Summary: God calls us to grow in ourv faith if we are going to effectively apply our priesthood and represent men before Him in prayer and intercession.
Last time, we spoke about intercession. We defined intercession as:
“Offering up requests to God on behalf of another who would make the same request of God if they had sense enough to ask.”
We said that intercession involves using my relationship and standing with God to ask something on behalf of someone else who does not have a right relationship or standing with God. This means that intercession will often involve my praying for the unbeliever or the wayward believer.
God is a sovereign God who has issued some sovereign decrees which He has obligated Himself to enforce. Decrees like that found in Galatians 6:7-8, where we learn that one will reap what they have sown. If owns sows to please His sinful nature, he will reap destruction, however, if one sows to please the Spirit, they will reap life.
God must mete out judgment to those who sown to please their sinful nature - whether it be the unbeliever who rejects the call of the Spirit or the wayward believer who rebels against the Spirit. However, because God’s desire is to bless, rather than judge; He wants people to know life rather than death. So He calls those who have a relationship with Him and a good standing with Him to intercede on behalf of the lost or backslidden. As we intercede for them, we partner with God in making it possible, as He responds to our requests, for Him to extend mercy so that they might have more time to repent; so they might choose life as opposed to death; and so that God might bless rather then judge.
With this in mind, I want us to begin to go over five principles that can help us become more effective as intercessors.
1. The Principle Of Applied Priesthood - Matthew 15:21-28
“[Come] and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.” - 1 Peter 2:5 (Amplified)
What are these spiritual sacrifices that we are to offer to God? We said last time that we are called to fulfill our call to be a holy priesthood by:
1) Representing God before men (Witness)
2) Representing men before God (Prayer)
From this story in Matthew 15, we learn some things associated with applying our priesthood in representing men before God (intercession).
“The Church has not yet touched the fringe of the possibilities of intercessory prayer. Her largest victories will be witnessed when individual Christians everywhere come to recognize their priesthood unto God and day by day give themselves unto prayer.” - John R. Mott
To be effective in praying for others . . .
A. We must have a sacrificial faith.
We must admire this woman’s persistence. Despite the fact that Jesus ignored her (v. 23); the disciples were annoyed with her (v. 23); that Jesus seemed to turn her away (v. 24), and Jesus seemed to insult her (v. 26); she persisted. She willingly endured whatever was required to continue to present her request to Jesus. She had a sacrificial faith.
God also calls us to persistent prayer.
“Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.” - Matthew 7:7-8 (Amplified)
Such praying requires a sacrificial faith; a faith that says, “No matter what it costs, I will continue to intercede until I know the Lord has given my request a hearing and I have His answer!”
God sometimes calls us to persist in prayer in order to expand our view of who He is. In order to perfect our faith, we need a more perfect knowledge of God. And God sometimes works in times of persistent prayer to expand our understanding of Him.
Such was the case with this woman. She began by calling Jesus “Lord, Son of David.” That was a political title - a title which looked on Jesus as a powerful wonder-worker, but which saw Him only in terms of earthly power and glory. That’s how she began. But by the time the Lord had finished with her, her understanding of who He was had radically changed. She ended by simply calling Jesus, “Lord.”
Jesus, as it were, compelled her to look at Him, and in Him she saw something that was not expressible in earthly terms at all, but was nothing less than divine.
“Sometimes . . . God wants us to persist in prayer in order to strengthen our faith in Him. Faith would never grow if all prayers were answered immediately. Persistent prayer tends to develop deeper gratitude as well. As the joy of a baby’s birth is greater because of the months of anticipation, so is the joy of an answer to prayer after persistent praying. And as much as a generation that measures time in nanoseconds hates to admit its need for it, God crafts Christ-like patience in us when He requires persistence in prayer.”- Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life