But I will call on God, and the LORD will rescue me. Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the LORD hears my voice.
– Psalm 56:16-17, NLT
One thing I love about intercession is the recognition that God is the One who is able to bring about changes in people’s lives. Sometimes we can care so much about someone that we really want to get involved in their situations and cause positive changes to take place. However there comes a point when we realise that a lot of the time there isn’t all that much that we can do. But God can. Our role is often simply to give the person or the situation to God in prayer, and ask Him to do the work that we cannot. Much as it is important to be there for people and help where we are able, our role is also to intercede: He can act in the depths of people’s hearts, far beyond our own capability. Intercession is a job appointed to each of us as followers of Christ – to pray and plead with God on behalf of other people and of situations.
What a privilege it is, to be able to communicate personally with the One who is able, on behalf of those we care about. And our love for others may instill in us a desire to commit to pray for them or their situations regularly. This is wonderful. But when the frailty of human nature kicks in we discover that no matter how much we promise to God that we will pray for so-and-so every day, or every week, or even every month – it may not always work out as planned. We fail. We forget. We put it off “until later” and don’t get around to it. Then we begin to subconsciously consider intercession as little more than a chore.
“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
– Ephesians 6:18, NLT
The beauty of God’s grace is shown here: at the point of noticing that we are weak. We are unable. We can’t do it. But that in Him, nothing is impossible. Jesus said in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” As humans we can do nothing alone. Nothing. We can only do what the Father enables us to do. And we can trust Him to give us the strength to intercede, knowing that it is a job that we are rightfully entitled to and one of great significance. So we surrender to God our knees and ask Him to equip us and enable us to take the focus off our own lives and intercede for others.
We can do nothing, we say sometimes, ‘we can only pray’. That, we feel, is a terribly precarious second-best. So long as we can fuss and work and rush about, so long as we can lend a hand, we have some hope; but if we have to fall back upon God… ah, then things must be critical indeed!
– A.J. Gossip
Perhaps we can think for a moment: what are the things that occupy our attention and our prayers? Why do we pray the way we do, and why do we prioritise in prayer (even subconsciously) the things that are most on our minds when we talk to God? Might the way we see God have anything to do with this? May we choose to pray in faith, to ask Him to act in a situation and believe that He will. May we surrender to Him, and let Him shape us and teach us to pray, and to honour Him in doing so – coming closer to Him and doing His will. Andrew Murray wrote, “And wherever faith has accepted the Father’s love, obedience accepts the Father’s will. The surrender to, and the prayer for a life of heaven-like obedience, is the spirit of a childlike prayer. ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ When first the child has yielded himself to the Father in the care for His Name, His Kingdom, and His Will, he has full liberty to ask for his daily bread. A master cares for the food of his servant, a general of his soldiers, a father of his child. And will not the Father in heaven care for the child who has in prayer given himself up to His interests?” So may we surrender to God our intercession, so that He might fill us with the faith to believe that somehow, some time, in some way, He will answer – and that He will provide according to His love and His word.
Elijah set us a good example in this faithful and faith-filled prayer: it had not rained for a while and Elijah dared to ask God to bring rain. He asked and kept asking, knowing that God would answer his prayer because he knew God like a friend. As we surrender to God our intercessions may we know with confidence that we can ask – that God loves it when we come to Him and ask Him to bring change in our situations and in the lives of those we care about. He knows our needs, but I think it brings a smile to His face when we choose to involve Him. Ole Kristian Hallesby said, “We need to learn to know Him so well that we feel safe when we have left our difficulties with Him. To know in that way is a prerequisite of all true prayer.” Often people get annoyed with God because He did not give them exactly what they asked for. But God is not a divine slot-machine: He does not simply take in our commitment and devotion and in return give us what we want. When we get to know God personally and intimately we begin to want what He wants, and think as He thinks, and see things as He sees them – and trust Him with our situations. May we surrender to God, and allow Him to teach us to intercede.
Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
– 1 Kings 18:41-43, NIV
Let us think for a moment. Is there anything that hinders our prayer, our intercession? Perhaps a fear of being let down, or of God being unresponsive, or of getting an answer from God that might make us uncomfortable. Perhaps our time priorities don’t allow time to intercede for others, and we do not consider prayer important enough to prioritise with our time. Perhaps we have given up, or we feel that God won’t want to listen any more. Whatever the reason, may we think about it, dwell on it, surrender it. May we surrender to God our knees and allow Him to bring us back to a place of intercession before His throne. He is not only our God but our Father, our Friend, our Master and Lord, our Creator, our Lover. And He is willing and delighted to accept our surrender and teach us – not to pray like Moses or Abraham or even Jesus but to pray as ourselves, just as we are.
My Lord and my Saviour,
Thank You that You accept me as I am.
Thank You that I have the privilege of interceding for others!
You know my difficulties, my distractions, my selfishness, my heart; You love me.
I surrender my prayer life into Your hands – and the way I intercede.
I give You my knees; please shape me and teach me to pray.
Please inspire and guide and motivate me, and help me understand who You are!
May I live in Your ways, praying for people the ways You want me to.