Posts Tagged ‘Intercessory Prayer’
I ask you to join me in praying for brother Caleb Fielding who is going to England to be a missionary. Pray for the Lord to use Caleb to preach the gospel and to disciple those who repent and believe the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). Pray for souls to hear the gospel and be saved (Romans 10:14-17). Pray for Caleb to be a man of God, a man of holiness toward the sinners in England (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). Pray for the Church of Jesus Christ in England to experience revival and see souls saved for the glory of God.
For more information on brother Caleb, please see http://www.calebfielding.com
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
– Luke 11:1-8
Persistence in prayer is something I think many of us need. I know I do. My prayer life tends to go up and down depending on many issues. There have been seasons of prayer in my life where I was praying earnestly and full of faith. Then there are times of prayerlessness.
In Luke 11 we find the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray. He gives them a model of prayer in verses 2-4 which are similar though not the same as Matthew 6:9-13. The New King James along with the KJV add words to make these two texts match. Most Greek texts do not have these additions. I think this is important because the “Lord’s prayer” is not a magical prayer meant to be uttered and repeated over and over again. The Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples a model prayer. Prayer is not just reciting words. Prayer is not just reading prayers. Prayer flows from the child of God to our Father who hears our cries. The disciples surely knew this having watched the Lord Jesus pray. It was His prayer life that they asked for Him to teach them. Not His miracles. Not His teaching style. Not His leadership style. It was the prayer life of our Lord that the disciples saw and asked Him to teach them about.
I have been around saints of God who knew how to pray. They would walk and talk with God all the day (1 Thessalonians 5:17). There was a persistence in their prayer life that was continually. They walked with God like Enoch of old (Genesis 5:24). Prayer was like breathing to many of these saints of God. I have heard the stories of the great prayer warriors such as Leonard Ravenhill and E.M. Bounds. I have heard of the prayer life of David Brainerd and David Livingstone. I have heard of the prayer lives of John Wesley and George Whitefield. Their ministries were marked with souls but also with prayer. Wesley would often rise up early in the morning before the sun came up to pray. Martin Luther would labor for hours in prayer.
Where are the men of prayer today? In fact, many of the intercessors I know of are women. I praise God for them. I thank God for godly women who pray like Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. The Holy Spirit placed women among the Apostles as they waited for the promise of the Father in Acts 1:14. These women were praying along with the men of God. We need mighty women of God. But where are the men who pray? Where are the men known for their prayer lives and the ministries marked by prayer?
Our Lord teaches us here in Luke 11 that prayer is to be marked with persistence (v.8). The ESV translates the word as “impudence.” I like the old KJV here as it translates it “importunity.” The MacArthur Study Bible states it like this:
It conveys the ideas of urgency, audacity, earnestness, boldness, and relentlessness – like the persistence asking of a desperate beggar.
I like that image. Beggars tend to just ask and then move along. They don’t tend to be very persistent. Jesus states that we are to be persistence in our praying. It is not because God is not willing to hear us nor answer us. In fact, that is the opposite of what Jesus is saying. Our Father hears us and He knows our needs. Jesus said in Matthew 6:8 that our Father knows what we need even before we ask Him. If a friend will get up to give to the beggar what he needs, how much more will our Father give us what we need?
The balance is to pray the will of God. The Lord Jesus is not saying that if we are persistent in asking for something, God will relent and give in. As we pray the will of the Father, the Father hears us and He answers according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). Jesus said that He always did the will of Him who sent Him (John 6:38). Jesus prayed to be close to His Father and to do His will. Jesus submitted Himself completely to the Father to do His will (Hebrews 5:7-10).
As we persist in prayer, we are submitting our selves to God. We want to do His will. Prayer prepares us to do that will. When we truly pray, we are wanting to honor the Lord and to bring glory to Him. This is not about us. This isn’t praying about foolish things. This is about praying for the glory and honor God. This is gospel-centered praying. Like beggars, we know that our Father is the best and He is our reward. This is not about finding bread. This is about finding and seeking the One who gives us bread.
Finally, a word about praying. I don’t want condemnation to come over you. I have lived before under condemnation about prayer. When I was in college I read that if a minister doesn’t pray for two hours a day, they are not worth a dime a dozen. I wept at that because I was not praying for two hours a day so I made up my mind to pray for two hours a day. I was a failure to say the least. My “prayer life” was more about staring at the clock to get in my two hours. At one point I was up to praying an hour a day but I was not praying. I was hitting the clock. I was doing my praying for others to notice my “prayer life.” I wanted others to pat me on the back for my prayer life. I look back now with sadness on those times. My prayer times were not powerful times with the Lord. They were just words uttered for others to notice me (Matthew 6:5).
I long to just walk with God now. I long to talk to Him like a friend, like a brother, like a father. My little boys can just cry out and I’ll run to them. They don’t have to say over and over again “Daddy” for me to run. If they were in trouble, I would not come to them and say, “Do you really believe I am able to help you? Seems to me that you haven’t been talking to me much and so I’m going to leave you be.” No! I help my boys because I love my boys and I want what is best for them. The same is true of God our Father.
Hebrews 4:14-16 is so precious to me now. My prayer life will never match the Lord Jesus’ prayer life. He was perfect in every single way. He bore my sins including my prayerlessness. I am not advocating laziness in prayer. Luke 11:1-8 shatters that. There is a persistence in prayer lives. In fact, Luke 11:9-10 speaks of this persistence further:
9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
But the balance of this is to see that our Father is good and He wants to answer our prayers as the Lord Jesus states in verses 11-13 where He contrasts our earthly fathers with our heavenly Father:
11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
If our earthly fathers would not be evil toward us (we hope), will our heavenly Father be evil toward us? Of course not! Our Father is good and He is loving and kind. The Lord Jesus demonstrated that perfect love (Romans 5:8-9).
The gospel enables us to pray. We don’t come before our Father with our righteousness. We come in the name of Jesus who is our salvation, our righteousness before a holy God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). We come in the name of Jesus because He is our high priest before the Father (Hebrews 10:10-14). We come in the name of Jesus because He is our advocate and our friend (John 14:12-14). Through the Lord Jesus, we are able to approach the throne of God and He hears our cries.
I rejoice in the Lord that He hears our prayers! May God be glorified through the prayers of the saints of God (Revelation 5:8).
One of the precious doctrines of the faith is the immutability of God. This doctrine teaches us that God does not change. In other words, God does not change like we humans do. He is not “learning” nor is His character based on what happens around Him. God is loving and good no matter what. God is long-suffering toward us. This is all true because of the nature of God and the fact that He does not change (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 12:29). God’s will does not change because His will is based on who He is (Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 46:10).
The positive of this doctrine is that God is not a man. He is not one day happy with me and the next day He is angry toward me. God doesn’t hear my prayers today but He ignores me tomorrow. Because of the nature of God and what He has done regarding our salvation, the Lord will not cast us away tomorrow because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Our adoption as children of God comes through Christ Jesus and His eternal work (Hebrews 9:14). The Lord does not cast us aside because He has said that all who come to Him He would not cast away (John 6:37). The promises of God are sure because of the nature of God and the fact that He is immutable.
That said, I don’t fully grasp God. I am thankful for that. I have often said that cults have their god figured out. The Jehovah’s Witnesses can explain their god. Why? Because their god is made in their image. Their god is a false god. Our God, the true and living God, is a mystery to me in many ways. The Bible does not fully reveal God. The Bible reveals enough about God to save us (John 20:31) but even John records about the Lord Jesus that not everything about Him was written down (John 21:25). Enough of Jesus was written down to save us but the biblical record is not revealing all about Jesus. It never could.
God is beyond our logic and understanding. His ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). There is much about the Lord that I don’t fully understand. How can I? He is absolutely holy but I am sinful. My sinfulness gets in the way of my thinking about God. I tend to view God through my own limitedness. I view God through my sinfulness. The biblical record often confronts my sins, my views of God, and my understanding of Him. Whenever I tend to think I have God figured out, the Lord will open His Word to me and show me more about Himself that counters my flesh.
One area of God I have no true understanding about is prayer. In Exodus 32 we read the account of Moses interceding for Israel after their rebellion against the Lord through the golden cafe (Exodus 32:6). The Lord says that He is going to wipe them out for their sins and He will raise up a new nation through Moses (Exodus 32:9-10). Moses goes to praying in Exodus 32:11 and he prays according to the promise that God has given through His servants (Exodus 32:13). Interestingly Moses appeals to the unchangeable nature of God in that He had promised to bless His people through Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. I also point out that Moses uses Israel in verse 13 rather than Jacob. The Lord Himself had changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Moses uses the name of Israel to remind the Lord that He is faithful to keep His promises as He is a covenant keeping God.
Then we come to Exodus 32:14. The Lord changed His mind. This is the New American Standard. The ESV uses “relents” while the KJV uses “repents.” I find it amazing that the Lord changed His mind. The immutable God changed His mind. Some suppose that God did not really change His mind but instead this is anthropomorphic language to describe God. They suppose that God allows the biblical writers to use human language to describe Him who is not human. How can God change His mind? How can the Lord who knows all things from beginning to end change His mind? Is He not an eternal God who dwells outside of time?
Yet the clear reading of Exodus 32:14 is that God is moved by the prayer of Moses. Can prayer really change God’s mind? The divine determinism view of prayer is that prayer is really God working through means to accomplish His will that He has determined beforehand to accomplish. In other words, prayer is not able to move the heart of God. The divine determinist view is that God has fixed what He will do and He even determines the praying of the saints to accomplish His will. Yet when we read Exodus 32:11-14 and we read the prayer of Moses here I don’t see the divine determinism coming into play.
God has said that He will answer prayer. We are to pray according to His will (1 John 5:14-15) but He has said that He will answer prayer (Jeremiah 29:13; 33:3). Jesus taught us to pray because God knows beforehand what we need (Matthew 6:8) and He hears our prayers and responds. I find nothing in Scripture to suggest that prayer is just a religious ritual. I see in the Bible the promise of God that He hears our prayers and He responds.
The example of Moses here shows that God allows us by His grace to be co-workers with Him in accomplishing His will. No doubt God could do whatever He desires. If God wanted to save everyone He could. If God wanted to damn all He could. If God wanted to save sinners without the preaching of the Word or the prayers of the saints, He could. Yet God has fixed certain conditions that if we meet them, God works through His Church to do His will. For example, the will of God is to save sinners. This is the will of God (1 Timothy 2:3-4) but He will only save those who come to Him in faith (Romans 4:5). The Lord could have sent Jesus to die for all sinners and that one sacrifice could have atoned for all sin and that would end that but God has made faith part of His plan of salvation (John 3:16, 36). We have to have faith in Jesus to be saved (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:9 that he was a co-worker with God for His Church. Paul could not save anyone nor could he build the Church apart from the grace of God. The Lord worked through Paul to save sinners (Acts 16:14-15). Paul preached the gospel and the Lord was faithful to add people to His Church (Acts 2:47; Romans 1:16-17).
In a sense, prayer is our working with God. Intercessory prayer is how God has allowed His children to co-work with Him in this world. The Lord heard the prayers of Moses and He changed His mind. That is mind-blowing in of itself.
In Ezekiel 22:30-31 we read these sad words (NKJV):
30 So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.
The Lord has said that He would heed the prayers of the intercessor. That is mind-blowing theology. Yet because none was found, the Lord said He is sending judgment. Not so with Moses in Exodus 32. Moses stood in the gap and he prayed for Israel and the Lord changed His mind.
Only when sin has reached its limit will God not hear the prayers of His saints (Jeremiah 15:1; Ezekiel 14:14, 16). If God has determined the judgment of God because of sin, the prayers of the saints will not change the mind of God.
Prayer is a mystery. God uses the prayers of the saints to do His work. He has called us to prayer (Matthew 9:38). The Church is strongest when she is on her knees. Leonard Ravenhill wrote:
“No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.”
If God has said that He would hear our prayers and He would answer our prayers, how can we not pray? How can we waste time with this world when God has called us to co-work with Him through prayer? Imagine Exodus 32 if Moses had not prayed. God no doubt uses the prayers of the saints to do His work but we need people who will be like Moses and stand in the gap for the world. The world is dying and going to hell yet the Lord has called His people to pray for sinners (1 Timothy 2:1-2). The prayers of the saints rises before the throne of God like sweet-smelling incense (Revelation 5:8).
My longing is to pray. I want to stand in the gap for sinners. I want to pray for the Lord to do great things in this world for His glory and honor. I want to be an intercessory for the glory of God. I may never be known in this world and I’m okay with that but I want to be known by the Lord. I want to stand up before His holy throne and cry out to Him and know that He hears my prayers and He answers according to His will (Mark 11:22-24). There is power in prayer because there is power in the Lord. This leads my heart to cry out (Luke 18:1).
Oh let me pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)!
I fear that we who truly love Jesus and desire to glorify Him have allowed the devil to rob us of the potential we have in prayer by giving us fear of creeping into error. For example, we have so feared the Word-Faith movement that we are scared to talk about faith or to talk about faith in prayer. We hear someone talk about faith and we think instantly about the errors of the Word-Faith movement and we no longer want to hear about faith.
This same error has come over in our understanding of prayer. We have allowed the errors of the Word-Faith movement to rob us of true praying. Instead, prayer has become a vein ritual we perform (or not). We fear asking God even though the Word calls us to ask (Matthew 7:7; James 4:2-3). We fear that asking means that we are moving toward the errors of the Word-Faith movement. When we do pray we don’t pray in faith (Mark 11:22-24) trusting that our Father is able to do what we cannot. We also don’t pray for marvelous things (such as healings) because we fear that we are moving beyond the Word of God into error.
As I was reading from Luke 11, I again noticed the words of Jesus in verse 8:
I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
Notice that Jesus says that we are to pray with impudence. Other translations use “persistence” (NASB; NIV). The King James Version uses “importunity” which is a rich word. The Greek word is “Anaideia” which means “without shame.” It means to be reckless or disregard of consideration by the one making the request (from the Key Word Study Bible). The word for “ask” in Luke 11:9 has a focus on a beggar asking for alms (see Matthew 6:2) and not demanding something. As children of God, we have access through Christ Jesus our Lord to come boldly before the Father in prayer (Hebrews 4:16). We depend on the grace of God to help us to pray and like beggars, we come before our Father trusting in Him and not demanding something of God but trusting in Him to provide and meet our needs and to glorify His name (1 John 5:14-15).
There is something then to be said about praying to the Father and trusting God for mighty things. I have no fear in praying for healings, for Him to save lost sinners, for Him to glorify His name, for His kingdom to come. I find myself praying Psalm 110:1 often for the nations. I find myself praying for God to grant me faith to pray for mighty things and trust Him in mighty ways. This is not some Word-Faith praying but this is biblical praying. Let’s take back what the devil stole from us. We have faith. We have authority in the name of Jesus. We have the right to come into the presence of the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:13-14). If prayer is just a religious ritual we perform, why do we read the words of Paul the Apostle in Philippians 4:6-7? Read Philippians 4:6-7:
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Notice Paul wrote “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” then we can “let your requests be made known to God.” As we pray in faith, trusting in our Father in heaven, Paul says in verse 7 that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
That is power!
As a child of God, I can ask, receive and knock (Luke 11:9-10). If earthly fathers, being evil, give good gifts to their children (Luke 11:11-13) what about our holy Father in heaven? If earthly dads give because their children ask then what about the Father in heaven? The Father loves His beloved and He will give to His children what is good and what is holy.
In conclusion, Jesus was a mighty prayer warrior (Luke 11:1). I have no doubt that Jesus performed miracles because He was God manifested in the flesh (John 1:1, 14) but I also know that He trusted in His Father (Acts 10:38). Notice that right after this, Jesus performed mighty miracles (Luke 11:14). Is there a link between Jesus praying to His Father and the mighty miracles He performed? I think so. Again, I grant that Jesus was God but He prayed to His Father and His Father worked through Him for His glory. The Father heard the prayers of the Son (Hebrews 5:7-10). Will He not hear our prayers through the Son?
My prayer is that the Lord will teach me how to pray. I have prayed Luke 11:1 many times. I want the Master to teach me to pray. I am grateful for the example that Jesus left me about prayer but I want to pray myself to the Father in Jesus’ name for His glory and honor. I pray that the Father not only meet my needs but that He would be exalted by answering my prayers that are focused on His glory. I want to pray mighty prayers that exalt Jesus Christ who prays for me before the throne of God (Hebrews 7:25).
I say that we take back true faith. I say we take back praying bold prayers. I say we take back praying with persistence. I say that we take back praying for healings and truly believing God to do the impossible (Luke 1:37).