Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Cultivating a Deeper Intercessory Prayer Life

We all know the call to pray.  We have read many times the words of Jesus in Luke 18:1, that we ought always to pray and not lose heart.  We know passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and that we are to pray without ceasing.  Adam Clarke wrote about 1 Thessalonians 5:17:

You are dependent on God for every good; without Him you can do nothing.  Feel that dependence at all times, and you will always be in the spirit of prayer; and those who feel this spirit will, as frequently as possible, be found in the exercise of prayer.

In 1 Timothy 2:1 we read the call to intercessory prayer.  Here we read:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.

Going back to Adam Clarke for a moment.  Clarke broke down the passage as this:

  • Supplications – Prayers for averting evils of every kind.
  • Prayers – Prayers for obtaining the good things, spiritual and temporal, which ourselves need.
  • Intercessions – Prayers on behalf of others.
  • Giving of Thanks – Praises to God, as the Parent of all good, for all the blessings which we and others have received.

Clarke summarized that it was possible that the Apostle has the Christian churches in mind as he wrote 1 Timothy 2:1 as a guide for their time of praying together.  Clarke admits he does not know.

Either way, we know that 1 Timothy 2:1 clearly calls us to prayer.  Intercessory prayer is vital to the saving of souls.  In 1 Timothy 2:4 Paul tells us that it is God’s desire for all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  The fact that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God and He gave His life to redeem fallen sinners is fact enough that God desires to save the lost (Luke 19:10).  God did not send His Son to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17).  Now that Jesus has accomplished this work, He now sits at the right hand of God on high until His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:25).  This focus for the disciple upon the Lord Jesus drives us to prayer.

Prayer for the disciple of Jesus is not the mere saying of words.  Prayer is a living relationship with a living God.  We have a God who hears us when we call and He answers us (Psalm 65:2; 66:19; 102:17; 145:18-19; Isaiah 65:24; 1 John 5:14).  Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-11:

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Oh the joy that comes from praying when we know that we have a Father who hears us when we call.  God is not looking for us to just mumble words in His holy presence.  God wants us to call to Him as a Father (Jeremiah 29:12).  He longs to hear us and answer us when we call to Him (Daniel 9:17-19).

The way then to cultivate a deeper intercessory prayer life is not by, in the flesh, carving out more time to pray when you don’t really have a heart for your Father.  Prayer will not go far that is motivated by the flesh.  Prayer must be a Spirit-led exercise where you are seeking your Father not for things or not to earn righteousness but to simply call to Him because He said He would hear and answer.  When we see that our whole reason for being able to pray in the first place is not because of us but because of the work of Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16), this too should lead us to a deeper desire to pray.

When it comes to intercessory prayer, there is no doubt that God wants us to pray not just for ourselves (Matthew 6:11) but for others.  I suspect that all of us have been guilty of praying too much for ourselves.  I know I do.  Yet the will of the Lord is to save sinners and He wants us to pray for all people.  This is clear here in 1 Timothy 2:1.  Based on 1 Timothy 2:4 we know that God wants us to pray specifically for them to be saved.  God works through our prayers to bring about this salvation.

Ironically, Calvinists have often accused Arminians of praying like Calvinists when it comes to intercessory prayer.  A.W. Tozer use to say, “I preach like an Arminian but pray like a Calvinist.”  However, what are we praying for when we pray for the lost to be saved?  What we are not praying is that God would somehow elect them or that He would override their will and drag them to salvation (in the words of R.C. Sproul about John 6:44).  We are praying many things when we seek God for another to be saved.  We are praying for the conviction of the Spirit (John 16:8-11) thorough the preaching of the Word (Romans 10:17).  We are praying for the defeat of the enemy (2 Corinthians 4:4) and for the Lord to tear down the wicked strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).  No doubt we are praying for John 6:37 to come to pass.  Arminianism confirms that wicked sinners need the work of the Spirit to come to the Savior.  We are not arguing here that man is free in his will to come to Christ on his own power.  No doubt John 1:12-13 makes it clear that mankind must come on his own but he also needs the aid of the Spirit.  This is because of the radical nature of sin (Romans 3:10-18, 23).

The reality is that neither Arminians nor Calvinists can truly understand what we are praying for when we pray for sinners to be saved.  We only know that God is the one who saves the lost and we Arminians affirm 1 Timothy 2:4 along with verse 1 meaning that we pray God saves all sinners.

On a final point here.  What does this look like?  Last night I was burdened to pray for radical Muslims to be saved.  I prayed earnestly for God to save these terrorists.  While this wicked men are doing much evil in the name of their false religion, I was praying for them to be saved, for them to hear the gospel.  I don’t believe God delights in the death of these wicked sinners (Ezekiel 18:23).  I believe His will is that they repent and live (Ezekiel 18:32).  God can save these sinners.  He saved the terrorist Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9.  He can do the same for these wicked sinners.  I prayed 1 Timothy 2:4 over these terrorists and called out to the Father by their names.  I prayed for the many Muslim terrorists groups we hear of now to be saved by His grace.  I prayed for Satan to be exposed to them for who he is.

I would love to tell you that I am perfect at intercessory prayer but I am guilty of spending way too much time praying for myself.  I pray the Holy Spirit will help all of us, His saints, to be true intercessors as He is (Romans 8:26-27).

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