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Standing In the Gap

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Sermon shared by Russell Brownworth

March 2002
Summary: What is Intercessory Prayer, and why is it necessary for our church, our community and our nation?
Denomination: United Methodist
Audience: Believer adults
Sermon:
This morning we want to prepare for the coming New Year with the most important topic a Christian church can entertain – the ministry of Intercessory Prayer.

What I want to place before you this morning is based upon Scripture and has formed the most firm belief inside me that the most important service we can attempt for God in this coming year does not involve fund raising, service projects, repairs or new buildings. The most important thing we can put our minds to is prayer.

I truly believe that – apart from worship – if every other thing we do, Sunday School, Men and Women’s groups…everything else were put on the scrap heap, the one thing that would make this church an effective soul-winning, ministering, loving and God-pleasing church would be intercessory prayer. I believe that Intercessory Prayer is the life’s-blood of Christian ministry that is the foundation for all else; it is the base upon which all ministry must be built. Without prayer all ministry efforts are futile and should be scrapped!

It is important to understand the nature of this ministry, and the benefit to our church family and community. Intercessory prayer is standing in the gap – taking a matter to Jesus on behalf of a fellow-believer, or a neighbor – or nation in need. It is important for us to see how critically-indispensable intercessory prayer can be for all aspects of life in 21st Century America.

Our speaker this morning is an old and dear friend of mine – Paul the apostle. He wants to remind the family of God about prayer; not just personal or public prayer, but intercessory prayer. Paul teaches us HOW we should pray for others. Note if you will, the text contains four nouns that scream to be verbs in our lives….
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 1 Timothy 2:1 (NRSVA)

This morning I wish to take those four words and show you how they build the columns of a house of intercessory prayer. This is how we stand in the gap for our brothers in Christ, our friends, neighbors, community and world:

First Word: Supplications – We Bind

The prayer translated "supplication" comes from a root word that means "to bind." In praying we are binding ourselves to the will and way of God. We promise to be instructed by His character and His claims on our life. This comes out of a sincere recognition of our deep need for Him.

Near the end of Jesus’ ministry when He started talking about picking up crosses and death – the cost of discipleship, the crowds thinned-out. Jesus asked the disciples: Are you going to leave me too? Peter had the right answer, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6.68b).

How does that work out in the life of an intercessor? It means willingness to accept the answer that God gives – even if it’s not the answer we want. One lady shared how her daughter demonstrated that willingness to be an intercessor, bound to God’s will:

One night my 11-year-old daughter Eva noticed I was distracted as I tucked her in to bed. I told her about a friend’s teenage daughter whose hair was mysteriously falling out and I encouraged Eva to pray for Amy. Her simple words, "Jesus, please hold Amy’s hair on her head," touched me.
As the doctors experimented with different treatments, Amy continued to lose her hair.
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