Summary: Dealing with the meaning of true intercession.
Praying for Other’s
The Power of Intercessory Prayer
Philip Yancey in his book on prayer tells of a young American soldier in Iraq who learns that his wife back home has advanced cervical cancer. Doctors gave a bleak prognosis. In desperation he sent an urgent email to his church with the request that everyone in turn forward his prayer request to every praying person they knew.
The email said, “Pray and forward. It only takes a second to hit “forward.” Please don’t delete this, your prayer can and perhaps will save her life. Please pray and ask everyone you know to pray for the HEALING of Cindy, removal of the cancer in her body so she may enjoy all that life has to offer, and continue to be the wonderful mother to our 5 year old son.”
Yancey goes on to ask, “Does prayer operate like a pyramid scheme – the more people who pray, the more likely the answer? Does a sick woman with who happens to have praying friends stand a better chance for recovery than an equally deserving person who does not?” [Philip Yancey. “Prayer: Does It Make a Difference?” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) p. 301)
Intercessory prayer is one of those subjects that the more we think about the subject the more we may have to change the way we view praying for others. Tonight I want to deal with three things concerning
“Praying for Others – The Power of Intercessory Prayer.”
First, The Meaning of Intercession
First, let me say that there is a difference between praying for others and real intercessory prayer. While all intercession involves praying for others, all praying for others is not necessarily intercession. You will just have to take my word for it for now, but I hope by the end of the message I will have explained why that is true.
“Intercession, is by nature, where an individual positions themselves between two parties – one with a need and one with the answer – and seeks to bring the two parties together.” [Tom Elliff. A Passion For Prayer. p. 124]
God has given us a biblical pattern for inter-cession in the life of Moses. You may remember that we dealt with some of this earlier in the year (2009) in our study of Exodus (#23) where we examined the elements of effective prayer.
If so you probably remember that while Moses was on the mountain with God a tragic sin was taking place in the valley below. Moses was so long in return-ing that the children of Israel assumed that he would not return. Their leader has seemingly disappeared, and they began to doubt God’s presence and power – which all most defies explanation. The fiery cloud still hung over the camp. They were still eating the manna that God provided every morning. But the people were tired of waiting on Moses.
[During Israel’s stay at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses had ascended and descended the mountain numerous times, where he entered into God’s presence to receive instruction. In Exodus, chapters 20-24 he received instruction on how God was to be worshipped. And on one occasion Moses stayed for forty days and nights during which time he received instruction for construction of the tabernacle (Ch 25-31). It was sometime during this period (Israel already had the Ten Commandments) that Israel grew restless.] The Israelites responded by asked Aaron to make them a visible representation of God in the form of an idol.
But Moses did in fact return, right in the middle of the people worshipping their new idol. Moses was so angry that he broke the tablets of the law. Moses called upon the people to make a choice and asked all those who would continue to follow the Lord to come over to him. Then the sons of Levi were commanded to kill the ungodly Israelites, and some 3,000 were killed. The next day Moses again went up the mountain to intercede on the behalf of the people of Israel.
In Exodus 32:30 Moses says, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” Moses assumes the position of an intercessor when he says, “I will go up to the Lord” with the specific purpose of making an “atonement for your sin.” When he says he will make atonement he is referring to an act by which the offenses of an individual are covered so that fellowship can be restored between the offender and the one offended. Moses will plead with God to cover the sins of Israel so fellowship between himself and his people can be restored.
True intercession faces the facts; Moses does not minimize the circumstances. He doesn’t plead that there were mitigating circumstances. He doesn’t argue that the people did what they did because Moses had been gone so long. He doesn’t imply that God should "understand" their sinful actions. There are no excuses.