God Is Seeking Intercessors
By Gordon Cove
Prayer is the greatest unused force in the world. God has placed in our hands the wonderful key of prayer to use against the forces of evil, but the tragedy is that at this grave hour so few Christians avail themselves of this key at all, and those who do use it do not all know how to use it effectively.
If we have any regrets at all when we get to Heaven, one feels sure that the main burden of those regrets will be the fact that we did not do more earnest praying while on earth. Doubtlessly we shall regret the smallness of our prayer life and also that our requests were not more in keeping with the magnitude of God's mighty power that we asked for crumbs when we could have had a banquet.
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7).
The simplest form of prayer is "asking" or making petitions to God. The most difficult form of prayer, that of intercession is "seeking" and "knocking."
The praying people of the Bible were intercessors. Abraham pleaded for Sodom and Gomorrah. Samuel prayed all night for Saul, and continually interceded for the nation. David entreated God for his people. Daniel prayed for the de1iverance of the Lord's people.
Christ prayed for His disciples and made special intercession for Peter. Paul was an example of his own exhortation, "that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made for all men" (1 Tim. 2:1).
The one thing that is said to have surprised God is that the voice of intercession had ceased. "And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor" (Isa. 59:16). His delivering mercy depends upon intercessors, who will put their shoulder under the burdens of others. "And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none" (Ezek. 22:30).
The normal function of prayer is to make intercession for others, not to keep praying for ourselves. There are many good men and women in the church, but very few wrestlers with God.
The very word intercession implies a reaching but for someone else. Intercession is the climax of prayer. It is the outward drive of prayer. It is this form of prayer, and only this form, that helps God in His great plan to win a prodigal world back to His embrace. Nothing else will do it.
Of course, prayer must begin with communion and petition, but it only reaches its climax in intercession. Communion and petition go no further than yourself, but intercession is worldwide in its outreach. Prayer is not to be used as the petted privilege of a spoiled child seeking for ideal conditions in which to indulge his spiritual propensities. It is more than that. It is intercession which cannot be described better than "the perspiration of the soul."
Intercession Is Hard Work
Intercession is not the job for a lazy Christian. It is sheer hard work. Perhaps that is why some have avoided it. It is a "lifting up," and to lift up anything is tiring. To keep lifting up is intensely tiring. Raise your arm at right angles to your body, and keep it there for even ten minutes and see how tired you become.
"Much prevailing strength has the supplication of a righteous man in its working" is one rendering of a well-known verse.
Now you can understand 2 Corinthians 6:1 – "Workers together with Him." How? Through this life of intercession. This is the work to which our glorified Lord is ceaselessly devoting Himself. "He ever liveth to make intercession." Therefore when we engage in intercession we are in the closest and highest co-operation with Him and doing the most effective work with Him that it is possible to do.
The cause why some Christians are so apathetic in intercessory prayer is to be found in the effort required to bring our sensuous and earthbound natures into true union with the Spirit of God. True prayer is labor. Epaphras labored in his intercessions. We are told in Ephesians 6:18, that our prayers are to be offered like this: "Praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."
Note the "alls" in this verse: (1) "With all prayer" (2) "With all supplication" (3) "For all saints." The word "persevere" here means, "being sleepless thereunto." Paul knew the natural slothfulness of man, especially in the matter of prayer. Sometimes we are on the very verge of a great blessing, and we get drowsy.
Satan and His Evil Spirits Seek to Hinder Intercessory Prayer
Intercessory prayer is hard work because it brings us into open conflict with Satan and his evil spirits who are lodged in the "heavenlies." Prayer affects evil spirits in two ways. First, being itself an effort of the spirit of man, it is setting in motion of a force proper to that realm where the nature of being is spirit: "We wrestle against wicked spirits" and are thus an obstacle to their activities. And then, second, prayer is an appeal behind and above those heavenly rulers to the Supreme Ruler who dominates them.
Someone has said that prayer is the greatest opportunity ever offered to a Christian. If that is true, then you can understand why there should be enemies to stand in the way of the prayer life. Satan would not be a good general, he would not be a strategist, unless he attempted to destroy the prayer life, especially the life of intercession for lost souls.
When Jesus won the great victory of Calvary, He, in effect, said to His disciples: "I have won back this world from Satan. Now you must take it from Satan. Take what I have won for you." But Satan will not easily let go what has been his for centuries. He is a tremendously stiff fighter.
Therefore, prayer must be persistent. The taking must be as insistent as Satan is persistent, and that is where the fight comes in. That is why at times it seems when we are praying that a pair of hands go around our throats and nearly choke the life out of us.
Moffat renders Ephesians 6:14 as follows: "Hold your ground, tighten the shield of truth about you, wear integrity as your coat of mail, have your feet shod with the stability of the Gospel of peace, above all, take faith as your shield to enable you to quench the fire-tipped dart flung by the evil one...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all manner of prayer and entreaty...be alive to that...attend to it unceasingly."
You will notice that from this translation, the object of the Christian soldier's coat of mail or armour, is that he may enter the prayer fight. The failure of all Christian enterprise is a prayer failure. It is because we have not prayed that tenacious, persistent, intercessory prayer that will not yield until the answer comes, that we are not seeing souls saved as we should do.
Triumphant Prayer that Brings the Answer
Abraham prayed, and if but ten righteous men had been found in the cities of the plain, they would not have perished; Jacob wrestled till the break of the day and prevailed; "Moses and Aaron among His priests, and Samuel among them that call upon His Name; they called upon the Lord and He answered them" (Psa. 99:6); Solomon prayed and the glory of the Lord filled the Temple; Hezekiah prayed and fifteen years were added to his life. Daniel and his brethren prayed, and were delivered out of their distresses; the Apostles prayed, and the Holy Spirit descended upon them, and all through the ages men and women have called upon Him and He has heard and answered them.
One powerful wrestler with God has often been made a blessing to an entire church. What then would follow if the church were entirely composed of wrestlers? Nothing would be able to retard its progress or prevent its power over the world.
What is true of laymen engaged in intercessory prayer is likewise true of preachers. The preachers whom God has honored the most in winning souls have been men who have been the most mighty in the ministry of prayer and intercession – men who have prayed intensely, often with unutterable groanings. They were mighty in preaching because they were mighty in prayer, for intensified prayer gives spiritual vitality to preaching.
Intercession Is a Priestly Function, and All Christians Are Priests
We are to be "an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5). "Ye shall be named the priests of the Lord" (Isa.61:6). Think what constitutes priesthood. There is, first, the work of the priesthood. This has two sides, one Godward, and the other manward. "Every priest...is ordained for men in things pertaining to God" (Heb. 5:1).
A priest therefore is thus a man who does not at all live for himself. He lives with God and for God, but he also lives with men and for men (Heb. 5:2). His work is to find out man's sin and need, and then to bring it to God in intercessory prayer. This is the high calling of every believer. "Such honor have all the saints."
There is no doubt that Epaphras had entered upon his duties as an intercessory priest of God, for we read of him: "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect..." (Col. 4:12).
Dr. Parker once said of him: "I do not know that Epaphras was an eloquent preacher, but he was mighty in intercession. He threw his arms around his native church and toiled in prayer for them until his brow was bedewed as with agony, and his whole face lighted up with saintly expectation that he might see the descending blessing."
What a mighty, irresistible force the church of God would become in the world if she had within her ranks a host of spiritual intercessors like Epaphras! It is noticeable that the Word says of Epaphras, he is "one of you." He was not a man of some exceptional ability. He belonged to the local church at Colosse – he was one of their class, one of their kith and kin and one just similar to the rest, a man of like passions as they, yet he had entered into the ministry of Christian priests – that of intercessory prayer.
However, because of his intercessory prayers, although he was only just "one of them" he must have counted in God's sight for thousands or millions of ordinary Christians. This is the kind of man God is on the lookout for. None else need apply, for only such as have taken the trouble, like Epaphras, to learn the secret of intercession, will God take into rulership with Himself in the ministry of prayer and intercession.