Just about every church has them. If you don't I feel for you. I'm talking about that faithful group of prayer warriors who love to stand in the gap, bringing the hopes and needs of the church before the throne of grace with dogged persistence and unquenchable faith. They are called the intercessors. I know, they can be intense, sometimes even a bit odd, but they've been an extraordinary gift to me as a pastor. Every week they are praying over the text to be preached that Sunday, fiercely contending for prophetic promises spoken over the church, wrestling for protection over our families and marriages. I've known intercessors to be a bit weird in times past. But not these ones. I wish you had intercessors like ours. They're a bit like the spiritual Green Berets, going behind enemy lines in prayer, like Paul's friend Epaphras who was always wrestling in prayer for the saints to stand firm in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12)
Still, as grateful as I am for our intercessors, I'm wary of our tendency to outsource prayer to the pros. I remember being stunned in my first year of leading a church when a guy came up to me and asked, "Won't you throw up a prayer to the Big Guy upstairs? I know He listens to you." Come to find out, most people really struggled to pray; with what to say, with distraction and doubt from unanswered prayers. Most of us struggle with prayer. It's why I've spent much time trying to teach people to pray for themselves. I've tried to convince them that God hears their prayers because of Jesus' righteousness, not theirs. I've also fought for a regular culture of gathered prayer, possibly more than any other culture in our church.
And this truth, perhaps more than any other, has been decisive in breaking the habit of outsourcing prayer to the pros. It is that every person who belongs to Christ already has two Intercessors!
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."(Romans 8:26)
The Spirit intercedes by making petitions for us according to God's will with groaning because of our weakness. What a mysterious gift of empathy.
And as if that weren't remarkable enough, Romans 8:33 tells us that Jesus also intercedes for us.
"It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."
The sense here is not so much of empathy as it is of interception; of someone going up against an enemy to intercept their attack. We know that Satan is an accuser, who accuses us night and day. Jesus' intercepts Satan's accusations because His blood speaks a better word than any word of condemnation. (Hebrews 12:24)
As the hymn goes,
"When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of my guilt within,
Upwards I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin,
Because my sinless Savior died, My sinful soul is counted free,
For God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me."
Here's the thing. When I pray, I become the 4th member of the most dynamic prayer meeting imaginable. God, the Son and God, the Spirit are interceding for me to God, the Father!
Dwell on that.
Dwell on that.
Why would I want to outsource such a personal, magnificent reality to someone else?
Now imagine how unstoppable we'd be if as a Church we stepped in to that Prayer Meeting together?
This Wednesday at 6:30pm we join to pray at Southlands Chino. It's our all-church prayer meeting called 133. Pre-prayer dinner begins at 5:30pm. 5559 Park Place, Chino, 91710