the enemy gives up (1 Pet. 5: 9). By pitting against the devil, the intercessor is open to numerous spiritual attacks: strange challenges, physical trials, finance and health issues, loss of strength and interest in prayer, and doubt and discouragement.
A true intercessor must understand the operation of spiritual forces, principles of spiritual warfare, and the secret of victory by faith. It is sheer naivety to think that the enemy will sit like a lame duck while the war goes on. No. The devil is always searching for where and when to hit back at the intercessor. This is where putting on the whole armour of God comes in (Eph. 6: 11).
Intercession is a rigorous but simple work, which means that the intercessor should learn the basics of prayer at all levels—there are different levels of intercession. He needs to practise the work to gain experience and grow in it. He or she has to study to correctly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2: 15). Yes, we pray under the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit but we have to study and stay on our knees before the Holy Spirit comes to guide and help (Rom. 8:26, 27). Intercession is a continuous learning process.
Intercession means much more than kneeling down and praying. It means working with God to change the direction of world events; it means bringing the spiritual to bear on the physical world; and it means taking up a responsibility that can only be discharged by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the ministry of intercession, God wants us to understand His will through the Word, and work to see it in real life. He wants us to understand and apply the kingdom prayer dynamics (Luke 8:10). The Lord is an intercessor, and only in going to Him, the believer reaches his or her altitude in kingdom prayer work. The believer needs commitment to learning about God and prayer, to praying, and trusting the Lord to operate in the true ministry of intercession. A believer with faulty understanding of intercession will play into the hand of the enemy.
(In the next post, we will look at the focus of intercession).