Intercession – The Blessed Link To God’s Omnipotence
By Andrew Murray
"And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not...I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth" (Luke 11:5-8).
Prayer is the secret of success in all Christian work. It can defy all the power of the world, and fit men to conquer that world for Christ. It can draw down the power of the heavenly life, the power of God’s own Spirit, the power of Omnipotence, into the life on earth.
If we would be delivered from the sin of lack of prayer, we must enlarge our hearts for the work of intercession. It is in intercession for others that our faith and love and perseverance will be aroused, and that power of the Spirit be found which can fit us for saving men. The Master teaches us, in the parable of the Friend at Midnight, that intercession for the needy calls forth the highest exercise of our power of believing and prevailing prayer. Intercession is the most perfect form of prayer: it is the prayer Christ ever liveth to pray on His throne. Let us learn what the elements of true intercession are:
1. The Urgent Need
Notice the urgent need: here intercession has its origin. The friend came at midnight – an untimely hour. He was hungry, and could not buy bread. If we are to learn to pray aright we must open eye and heart to the need around us.
We hear continually of the millions (even billions) of unsaved living in midnight darkness, perishing for lack of the Bread of life. We hear of millions of nominal Christians, the great majority of them almost as ignorant and indifferent as the unsaved. We see millions in the Christian church, not ignorant or indifferent, and yet knowing little of a walk in the light of God or in the power of a life fed by bread from heaven. We have each of us our own circles – congregations, schools, friends, missions – in which the great complaint is that the light and life of God are too little known. Surely, if we believe what we profess, that God alone is able to help, that God certainly will help in answer to prayer – all this need ought to make intercessors of us, people who give their lives to prayer for those around them.
Let us take time to consider and realize the need. Each Christless soul going down into outer darkness, perishing of hunger, with bread enough and to spare! Millions a year dying without the knowledge of Christ! Our own neighbors and friends, souls entrusted to us, dying without hope! Christians around us living a sickly, feeble, fruitless life! Surely there is need for prayer. Nothing, nothing but prayer to God for help, will avail.
2. The Willing Love
Note the willing love: The friend took his weary, hungry friend into his house, and into his heart too. He did not excuse himself by saying he had no bread: he gave himself at midnight to seek it for him. He sacrificed his night’s rest, his comfort to find the needed bread. "[Love] seeketh not her own" (1 Cor. 13:5).
It is the very nature of love to give up and forget itself for the sake of others. It takes their needs and makes them its own, it finds its real joy in living and dying for others as Christ did. It is the love of a mother to her prodigal son that makes her pray for him. True love to souls will become in us the spirit of intercession.
It is possible to do a great deal of faithful, earnest work for our fellowmen without true love to them. Servants of Christ may give themselves to their work with devotion and even self-sacrificing enthusiasm without the Christlike love to souls being strong. It is this lack of love that causes so much shortcoming in prayer. Love will compel us to prayer, because we cannot rest in our work if souls are not saved. True love must pray.
3. The Sense of Impotence
Note the sense of impotence. We often speak of the power of love, yet the strongest love may be utterly impotent. A mother might be willing to give her life for her dying child, and yet not be able to save it. The friend at midnight was most willing to give his friend bread, but he had none. It was this sense of impotence, of his inability to help, that sent him begging: "A friend of mine…is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him." It is this sense of impotence with God’s servants that is the very strength of the life of intercession.
"I have nothing to set before them." As this consciousness takes possession of the minister or missionary, the teacher or worker, intercession will become their only hope and refuge. I may have knowledge and truth, a loving heart, and the readiness to give myself for those under my charge; but the bread of heaven I cannot give them. With all my love and zeal, "I have nothing to set before them." Blessed is the man who has made that "I have nothing," the motto of his ministry. As he thinks of the judgment day and the danger of souls, as he sees what a supernatural power and life is needed to save men from sin, as he feels how utterly insufficient all he can ever do is to give them life, that "I have nothing" urges him to pray. The sense of our impotence is the soul of intercession. The simplest, feeblest Christian can pray down blessing from an Almighty God.
4. The Faith in Prayer
Note the faith in prayer. What he has not himself, another can supply. He has a rich friend near, who will be both able and willing to give the bread. He is sure that if he only asks, he will receive. This faith makes him leave his home at midnight. If he has not the bread himself to give, he can ask another.
We need the simple, confident faith that God will give. And in God’s Word we have everything that can stir and strengthen such faith in us. Scripture shows us God’s true heaven, filled with all spiritual blessings – divine light and love and life, heavenly joy and peace and power, all shining down upon us. It reveals to us God waiting, delighting to bestow these blessings in answer to prayer. By a thousand promises and testimonies it calls and urges us to believe that prayer will be heard, that what we cannot possibly do ourselves for those whom we want to help, can be had by prayer. Through prayer the poorest and feeblest can dispense blessings to the needy, and each of us, though poor, may yet be making many rich.
5. The Importunity That Prevails
Note the importunity that prevails. The faith of the friend met a sudden and unexpected check: the rich friend refuses to hear – "I cannot rise and give thee." How little the loving heart had counted on this disappointment; it cannot consent to accept it. The supplicant presses his plea. The love that opened his house at midnight, and then left it to seek help, must win.
This is the central lesson of the parable. In our intercession we may find that there is difficulty and delay with the answer. It is not easy, against all appearances, to hold fast our confidence that God will hear, and to persevere in full assurance that we shall have what we ask. And yet this is what God looks for from us. He so highly prizes our confidence in Him, it is so essentially the highest honor the creature can render the Creator, that He will do anything to train us in the exercise of this trust in Him. Blessed is the man who is not staggered by God’s delay, or silence, or apparent refusal, but is strong in faith, giving glory to God. Such faith perseveres, importunately, if need be, and cannot fail to inherit the blessing.
6. The Certainty of a Rich Reward
Note, last, the certainty of a rich reward. "I say unto you...because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth." Oh that we might learn to believe in the certainty of an abundant answer. Would that all who feel it difficult to pray much, would fix their eye on the recompense of the reward, and in faith learn to count upon the divine assurance that their prayer cannot be vain. If we will but believe in God and His faithfulness, intercession will become to us the very first thing we take refuge in when we seek blessing for others, and the very last thing for which we cannot find time. And it will become a thing of joy and hope, because, all the time we pray, we know that we are sowing seed that will bring forth fruit an hundredfold. "…He will rise and give him as many as he needeth."
Time spent in prayer will yield more than that given to work. Prayer alone gives work its worth and its success. Prayer opens the way for God Himself to do His work in us and through us. Let our chief work, as God’s messengers, be intercession. In it we secure the presence and power of God to go with us. Between our impotence and God’s omnipotence intercession is the blessed link.
– Condensed and revised from The Ministry of Intercession by Andrew Murray.