May 20, 2011

Is There No One to Intercede?

Gifts of the Holy Spirit
I've recently taken issue with the concept of intercession as a spiritual gift. Now, before you get upset with me for saying this, please hear me out. I do believe that some us are graced with a special anointing for intercession.

Perhaps we've had the pleasure of sitting under a brilliant intercessor and have vicariously learned from them, or perhaps we are just naturally bent toward spending hours of time in prayer.

Being one of these people graced with a supernatural inclination toward intercession, I totally understand why I always score high in intercession as one of my spiritual gifts. However, just because there are those of us who are, by way of personality, more inclined toward intercession, I do not believe this makes it a gift of the Spirit.

First of all, there is no mention of this "gift" in any of Paul's lists of spiritual gifts. Second, there are multiple places in his writings where he mentions intercession, and he never talks about it as if it is a gift. In fact, he insists that it is the assignment of every believer.

Worship as Intercession
1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NKJV)
"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

In another place, Paul speaks to all believers and says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. 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)

In the passages prior to this verse, Paul is describing the labor of hope and faith. He is describing the struggle we as believers go through as we wait for the promises of Jesus to come to bear in our lives and the lives of those we love and pray for. In this verse, he describes our weakness as not knowing how to pray.

Groans that Words Cannot Express
Have you every sat in agony, wondering what to pray for the one you love who is suffering beyond imagination? Have you ever seen the tyranny of the enemy over someone's life and not known how to pray? This is the solution...Paul declares that when we are at a loss, the Spirit steps in and takes over for us in our job as intercessors.

Now, perhaps you're squirming a little bit because you thought you were off the hook. Or perhaps you're just not feeling it...you're just not seeing how this pertains to you quite yet. Let me show you one more verse. My goal is to awaken your soul to the truth your spirit already knows...you are an intercessor.

You don't have to become one. You don't have to learn all the right postures for prayer, and you don't have to spend hours on your knees crying out to God with words you cannot express. (Though you can if you want to.) Remember, it says the Spirit will do all of that for you when you don't know how to pray.

Intercessor
Let the truth wash over you today:

You are an intercessor.

Here's how I know that for sure:

"Therefore [Jesus] is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ALWAYS LIVES TO make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25, NKJV)

Did you catch that? It says that Jesus LIVES to intercede on behalf of the lost. Paul told Timothy that God's WILL, His good and perfect WILL, is that EVERY man (woman & child) would come to salvation AND to knowledge (experience) of the truth!

Paul said this because he had an encounter with the One who LIVES to intercede for all men (women & children). Paul knows that Jesus intercedes. He followed the example of the One his heart burned for, and he exhorted his followers to do the same.

Tearful Intercession
I'm sure some of you are shaking in your boots, thinking that you have to suddenly become burdened by the problems of the whole world, and you're may even be a little irritated with me (or in denial) for pointing this out. I don't want to leave you here holding a burden too heavy for you to carry.

To that end, I will show you how simple it is to intercede. First, we learn a lesson from Job, who is angry at his friends for the way they have failed to support him in his darkest hour.

If you've ever read Job, you've probably been a bit confused about his friends. They seem to know what they're talking about. Much of what they have to say seems to hold wisdom, and it seems as though Job is just a little hard headed. You've probably thought, "If Job would just listen to them he would be all right."

I know this, because I used to see it this way, too. However, do you know what God had to say about it? The truth of what He says is a little obscured thanks to these pesky things called chapter headings that can sometimes diminish the impact of the flow of Scripture.

Job's Friends
In Job 36 & 37, Elihu is talking to Job, appealing to him to see things his way. The minute Elihu stops talking, God steps in with this question, "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?"

Although many of us have been taught that God is rebuking Job in this passage, I would argue that though He clearly does have something to say to Job, His sharpest rebuke is actually directed at Job's three friends. Here is the full text of 38:1-2:

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: 'Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.'"

Yes, I can totally see how one could interpret that Job was in trouble here with God, but I beg to differ. God was not angry with Job, not ever! He loved Job passionately, and until we begin to read this book with the view of God's passionate love for Job, we will never fully understand God's love for us.

Who Will Intercede?
That being said, I would like to bring us to an earlier part of Job to illustrate the simplicity of our call as intercession for the lost:

I am going to go out on a limb here, as I might truly offend you right now. I don't mean to, but I really want you to see what I see hidden in plain sight in the Scripture. Here goes...I'm going to mix translations for a minute here. There are elements of this verse in the NKJV and the NIV that I want to tie together...

Job 16:20-21 (my paraphrase) "My friends scorn me, my eyes pour out tears to God. Oh, that one might plead for a man with God as a man pleads for his friend."

Job is crying out for an intercessor. This passage is filled with court language...Job is basically looking for a public defender to stand between him and God. This is the very thing that the lost of this world need...someone to stand on earth and say, "He's with me."

Jesus as Intercessor
I would argue that this is the model Jesus set forth, and the final evidence I offer is found in two passages, one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. In addition to evidence, these two passages actually give us the keys to becoming the intercessors Jesus is looking for upon the earth on behalf of the lost. In fact, many of you who have written yourself as intercessors probably already walk in this calling without even knowing that you're doing it.

Isaiah 59:14-19 "Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs [flees, runs] from evil makes himself a prey. Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and his own righteousness, it sustained Him. For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garment of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; the coastlands He will fully repay. So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him."

Dawn
Remember from my earlier posts about God's wrath, here, here, and here, that His wrath is bent on the enemy of your soul, not on you or any other human being!

I'm sure for many of you this passage from Isaiah is sounding of bells of familiarity. Here is it's New Testament counterpart. I'm hoping this one will finalize in your mind your destiny as an intercessor for the lost and broken:

Armor of God
Ephesians 6:10-18 (NKJV)
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age; against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, TO STAND. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; PRAYING ALWAYS with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints..."

God has invited every one of us to dress ourselves up in His garments, plus He's added a few items to our arsenal...the belt of truth (no longer fallen in the street), faith, the word of God, shoes of peace, AND intercession. And He promises that as we resist the devil in intercession (rather than departing from him), the devil will eventually flee from us. And unlike him, who can only intimidate and distract us, we can actually demolish his strongholds.

The Power to Demolish Strongholds
Now that you know who you are called to be, I encourage you this week to make one simple change in your prayer life. Rather than praying your soul's prayers for the hurting and broken people in your life, intercede for them...when their name comes to mind, bring their face up with their name and hand them over to the Spirit of God.

The Spirit, who is groaning without words on their behalf, will eventually return to you the words of the Lord for that person. Then you will have something you can pray with confidence that all of heaven is working on behalf of the one you pray for. This is true intercession...not a burden, but a delightful exchange between you and the Spirit of God, knowing that He knows exactly what they need. When the time is right for you to act (in word or deed) on their behalf, He will tell you what to do. Until He gives you this clear direction, rest in confident faith that by you bringing them to His attention, He is taking care of the rest.

In Peace & Joy,
Angela

2 comments:

  1. Wow Angela, that beautifully sets my feet on Kingdom ground. love, joseph

    ReplyDelete