Prayer 2 - Intercession
When we, as children, wish to communicate with our father, we find him and start talking, rarely stand and wait for a reply because as children we are so prep=-occupied with all that life has for us that we expect dad to provide instant answers to even the most complicated question, while we are usually satisfied with the most simple answer to the most complex question. As we grow, our relationship changes and we hold two-way discussions listening to each other and even comparing ideas. Later, as our relationship grows, we often know what each is thinking without talking and we just enjoy each other's company.
As Christians, we, God's Children, rarely progress past the rush in and ask and then run off stage. We expect God to give instant answers to our prayers and never seek to understand the reasoning behind God's answer. Also we rarely progress beyond the childlike approach to prayer or mature in relationship with God because He is always up there as it were, out of sight. If we are to grow in prayer we must grow in our relationship with God and listen as well as talk. Traditional church activities teach us to come into His presence, praise Him, seek forgiveness by confession, make requests, seek a blessing and go away and wait for His reply. It is not a two-way relationship.
Prayer meetings are often considered the highest form of meeting and the most important and least rewarding, so we don't attend; go because we believe we should; go to support the minister and or friends. They often become social events; gossip sessions and things that we do to feel righteous. They can become an appointment with God, and often we think this gains us some sort of credit.
The outcome of these meetings is usually that we feel good; let God have the responsibility now because we have prayed about it; keep our face before God so that at judgement He will recognise us; and often don't expect much result from the prayer time. God our Father wants us to mature in prayer, for it to be a two-way conversation, and if we are called to intercession that then is the highest form of prayer.
The Hebrew word paga is usually translated intercession and means a meeting with an outcome. It has many meanings in the Old Testament including a meeting with God to pray for others. The word paga is used in Joshua 19:11, 22, 26, 27 and 34 as the word to describe the meeting of one tribal boundary with another, at the furthest extent of a territory. The tribe could go to the paga and no further; a bit like the High Court, after presenting a case to the Highest Court, all that you can do is sit and wait for the decision. So after intercession, all we can do is sit and wait for God's reply. In Genesis 18:12, when Abraham had finished interceding on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah when he bargained with God, the matter was finished. He returned home to await the answer, and what pain it must have been when he saw the smoke as told in Genesis 19:28 as God acted and destroyed those cities od sin. There was no more that he could have done, he had reached the boundary, he had interceded.
Paga is also used to describe a violent meeting. It is used in Judges 8:21 when Gideon met with and slew Zebah and Zalmunna; in Judges 15:12 when the Philistines captured Samson; in 1 Samuel 22:17-18 when Saul ordered Deog to slay 85 priests who had been faithful to David; in 2 Samuel 1:15 when David killed the Amalekite because he claimed he had killed Saul, the Lord's anointed; in 1 Kings 2:25 when Solomon has Shimei killed, finally establishing his kingdom. In all these instances, paga was used as the word for a meeting that ends in death. This is the same word that is used to describe a man's meeting with God for prayer. It is a fearful thing to meet the living God, for no man can see God and live. Yet the intercessor is called into the presence of God to plead and argue. No Old Testament intercessor could be sure that he would survive this encounter with God. In Genesis 32:24-32 it cost Jacob his dislocated hip.
In Jeremiah 7:16 paga is contrasted with other forms of prayer. Jeremiah was first told not to palal - habitually pray - for the people. Then he was told to rinnah - cry loudly - for them. Next he as ordered not to tephilla - sing praises - about them. Finally at the end he was told not to paga for them. He must not wrestle with God on their behalf.
Paga is used as the strongest Old Testament form of asking. It is often translated as entreat. This presents a picture of begging for something that is desperately wanted. Abraham, in Genesis 23:8, asked the sons of Heth to paga with Ephron for the cave as Machpelah so that he could bury Sarah there. Through this intercession, the first piece of Canaan, the promised land, came into the ownership of God's chosen family. In Ruth 1:16, Ruth told Naomi not to paga her to turn back. Ruth by her inspired resistance of Naomi's intercession, was able to enter into the territory of God and His people. One direct consequence was her marriage to Boaz. King David was her grandson, and Jesus came from the line of David.
Intercession is the last court of appeal, and must be taken seriously; it is at our peril that we come before the Lord in flippancy or irreverence. in the Old Testament it is recorded time after time that kings and others went to the prophet and requested them to seek the will of God on their behalf. They could not intercede themselves and were afraid to do so, yet time after time when in trouble they went to the man of God for his task of intercession.
Exodus 33:11-34:30, when Moses meets and argues a case with God, is an outstanding example of biblical intercession and merits careful reading. It contains most of the elements of intercession. Moses was involved in a face-to-face confrontation with God on behalf of others. He pleaded for the glory of God to be seen and was given a task to perform. He had to persist in his intercession and call on the name of Yehweh. There was an enormous personal cost, yet Moses was transformed as a by-product of his intercession.
Prophets were the intercessors of the Old Testament and by their anointing with the Holy Spirit they had the right of access to God's face which is essential for this work. In Genesis 20:7, after Abraham had told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister, and Abimilech had taken Sarah to be with him, God told Abiumilech that Sarah was married, and told him to return her to Abraham who would pray for him and he would live. If he did not, his entire family would die. Abimilech was obedient and showed that he understood that the prophet had the right to stand before God and interceded on behalf of the life of another.
In Jeremiah 15:10-11, Jeremiah said "What sadness is mine, my mother, oh that I had died at birth. For I am hated everywhere I go. I am neither a creditor soon to foreclose nor a debtor refusing to pay - yet they all curse me. Well let them curse ! Lord you know how I have pleaded with you on their behalf - how I begged you to spare these enemies of mine." Intercession is presented as a true part of the service of a prophet. In Exodus 18:19, Jethro said to Moses, Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may god be with you. You must be the peoples representative before God and bring their disputes to Him. Moses who was the main Old Testament prophet is encouraged to make intercession his main task, and Numbers 27:5 So Moses brought their cases before the Lord is an example of the implementation of that advice. In Isaiah 59: 15-16 (NIV) The Lord looked and was disappointed that there was no justice. He saw that there was no-one, He was appalled that there was no-one to intervene (intercede). God shows His sadness at the absence of a prophet to intercede with Him. Joel 2:28-29 is that wonderful prophecy that one day all God's people will prophesy and so be able to intercede: And afterwards, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, young men will see visions. Even on My servants, both men and women I will pour out My Spirit in those days. That day dawned at Pentecost. Through the atoning work of Christ at Calvary, we have the right of access to the Father's face. Through Christ's baptising work at Pentecost we can receive the power to intercede.
The Old Testament prophets needed to receive either the word of the Lord of the Spirit of the Lord before they could prophesy. They dared not initiate a prophetic message. This also applied to intercession. Jeremiah 27:18 If they are really God's prophets, then let them pray to the Almighty God that .....(gold dishes remain)... indicates that it is the prophets who have been interceding. We should not choose the subject or occasion of our intercession. We should intercede only when God commands, and only on those matters that He reveals to us, by His Word or Spirit.
Under the new covenant we are all called to intercession. God has given us all the right to come to His throne direct, and yet so few come, and so often in insincerity. Frequently when we intercede, God will give us a task to complete as part of His divine intervention into that situation. To intercede is serious business, and if we are not prepared to be obedient, we had better not get involved.
The Greek word enteuxis is usually translated as "intercession" in the New Testament. It was in common use as the word to describe a petition to a king about another man, and was absorbed into the church to describe the Old Testament idea of paga praying. It is a more gentle word than paga. Where paga was a meeting followed by an outcome, enteuxis was a meeting followed by a conversation. This word occurs seven times in the New Testament.
Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them and Romans 8:34 Who is he that
condemns ? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us , describing the work of Christ as the eternal
intercessor for the saints in fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12 ... for He bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Romans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express, And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will shows that work of the Holy Spirit in intercession as the partial fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on Me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one morns for an only child and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
Festus stated in Acts 25:24, that the whole Jewish community interceded with him "loudly protesting ". Intercession is not necessarily a quiet, private orderly activity. The Jews were simultaneously interceding with Festus for the death of Paul. We encourage private simultaneous prayer, and think that it is acceptable in our silence for hundreds to be praying silently at the one time, but if three people pray simultaneously and audibly we get upset and think that is rude. Is God limited to simultaneous petition only in thought prayer ? How we limit God ! After we have tried this form of prayer we will learn that God does hear the simultaneous prayer offered aloud.
However the thought of Jesus continually interceding for us- me - is sobering. he is shouting and shaking God, pleading with Him to do something about us/me and bring us out of our present self-centered life into one totally devoted to God. In 1 Timothy 4:4-5, For everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer the Old Testament idea that the Word of God is the necessary prerequisite for intercession is supported. there is often much presumption in contemporary prayer. We do not have the general responsibility to pray for the whole world, but we do need to recognise those topics which God has especially entrusted to us for intercession. We only have a particular duty to pray about these matters which God presents to us. One of our major objectives in intercession should be the consecration of the saints. Intercession should be engaged in to bring about the complete setting apart of god's people for service.
Romans 11:12 is a reference to Elijah';s intercession described in 1 Kings 19:10-18 where Elijah intercedes with God about the Israelite nation who have turned away from God and killed the prophets and now want to kill Elijah; very similar to Jeremiah's complaint. He hoped for some action from God to sort out the Israelites, but after a wind and an earthquake, a still small voice gave Elijah a revelation. God was not going to do anything; Elijah had to do something, he must find and anoint Hazeal, Jehu and Elisha. God often refuses to grant answers to pray, but gives replies. We intercede with god. "Do something about it" we say, and He replies "No, you do this about it". This was the secret of the miracle of the Canna wedding and the miraculous feeding of the multitudes. If, after interceding with Jesus, the disciples had not gone out and found the food and then not distributed it, there would have been no miracle. They interceded, they were given a job, they did it in obedience and the blessings flowed. Imagine Peter with half a scone and a fish head approaching a group of 500 fishermen to feed them. How much do you think he offered the first guy ?
Being and intercessor costs much. You are unwanted, not recognised, laughed at, ignored, rejected, ridiculed and blamed for much. However, if faithful in the ministry of intercession, God will listen, act, instruct, teach and work through those who are truly devoted to this ministry. The blessings will flow, not only to the intercessor, but also to those who are the subject of the intercession.