The Pillar of Work – Interceding for Souls. Excerpt 12
Paul’s example of intercession
Paul was one of the most effective workers for the gospel. The epistles reveal his heart’s desire for a holy, blameless, strong and unified church. To achieve this, he was willing to lay down his whole life in surrender and self-sacrifice. His untiring physical efforts were augmented by hours of constant travail before the Father’s throne. His prayers are almost a rebuke to us today, for how many of us have knocked at heaven’s door so persistently with such noble demands. We come before the greatest of Kings and ask for so little… our childish requests are proof that we “have in mind the things of man, not the things of God.” Should we be surprised then that nothing much happens in the church and that we are moving at a snail’s pace?
Looking at Paul’s pattern of intercession we will notice that he did not pray vague and aimless prayers. His requests are based on the Lord’s priorities for His disciples (as enumerated in the previous section); and also reflect his thorough knowledge of the problems as well as strengths within the Body of Christ. He had specific objectives in mind as he prayed for the Church to realise its high calling.
The Pillar of Work – Interceding for Souls. Excerpt 11
Looking more closely our Lord’s prayer (continued)
4. Jesus prayed for them to be sanctified or made holy. Each day we go out to face the corruption in the world; but Jesus is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before the throne of His Father. So we must pray for our friends to remain untainted by sin. Pray then: “Father, please help us and them to remain separate from this world. Keep us pure and holy, for the sake of Jesus.”
5. He prayed for them to remain in Him and see His glory. Stephen the first Christian martyr, as he was being stoned, looked up and cried: “I see heaven open and the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God.” His last prayer, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”, was identical to Christ’s. Seeing the glory of the Risen Christ spurs us on to make great sacrifices and to love our persecutors. Like Stephen, we learn to rejoice in our sufferings and to pray for our enemies. What greater prayer can we choose for our friends than this: “Father, may we remain in Your Son and see His glory!”
The Pillar of Work – Interceding for Souls. Excerpt 10
Let us look more closely at Christ’s ‘High Priestly’ prayer:
- Jesus reminds the Father of their obedience. Despite His disciples’ immature behaviour on many occasions- they quarrelled, would not keep watch in prayer, etc- the Lord chose only to say: “They have believed… they have obeyed Your word…” We must also remind God, that our Christian friends (and we) have a special claim to His care for we have believed and obeyed the Father’s command to receive His Son.
- He prayed for their protection. Do we realize how much our friends need this prayer? As Christians, the enemy seeks to destroy us. He tries to make us fall away. The attack is relentless; but Jesus has shown us a way out. Simply pray: “Father, protect us by the power of Your name”.
- He prayed for unity between them. How precious this is. If we are united, then we are strong. When the enemy sees the love between us, he trembles – for he sees an unshakable army. No wonder his agents work ‘overtime’ to sow strife and discontentment among us. But let us join Jesus each day in this heartfelt cry: “O Father may we be one, as Jesus is one with You. Grant us the grace to love each other deeply from the heart”.
The Pillar of Work – Interceding for Souls. Excerpt 9
Jesus’ final prayer with His disciples also reveals His priorities in praying for them:
- That they might be kept by the power of the Father’s name
- Their protection from the evil one
- Their unity
- Their sanctification – that they should be set apart, separate from the world and made holy
- That they may remain in His love so that the world may know they belong to Christ
- That they may see Christ’s glory
This should be our pattern as we pray for our brothers and sisters to grow in the faith.
The Pillar of Work – Interceding for Souls. Excerpt 8
Praying for believers: learning from Christ’s intercession for His disciples
The prayer of Jesus for His disciples (in John 17) before His passion should be our guide as we pray for believers. We often view the disciples prior to the Pentecost as a disorderly lot, prone to quarrelling and more interested in their special slots in Christ’s kingdom than in winning lost souls. Yet Jesus does not complain about them or speak a word in accusation. Rather He says in their defence:
“They were Yours
You gave them to Me.
They have obeyed Your word.
They know that everything You have given Me comes from You.
They accepted Your words
They have believed…”
How encouraging for us that Christ uses such words while advocating our cause before the Father. Our pettiness and lack of maturity are overlooked. This also shows us that when we pray for other Christians our job is not to join the devil, the accuser, in finding fault with our brothers and sisters, but to uphold their cause and speak in their defence.
The Pillar of Work – Interceding for Souls. Excerpt 7
It might be helpful to list the areas that you will pray for and write down scripture verses and the prayers and promises that the Holy Spirit forms within your hearts. As we study the example of kings and prophets in the Bible who ‘stood in the gap’ to intercede for the nation, we will notice a clear pattern to their prayers:
- They exalted God.
- They humbled themselves.
- They acknowledged their sins, mistakes and failures; and those of their fathers.
- They threw themselves at the mercy of God.
- They reminded Him of His covenant, His promises, His mercy and faithfulness.
- Sometimes they reminded Him of past obedience or sacrifice which made it imperative for God to bless them.
- They called on God to intervene. They acknowledged God’s power and ability to work on men and situations to accomplish His purposes.
“Come let us reason together, bring forth your strong arguments.” It is important to realize that intercession is not simply asking God to do this or that; it is pleading a case or negotiating for better terms in the heavenly court. God is pleased with those who share His burden for the lost. He hears their cry to pardon the fallen ones and He makes a way for the future.
“The King’s heart is in the hands of the Lord and He directs it like a watercourse.”
The Pillar of Work – Interceding for Souls. Excerpt 6
It is certainly the duty of every Christian leader to intercede for those under his care. We have the example of the kings, Hezekiah and Jehoshaphat, throwing themselves on God’s mercy in times of national crisis. The ‘gentile’ king of Nineveh led his people in a period of national repentance and fasting. Samuel promised the Israelites that he would not stop praying for them even when a king had been appointed to take his place of leadership.
It is also the duty of every Christian to intercede for those within his sphere of influence. Many Christians feel a stirring in the spirit to do a particular task or fill a gap in the Kingdom. The Holy Spirit may lead us to intercede for a certain work, give our time and money or possibly serve as full time workers. Yet our passion should be to see all of God’s work flourish unhindered. We must remember to seek God’s blessing, protection and empowerment for those who have gone to work in other areas of God’s field.