We’ve come to the final going deeper into prayer and we’re glad you’re here. Have you found a sister to bring along and chat with? Do you have your journal and pen?
Father God, we’re ready to hear from You. Amen.
Today we’re going deeper into intercession.
Although the English definition for intercession refers to praying for others, the original language gives a broader picture. The Greek translated as intercession means: to go to or meet a person, especially for the purpose of conversation, consultation, or supplication; to pray, entreat; make intercession for any one (ESL). The Hebrew is very similar, implying simply going to someone with your requests (ESL). We will use the word in its original sense: bringing any and all requests to God, for ourselves and others.
In our study this past week we read Hebrews 7:25 and discovered Jesus saves completely those who draw near to God and always lives to intercede for them. As followers of Jesus we, too, should intercede.
What does interceding on behalf of others look like for Believers?
I have a picture of what intercession looks like going on in our chicken coop.
We currently have a broody hen, which means she’s decided it’s time to hatch the eggs being laid. She sits and sits, hardly ever coming out of the nesting box. I see her as a picture of intercessory prayer.
We are called to bring our requests to God persistently. Continually. And as the hen waits for the eggs to hatch, we wait for God to work. The chick grows where she can’t see if anything is happening or not. It’s all hidden from her sight. But something is happening in that egg. It goes from yolk and white, to a fuzzy little chick which one day will peck its way out.
The same is true for our prayers. We can’t see what God is doing on the inside of the person or situation as we bring our concerns to Him day after day. It’s all hidden from us. Until one day. The answer bursts forth. The change comes.
Persistence is the key. We need to be faithful in our prayers, just like the broody hen, and not get discouraged if nothing seems to change from our vantage point. God hears the heartfelt prayers of His people and is at work.
Now, I have to tell you, our hen’s work is futile. We have no rooster so the eggs she’s trying to hatch will never produce chicks, but she stubbornly continues to sit and sit. We, on the other hand, have Jesus behind our prayers. Our prayers are never futile. Because of Him, one way or another, they will bring about change.
Believers intercede in Jesus’s name, because without Him we have no place to stand before God safely. We’ve talked about and practiced: praise, confession, and thanksgiving. These acts of faithful prayer move us toward this place of intercession.
- Through praise we humble ourselves before God, lifting Him up and lowering ourselves before Him. We know who He is because we have praised His name and He has filled us with confidence in His character.
- We put on Jesus by confessing our faith in Him, and by confessing our sins before Him we are cleansed from all unrighteousness and able to stand before God. We have cleared the way for Him to hear us.
- Moved by His power and love, His forgiveness and grace, we enter His presence with thanksgiving.
Now, knowing who He is, His power and compassion, we come to Him on behalf of others and ourselves to set things right…
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
— Matthew 6:10 ESV
Have you ever considered the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer of intercession? Why or why not?
On whose behalf is this prayer prayed?
Jesus taught us to intercede for the world, not like the world.
Read Matthew 6:7-8
Jesus warned against wordy prayers to get our heavenly Father’s attention. No special, flashy words or formulas are needed. We just need to come talk to Him like we would a loving father who cares about us.
If you look at the prayer Jesus taught (Matthew 6:9-13), we see it is very simple and direct. He also tells us our Father already knows what we need before we ask Him.
Why do you think God asks us to intercede when He’s sovereign and He already knows what we need?
This concept of God’s sovereignty and His knowing everything we need before we ask can be confusing.
I was talking with my young adult daughter about prayer and she expressed a sense of futility when it came to praying: Why pray when He is in control? He already knows what we need. I don’t understand why I need to pray. It won’t change anything.
God created us to be in community. God, himself is three in one… a perfect community. Even though I trust His sovereignty I talk to Him daily about the things He brings to my heart.
Prayer and intercession are not about getting some unknown force to move on our behalf, like placing our quarter in a gumball machine. For me, prayer is not about the outcome. It’s about the relationship. No marriage or friendship grows without communication, and neither will our relationship with God.
It just seems natural to talk to God about those who come to mind throughout the day. It is a part of our relationship.
God’s steadfast love for His people moves Him to stir us up to cry out to Him, for our own good or to be a part of what He is doing. Prayer does change things. The Bible is full of examples of intercessory prayer making a difference in the lives of those who prayed.
We looked at two different scenarios in our study this last week. Moses interceding on behalf of the stiff-necked Israelites in the wilderness kept God from wiping them out and starting over with Moses (Exodus 32:1-15). Then we had the case of the still stiff-necked rebellious Israelites just prior to the fall of their formerly great nation. God told the prophet Ezekiel His wrath would be poured out because He couldn’t find even one man to stand in the gap before Him and intercede for the land (Ezekiel 22:23-31).
Every conversation recorded in Scripture between God or Jesus and people can be considered a prayer. Can you think of other intercessory moments in the Bible?
- Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33).
- The centurion interceded on behalf of his sick slave (Luke 7:2-10).
- The leader of the synagogue interceded for his dying daughter (Matthew 9:18-26).
- Martha asked for help in the kitchen (Luke 10:38-42).
- Mary, Jesus’s mother, interceded on behalf of the father of the bride when the wine ran out at a wedding (John 2:1-5).
Jesus has authority and when we pray in His name, we find the heart of intercessory prayer is an authority issue.
Read Genesis 1:26
What was God’s intention for man? what was his place in creation?
Man was created to have dominion or authority over all creation.
Read Romans 6:16
What does this verse tell us about who we serve?
We serve whoever we obey.
Read Genesis 3:1-7
Who did man (one man being Adam and Eve) obey? Who were they intended to obey?
They obeyed the serpent, aka Satan, but they were created to serve and obey God.
What happened in this moment?
The authority man had over all creation while serving God was given over to Satan the minute they obeyed him and rejected God by disobeying His one command. This is how Satan became the prince of the world (John 14:30, Ephesians 2:2, 1John 5:19).
God respects the authority He gave man. Therefore, He respects our decision to obey someone else besides Him. When we think of the Fall as a transition of authority, we understand more clearly why Jesus had to make His entrance into the world a clandestine event. No fanfare or royal family for Him. A simple mother and father. A manger for a bed. He was incognito, entering enemy territory.
Yes, God is still sovereign and the enemy can only get away with what God allows. But God respects the decision mankind made to serve someone besides Him.
With Jesus’s entry into the world and His successful mission, He can now recruit disciples who are fully equipped to bring His authority back into the world through prayer. The authority aspect of the current powers at work in the world gives new meaning to: Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Does understanding the authority issue change your perspective on the importance of intercessory prayer?
There was a season a few years ago, when God would regularly call me outside to look at the stars.
It’s usually dark out when I get up, and on my way to the kitchen I pass windows where I can see the stars when it’s clear. I felt His tug calling me to go have a look, so out I would go into the front yard and look up.
I saw the velvety night sky filled with piercing white lights. Stars.
As I contemplated what He was telling me He led me to these verses:
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life… —Philippians 2:14-16 NIV84
Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. — Psalm 97:2 NIV84
Understand, I didn’t get this lesson all in one morning. It was several weeks of star watching and seeking. Listening for what He was saying. But this is what I came to understand about the role of Believers in a dark world temporarily ruled by Satan.
God covers Himself in darkness, like the night sky separating us from His light. In His righteousness and justice, if He showed up, those who were not yet saved would be obliterated. Those full of sin could not survive His presence. So, for now, in His grace, He hides Himself with thick darkness.
The Philippians verses tell us we are to shine like stars in the universe holding out His Word of life. Here is where I began to see Believers, those stars in the night sky, as conduits piercing through the darkness to His Light.
When we serve and pray as He calls us to, according to His Word, we make the way for His authority and power to come through the darkness back into the world where it was intended to rule in the first place.
Intercessory prayer has the power to bring His authority back into the world and the lives of the people for whom we pray.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Are you willing to be a conduit for His power and authority to come into the places we’ve given over to Satan? Does this picture make sense to you? Does it change your attitude toward prayer?
Intercessory prayer is powerful. It is the place to begin with a problem. It is not the last-ditch effort when all our plans have failed.
So, how do we pray?
As God’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) we don’t come up with our own plan for prayer. We consider His way for the situation or person. And He has a way and not the way in all things.
Read 1 John 5:14-15
What do these verses tell us about coming to God in prayer?
God hears Believers who ask according to His will.
If we know He hears us, we know we have what we have asked.
This is a bold straightforward promise on prayer. Do you find it to be true in your life?
Why do you think He doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want?
I’m so glad God understands my spiritual maturity especially when it comes to praying for others. In my early days of learning to pray I often threw up any positive request I could think of on someone’s behalf. I wanted others to be happy.
As I’ve grown, I find myself more cautious in how I approach God on behalf of others. My desire for others to be happy is not my focus any more. Happy is just not the point. My prayers for others are focused on one thing—that they might know Him more. I still pray for healing, deliverance, supernatural intervention as Holy Spirit leads me. I believe He still moves in ways we cannot explain away with logic, but when these specific requests aren’t answered my faith in Him remains.
God’s will for everyone I encounter is to know Him and choose Him. Praying for others in this way reminds me no matter the answer, He is working to bring those I pray for to a complete knowledge of His grace and love for them.
Read James 4:1-3
What does this passage teach us about prayer?
Quarrels and fights happen among Believers because our passions are at war within ourselves, and rather than going to God in prayer for what we desire, we try to force it from other people. So, viewing prayer as a last-ditch effort is at the heart of a lot of our problems. Then these problems turn into relational issues.
We also learn we don’t get what we pray for because we ask with wrong motives. Asking for things to “spend” on our own passions.
Last week, what did we learn about the heart of thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a sacrifice of self-will for the desire of God. He calls us to allow Him to take what He’s given us and break it so He can use it to save others. Like Jesus did. As followers of Jesus we seek the benefit of others, even if it costs us our way and our life.
God always answers prayer: Yes, No, Wait.
Praying His will, gives us a Yes or a Wait. Praying our will, graciously gives us a No.
Can you accept that He will answer No to something you deeply desire, because your motive is wrong?
Are you willing to lay down your will for His will, when it comes to your life? the life of your loved ones? the difficult circumstance?
Recently my family and I moved to a new place in our Sanctuary to worship. A circumstance I found difficult became distracting for me on Sundays. At first I was determined to remain: How would it look if I moved? Would it offend others around me? I’ve sat here for eight years… since the doors of this building opened. This is my spot!
As I sat in my new place Sunday, not far from the old place mind you, the Spirit gently reminded me of a prayer I prayed earlier for those sitting in my old place.
“Lord, no matter what, bring them closer to you. Make a way for those I love to come back to this place they consider home, their church family.”
I believe He is answering my prayer. I just needed to move in order to see it. The minute I surrendered my own way to His and moved, God revealed His answer to my prayer.
Where do we find His will?
Through prayerful reading of His Word by the power of the Spirit, we find His will.
As we talked about in Devoted to Prayer, Scripture is the language God uses to speak to us. It’s how He reveals His heart, His will, His desire, His Way.
The parts of prayer we’ve talked about — praise, confession, thanksgiving — build the foundation for us to hear God’s will in a situation.
In the writing of this lesson, it became more and more clear how praise, confession, and thanksgiving draw us near to Him. Praying these prayers regularly in our life make us open to His heart.
I think about the prayers I prayed before I began practicing these four steps of prayer. I would give thanks and ask for forgiveness, but the bulk of my prayer was asking for what I desired. Some prayers were very basic desires for general blessings on family, but some were born of deep desire in me, totally uninformed by Him. I was not interested in His will, only mine.
When we spend more time in praise, confession, and the sacrifice of thanksgiving, the more we are prepared to hear Him.
What I’ve found is, the more I turn my thoughts toward Him, the more I hear His thoughts toward me. Hearing His thoughts about me moves me to consider who I am before Him and transformation begins.
The same is true in our prayers for others. The more we move our thoughts toward Him, the more we hear His thoughts regarding a person or circumstance. We become a worthy vessel willing to hear His will, pray His will, and work with Him to bring His authority back into the world. We become true intercessors, piercing the darkness in the world with His Light, His Will, His Truth. From this place He leads us to pray His Word.
Praying His Word has power, and the prayers prayed according to His will are an automatic Yes.
Read Deuteronomy 6:5
What does God command us to do?
Deuteronomy is the second giving of the law. The refresher course after wandering forty years in the wilderness before the Israelites entered the Promised Land bringing their exodus journey to a close.
God commands His people: Love me with all your heart. We cannot do this on our own. This is God’s will for us and when we begin to pray this prayer into our lives, it is an automatic Yes.
Early in my walk with God, I began praying this Scripture over my life. I hadn’t been taught to pray Scripture, it was just what I wanted.
God, grow me to love You with all my heart, all my soul, and all my strength.
I prayed this prayer regularly for years. And I believe those prayers are being answered with a Yes as I find myself loving Him more and more.
Leading children’s ministry can often create a whirlwind of thoughts about what to teach. It came to a point when I asked myself… asked God, “What do we want the children to leave this ministry knowing?” This Scripture was the answer.
“Love the Lord you God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.”
I say it, sing it, teach it constantly. And I believe God is growing the children in our ministry to love Him more and more. It is an automatic Yes prayer, and everything we teach is an extension of this prayer. I see kids wanting to come to church, growing in His Word, and loving others. This is God’s Yes to praying Scripture.
Seeking His will for a situation or circumstance is the first step in intercession. Ask Him how to pray. Listen for His guidance.
This is not a quick process. The best way to prepare yourself to intercede according to His will is to grow in your love for Him. Nurture your relationship with Him through prayerful study of His Word, the faithful practice of prayer, and obedience.
He has a way and not the way in every situation, every life, and as Believers in Jesus we have the incredible, awesome, privilege of being a part of making His way in the world through intercessory prayer.
We hope you will begin practicing intercessory prayer, actually we hope you will begin to live a life devoted to prayer through praise, confession, thanksgiving and intercession.
We’re approaching a busy time of year and so we are taking a break from our weekly study. We will return in January to complete our Going Deeper study into: Trust, Obey, and Love.
Have a great holiday… and don’t forget to practice what we’ve learned along the way.
Stacy & Carol