I love the fact that the timing of my work on this chapter has come at the beginning of lent. The topic is one of deep intent of both the Grace of God and of our kingdom responsibility to recipients of that Grace. I echo the words of my minister general in this season,
“…And to dust you will return. As we contemplate our immortality and heed the warnings in Isaiah 58 to perform, God’s chosen fast, may this small community of sisters and brothers find renewal of faith and the compassion necessary to love the loveless, adopt the abandoned, liberate the oppressed and nullify the efforts of the unjust in our own day. May God inspire each and every one of us to walk humbly with our God and be the people we have been created to be…” David Delacroix
Intercessions, then, to my mind, is first and foremost something meant to be out side of ourselves, and more about others; less about us. It is the emptying of our own selves for the benefit of others. It is the filling of that emptiness with the Holy Spirit through prayer and action on the behalf of others to bring healing, reconciliation, peace, justice, relief, and love. It is, in fact, the foundation of God’s response to the rise of sin and iniquity found in humanity, and in the story recapitulated in Genesis. God says to the serpent in the third chapter, “I will put an enmity between you and your seed, and you shall bruise His heel, but He shall crush your head…” To many, this is a clear and first prophesy of the Messiah to come, the great Intercessor. God set out at the very beginning to place great importance on intervention on the behalf of us humans. He has always shown Grace and intent for intercession. Later, in Isaiah, after a few millennia go by, God once again declares His intent for intercession. ”And He saw that there was no one, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him.” Isaiah 59:16 (NASB) in this passage, the Lord goes on to promise to His children to provide an intercessor Himself who would repair the great breach iniquity had caused between Himself and humanity. This would be Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. Now, what is thrilling to me in the gospel story is the first sermon that Jesus preached. I love the account that Luke gives us in chapter four. Jesus has just returned from the desert fast of forty days, and on this particular Sabbath He enters a synagogue and stands up to read. He selects the text in Isaiah, our chapter 61 and verse one and two (a). He stops at the middle of verse two, (for a reason and another lesson).
“1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; 2 to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD…”
Here, Jesus states His mission and His intent for coming to us. It is the same as the words of the prophet that is read for Lent, Isaiah chapter 58, (my all time favorite passage). His intent is for healing and the setting free of captives. He has come to bring the favorable time of the Lord, God’s Jubilee. Check out chapter fifty-eight:
“Behold, ye fast for strife and contention, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye fast not this day so as to make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I have chosen? The day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Jehovah? 6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?”
Eight commands to bring healing and justice to the world, through our living lives of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. This is the real meaning of intercession. To ask God to do something for someone, when it is in our power to do something about it, is pure laziness and a sin of omission.
On the other hand, there are times when the situation is beyond human intervention, and that is when we can fast either from food or TV, or in some other way, in order to commit time to gain spiritual connection with the Father in intercession for the person or situation we are praying.
Seeking Specific Intervention by God in Human Affairs
We need to be specific when we seek God for answers. However, what helps us to be specific is the written word of God and our constant abiding life in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in the book of John, “If you abide in me and I in you, then you may ask of the Father what you will and He will grant it…” The contingency is that we are abiding in the will of God and seeking the will of the Father first. We first seek His counsel through scripture, through the council of our Christian leaders and friends, and through prayer. Then, when we do pray specifically, we will always receive an answer from the Father. Because we are abiding disciples, we are prepared for the answer, whether or not it is the one we want to hear. With joy, we will receive the answer from the Lord because we already know that He has our best interest at heart. He cares for us!
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:3-8
This is the reconciliation between what we ask and what God answers, abiding in the word of Christ, and living according to His teaching. Living close to God, we can be assured that all thing work for our good. (Romans 8:28) Understanding life and the times we face is a matter of simple Faith. We are told in Hebrews 11:6 that without Faith it is impossible to please God. When I ask the Father for something in prayer, and do not receive as I ask, I must exercise Faith that what He has for me is best. “Wherefore, what doth it profit a man, if he gaineth the whole world, but loseth his soul?” – Jesus
Prayer for healing that goes seemingly unanswered
I believe that God always heals, but the manifestation may not always be apparent to us the way we want it to be. I can best illustrate this with my own story.
Not too many years ago, I was playing the piano at Southland Christian Church, a rather large Church here in central Kentucky. That particular Sunday a female soloist was singing, a good friend of mine was playing back up on a synth, and I was playing the Steinway grand. It was a rather elaborate, but moving song. Our church was growing so much, that we had five services, two on Saturday night, and three on Sunday morning. During the third service on Sunday morning, as she sang the song, the Holy Spirit came over me in a unique way. Now, I never get tired of playing music, even in five services in one weekend. As the Lord began to move, tears welled up in my eyes, and I played with extra “interpretation” and emotion. I was probably the best musical conveyance I have given in a long time. After the service was over, a young woman came up to me and said, “God told me while you were playing that ‘I have healed that man’”. Now, most everyone knew that I am HIV pos, because I am very open about it for educational reasons. I looked back at her and said, “I know that.”
Now, she meant that He had healed me physically. However, I knew that what God was doing was for more important and deeper that what is just on the surface. He had healed my heart from the five stages of rage and reaction to the diagnosis; those things that up to that point had kept me from living my life with purpose. So, the healing was there, but not the way she wanted it to manifest. God always has our best at His attention.
Modern Bold intercessors
An example of modern intercessors would be my good friend Eldon, who has been a missionary in Africa, and lately in central Asia. I cannot name the country for security reasons; even now, that Eldon is back in the states. There are native converts there who would be arrested if found out.
While Eldon and Jan, his lovely wife were in England, preparing for their missionary journey over ten years ago, a Muslim man had the “dream” that many are reportedly having these days. In his dream a Man clothed in fine white linen, brilliant with light came, and told him of the Gospel. The Muslim man began to have discussion with others in his village about Jesus, and eventually was jailed. While in jail, he began to pray that God would send someone to him to teach him about the man in White, the messiah. Two years later, (the exact length of Eldon and Jan’s training), the man was released from jail. At the same time, Eldon and Jan arrived in the valley and the village where the man lived, in central Asia. This was just the beginning. Eldon was part of many intercessions, both through prayer and fasting, and simple obedient action.
The intercessory list
The souls at St. Michael’s that they may find peace and healing
The Order of Ecumenical Franciscans – spiritual growth, missionary success
World hunger relief
Easter Kentucky – the hungry children
St. Martha’s Episcopal
My personal petitions
Continued strength and good health
The new business – measured growth and success
More patience and a kinder tongue
A gentle spirit
Inspiration for art and composition of music
Continued missionary vision and preparation
February 24, 2007
I love the fact that