Word of God
Standing in the Gap
Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God.”
God was basically saying, “I needed somebody to pray, and I couldn’t find anybody who would, so I had to destroy the land.” All He needed was one person to pray, and the whole land could have been spared. Do you see how important intercession is? Just one person could have made a major difference in an entire country and saved the entire place through prayer! We need to be willing to pray; we need to be sensitive to those times when the Holy Spirit is leading us to intercede and we need to obey. We never know when our prayer might be the very one needed to fill a gap and result in connecting God’s power with a desperate situation.
God Changes His Mind
You can see from the story in Ezekiel 22:29-31, that intercession is mighty and that one person’s prayers could have saved many others. But do you know that intercession can also change God’s mind? As a result of prayer, God can actually reconsider something He had planned to do.
Remember this story? “And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” Exodus 32:7-8
What happened was Moses went up Mount Sinai to get the Ten Commandments and was gone longer than the people wanted him to be. In the absence of their leader, they forgot the Lord, gave in to their fleshly desires, and decided to melt all their jewellery to make a golden calf and worship it. God spoke to Moses on the mountain and said, essentially, “You better go back down there, because the people have really gotten themselves in a mess. And I’m angry about.” (Thank God, Psalm 30:5 says that His anger only lasts a moment, but His mercy is forever!) The story continues: “And the Lord said to Moses, I’ve seen this people, behold, it is a stiff-necked people; now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and that I may destroy them; but I will make of you a great nation” (Exodus 32:9,10). It’s a good thing Moses was a godly man, or he might have said, “Terrific idea, God! Forget about them, and do something great with me.” Instead, Moses began to intercede for the people because he cared so much about them. The Bible says, “Moses besought the Lord of his God” (Exodus 32:11). That means he would not leave God alone. But God had already said, “Leave me alone. Don’t come praying, because if you do, I’m going to have to hear you.” But Moses persisted: “Lord, why does Your wrath blaze hot against Your people, whom You have brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?” (Exodus 32:11). Moses refused to give up because the issue was not settled in his heart. He loved the people; he knew the nature of God; and he knew the character of God. On top of that, he knew that God really loved the people and did not really want to leave them stranded. So how did Moses approach this situation as He prayed and talked to God about it? He actually asked Him to change His mind (see Exodus 32:12) and basically said, “Now come on, God. You don’t want Your reputation to be ruined among the Egyptians. You don’t want them to say that You aren’t able to deliver Your people. You don’t want them to think You just let Your people suffer and die out in the wilderness. Come on, God, this is not about us, this is about You. I’m just asking You, God, to deliver them, not for themselves, because they are really rascals, but for the sake of Your name. I really don’t want Your reputation to be affected by all this, so God, why don’t You just go ahead and deliver them so that everybody knows You’re great? (Exodus 32:12, 13).
The Most Powerful Prayer
One of the most powerful prayers you can pray is a prayer for your enemies. If you want to see someone who is mighty in prayer, look for the person who will intercede for an enemy. God blesses us tremendously when we intercede for those who have offended or betrayed us. Remember Job? He had to pray for his friends after they had really hurt and disappointed him. But immediately after he prayed, God began to restore his life. In fact, God gave him back twice as much as he had lost (Job 42:10)! Praying for someone who has hurt us is so powerful because, when we do, we are walking in love toward that person and we are obeying the Word of God.
What does Jesus tell us to do in Matthew 5:44? He instructs us to pray for our enemies, saying, “Love your enemies, bless them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” When you think about the people who have used you, abused you, harassed you, and spoken evil of you, bless them; do not curse them. Pray for them. God knows that blessing your enemies is not easy and that you may not feel like doing it. But you don’t do it because you feel like it – you do it as unto the Lord. Choosing to pray and bless instead of curse is so powerful in the spiritual realm, and God will do great things in your life as a result of it.
When Not to Pray
Do you know that sometimes we can pray for someone and be opposing God’s will? Believe it or not, there are times when we are not supposed to intercede for a person. God told Jeremiah in Jeremiah 7:16, “Therefore do not pray for this people (of Judah) or lift up a cry or entreaty for them or make intercession to me, for I will not listen to or hear you.” Sometimes, through our prayers, we can protect people and keep the enemy away from them. But there are times when the enemy needs to get close enough to them that they have to go through something unpleasant because that difficulty is the very thing that will turn them to God. This is important, because the enemy wants us to think we are in sin if we are not praying for someone. He will use the fact that we are not interceding to heap condemnation on us and to keep us from praying the way God wants in that situation. That is why the Holy Spirit must lead us. He may not tell us to pray for someone very often, but when He does, we need to know His voice, resist the enemy, and obey.
A Burden to Pray
Sometimes, as you are praying for others, you will get what is called a burden, or a prayer burden, or an intercessory burden. A burden is something that comes to your heart and feels weighty and important; it is something you cannot shake. Sometimes you do not even know what the burden is or you do not fully understand it; you only know that you have to pray. A prayer burden is something you cannot make up and you cannot fake. But if you try to ignore a prayer burden, you will not be able to find relief. If you have never experienced a burden to pray for someone, do not start wondering if something is wrong with you. God may not give us a prayer burden often, but on the other hand, some people seem to get a prayer burden every time they close their eyes. When God gives you a burden, respond appropriately even saying simple, normal, ordinary prayers. But if He does not burden you do not feel condemned or start wondering if there is something wrong with your spiritual life – intercession may not be your calling.
As intercessors, we must learn how to get our assignments from God, and know how to distinguish whether something is a real burden from God or not. Also, intercessors do not try to do what God has called someone else to do; they simply obey God by faithfully praying for the things for which God is calling them to pray and they stick with it until the burden lifts. We all have the ministry of intercession, the responsibility to pray for others as God leads. Some people are called and especially gifted in the ministry of intercession and we might say that they stand in the spiritual office of an intercessor. They may pray for others many hours every day or several times a week. They often speak of God waking them up at night to pray. These people may experience things in prayer that others do not, but remember that God is teaching us to pray as individuals. We don’t have to be intimidated by someone else’s experience in prayer.