For the past several weeks we have been preaching on the topic of prayer. We have emphasized God’s desire for His people to pray, the importance of praying with others, the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer, the necessity of listening to God in prayer, some hindrances to prayer such as unconfessed sin and an unforgiving spirit, understanding preparatory prayer and the prayer of faith, persevering in prayer, and the power of praying the Scriptures.
All of these messages have been based on a DVD Bible-study titled “When God’s People Pray” which features Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City. I would encourage each of you to get a copy and to go through the sessions again on your own, as these sermons have not covered everything that Bible-study touches on. I believe that you would benefit greatly from doing the study personally.
Including this morning’s message, we have just 3 more sermons remaining in this series. If all goes as planned, we will finish up on Palm Sunday which will allow me to preach an Easter message on Resurrection Sunday. Following that, we will start a new series through the book of Romans which should last through the summer and into the fall. I am excited about what God is teaching us!
This morning we are going to focus upon Intercessory Prayer. We can define intercessory prayer as “the act of petitioning God or praying on behalf of another person or group”. The Bible instructs us to practice intercessory prayer as a vital part of our prayer life. If we are not careful, our prayers can become very self-centered, yet it is the LORD’s desire that they be more others-centered. Intercessory prayer enables us to place the needs of others before our own, as we carry them to the throne of grace.
DVD TEACHING SEGMENT (7 Minutes)
I. GOD EXPECTS US TO PRAY FOR OTHERS (Psalm 106:23, Ezekiel 22:30-31)
The children of Israel were a stubborn people. They often grumbled and complained about their state of affairs. On several occasions they rebelled against God and chased after idols. Their behavior made God angry - so furious in fact that He contemplated destroying them all. Knowing this, Moses prayed on behalf of the people that God would show mercy and relent. Because Moses interceded, the descendants of Jacob were spared. Can you imagine what might have happened had Moses not “stood in the breach” for his people?
God himself is searching for intercessory prayer warriors who will “stand in the gap” for others. Think about that for a moment… the LORD is actively looking for people who are praying for others. He is expecting us as His children to “build up a wall” of protection around those in need. He assumes that we will pray for those who are lost, those who are sick, those who are hurting, and so forth. When He does not find any intercessors, there is nothing to stay the execution of His divine wrath.
II. GOD DELIVERS US WHEN WE ARE PRAYED FOR BY OTHERS (Acts 12:15, Colossians 4:2-4)
As the persecution of Christians grew during the early days of the church, the apostle Peter was arrested and put in jail. The situation seemed dire. James, the apostle, had just been slain and it appeared that Peter might be next. Despite the apparent hopelessness of it all, the church began to pray for Peter that he might be delivered from his bondage.
That night, an angel appeared in the cell and loosed the chains that held Peter. The angel then miraculously led Peter out of the jail. Because of the prayers of others on his behalf, Peter was set free from the bondage that ensnared him. This story causes me to wonder what victories in my life have been achieved as a result of other people’s prayers on my behalf?
The apostle Paul realized the power of intercessory prayer. He knew that the prayers of others on his behalf would be a source of strength for his ministry. As others prayed for him, doors would be opened that might otherwise have remained shut and he would be enabled to be more effective in his outreach. In almost all of his letters, Paul urged his recipients to pray for him - not out of selfish motives, but rather that he might be empowered to be all that God called him to be.
III. JESUS PRAYS FOR US (Isaiah 59:16, Hebrews 7:24-25)
God found that there was no one qualified (sinless) to intercede on behalf of mankind for the sins they had committed. Thus, He sent His own son Jesus Christ to bring about the salvation and righteousness that was needed. According to the will of God the Father, Jesus became our divine intercessor - the One who stands in the gap as our advocate and secures our salvation.
While on the earth Jesus prayed for His disciples, that they would be able to overcome the schemes of the devil and the ways of the world. He even prayed for His enemies, that the Father might forgive them of their sinfulness. Jesus modeled intercessory prayer for us that we might recognize its value and practice it ourselves.
The paramount role of the Old Testament priest was to stand in the gap between God and the people to pray for their forgiveness and well-being. As our great High Priest, Jesus now fulfills this role as our eternal intercessor. Christ Himself continually prays for us, desiring God’s best for us. It is humbling to think that Jesus is praying for me. And if my desire is to be like Him, then it stands to reason that I would spend ample time praying for others. This is one of the surest signs of a mature prayer life - when we are praying for others.
In Mark 2, we read the story of a paralytic man who lived in a village where Jesus happened to be teaching one day. Knowing that He was able to heal the sick and afflicted, four of the paralyzed man’s friends laid him on a pallet and carried him to where the Lord was teaching. When they arrived, the house was so full that they could not get inside to see Jesus. Determined to see their friend healed, they climbed up on the roof, tore a hole in it, and lowered the paralytic down in front of Christ. Moved by their faith, Jesus healed and forgave the man, and he rose from his paralysis and walked about of the house on his own!
Just like the four friends, we too are called to carry people to Jesus in prayer. God’s actions toward others can be directly impacted by our prayers for them. When we intercede on their behalf, God hears our prayers and responds accordingly. In other words, our prayers can make a huge difference in other people’s lives - in some cases, even if they don’t know it. It is imperative that we practice intercessory prayer.
Other times it is we ourselves who are being carried to Jesus by our friends. Take a moment to consider how the prayers of others on your behalf have impacted you. What hardships have you avoided because someone was praying for your protection? What successes have you achieved because someone was praying for your well-being? The experiences of our life don’t just happen randomly - they are molded in large part by the prayers of others that are offered on our behalf. What a sad state it would be if there was no one praying for you….
Even when no one else is, the Bible teaches that Jesus is praying for you. He loves you and wants your life to be filled with the joy and abundance that only comes through knowing Him. What an amazing thought - Jesus is interceding for you and me right at this very moment. He is seated at the right hand of the Father praying for us. His compassionate prayers for us should compel us to pray for others.