Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ministry of Intercession?

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane),...

Intercessory Prayer as it has been traditionally conceived is somewhat silly. It is as if we can get the right person, or enough people to pray to God that some how He will be moved to show mercy and grace. "Why does that seem silly?" you ask. Well God knows all things. He knows before you ask what you are going to ask. What is more He already knows how it is going to turn out.

So as I reflect on the ministry of being an intercessor I believe that there is something much greater than simply giving God your wish list for yourself or others. There must be some other purpose that is fulfilled by this action that changes ourselves and/or others. As I reflect on this I begin to see that Intercessory Prayer is much greater than simply saying some words on behalf of another person before God. In fact it begins to seem quite arrogant on my part to think that my praying to God will be instrumental to God having a favorable disposition toward a family member or friend.

We need to take a serious look at what exactly we are praying for. Does it fit with God's will? How do we discern what God's will is? What is getting in the way for this person that is keeping God from answering his/her own heart prayer? It is not just that we might get some favor from God, but what is it that God is trying to do in this person's life that will lead to greater Glory for God and/or lead this person into greater intimacy with the creator of the universe. In some ways the things we pray for usually become somewhat trivial when compared to the greater experience of our relationship with God.

For Example: What if God was working through a painful life experience to bring about a greater good in your friend�s life? By praying for that painful experience to be removed we are praying outside of God's will. It would be presumptuous for me to think that God's working through this experience was some how less important than my desire to see it removed. Some people are shocked when they hear people say things like "Maybe God has a plan for good through this." We tend to think of God being instrumental in the lovely and beautiful things in life, but we tend to think of evil and ugly things in life as being accidental or random. Why? I think it is to settle our dissonance that God allows evil things to happen. When evil is random I can hold onto the image of a loving and compassionate god with my faculties of reason. When evil has purpose, then it is a bit harder to consider questions like, "Why did God allow this?" Holding on to a loving and compassionate God defies reason and becomes an act of faith. Not that God is unreasonable, but that in our limited finite ability to understand it seems unreasonable. We don't see the end of things, but in time this will be revealed to us. Ours is to trust and have faith in the mean time.

So then at the extreme limits of intercessory prayer we have to consider that God may have a purpose for pain and suffering that is redemptive and not just some random event as a result of living in a fallen world. If we can identify ourselves with the purpose of God, that is to align ourselves with his will and purpose then we are in a position to enter the ministry of intercessor. Up until that point we are merely offering up a wish list to a Divine Grandfather, but not the true image of God. Those are hard words. Many will shriek away from this statement, but then it is possible that not all people are called to be intercessors in this way.

So what can we say then? Intercessory is not wishing people out of their painful circumstances. It is not a heavenly to do list for God. It is not the arrogant belief that my will can somehow prevail over God's will. So what can we say that it is? I will be doing more posts on this but I have a few points I would like to make before the close of this post. First to be an intercessor you have to align you will with God's not the other way around. Second, you have to realize that in fact there is only one intercessor who is Jesus Christ. Thirdly, it may seem contradictory to say "to be an intercessor" and then say "there is only one intercessor." What I am trying to convey is that there is a ministry under the divine authority of the one true intercessor Jesus Christ. Apart from this it our intercession will be fruitless and frankly pointless.

Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.
Romans 8:34 (HCSB)

I would urge all of you to read all of Romans 8! I chose to highlight a few verses in that chapter because it speaks to our role in intercession. First I want to point out that Jesus at the right hand of God intercedes for us. He intercedes for the believer and has audience with God the Father. I cannot think of any position that can replace or compare to this office. If I have a intercessor that is at the right hand of God (and is God) then I do not need anyone else to be my intercessor. I would just go to Him. I should just go to Him.

But then what is the ministry of intercession then?

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit's mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26-27 (HCSB)

I want to draw your attention to a couple of things in this verse.

First that the Spirit of God intercedes according to the will of God. That may seem a minor point, but it is not. The Holy Spirit acts in accord with God the Father, and the Son Jesus Christ. This unity (both in person, but also in purpose) is the essence of the ministry of intercession that the Holy Spirit holds. He acts according to the will of God.

Secondly, we are weak and in that weakness we need the help of the Holy Spirit, because we don't know what to pray for. I would say that the greatest reason is that we do not know the will of God.

The relationship looks like this then: God the Father is the King of the universe, Christ is our advocate interceding between God and ourselves, and the Holy Spirit carries out the ministry of intercession by divine decree.

We join in the ministry of intercession as we align our will with God's will. When we do not know what God is doing then we allow the Holy Spirit to be our voice and intercede according to the will of God. In this process then one can expect that we can align with God's will. Our job then is not to be the intercessor, but rather to carry out the ministry of the one true intercessor. It is a "What would Jesus do?" except on a far deeper spiritual level. That is not just in action, but obedience at a heart and spiritual level. That obedience has to first affect the one would carry out this ministry long before that person can possibly hope to be a positive influence on others.

This is a very wordy post. I hope that I have not confused you more. I will spend some time in my next posts fully developing my understanding of this ministry as well as providing some examples of what it looks like. Maybe through this I can be able to share with you what God is putting on my heart.

God Bless You


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