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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Intercessory Prayer

Recently, my husband and I have been the recipients of “Intercessory Prayer.” Intercessory prayer means that you are offering prayers for others, i.e. friends, family members, co-workers. It is as simple as that. During our need for prayers, we can honestly say we could feel the prayers of others reaching heaven and coming upon us to help us in our situation.  Within us, those wonderful prayers created peace, security, healing, and comfort to particular need.

Whose FACE will you pray for today?

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you can’t pray for yourself or the only thing you can do for others is pray for them? Maybe there has been an accident, an emotional or psychological incident, an unforeseen occurrence, or a spiritual dilemma creating an inability for you to pray. Those are the times to call upon your believing friends so they can lift you up in prayer and support you. There are also times, when you can’t do anything else but pray.

On October 29, 2014, while living in Lagos, Nigeria, an elderly-appearing man knocked on the back seat of the car window when I was stuck in bumper to bumper Lagos traffic. His wrinkles showed a very hard life. His dry swollen hand went up to his dry, cracked, parched lips begging for something to drink. Yes, I had a half Coke Zero in the car, but due to company security policy [due to possible kidnappings and armed robberies which are ongoing in Nigerian cities] we were strongly advised to err on the side of caution and not open our windows or doors for anyone. He stood there for what seems like an extremely long time. All I could do was turn my head away and pray. While I wished I could quench his thirst, I couldn't. There are really times you can't do anything but pray.

I have been writing out my prayers out in notebooks and journals since 1973! Yes, I know you don’t think I could be that old, but I was 17 years old when I started. I still have all those journals. It is very humbling to look back over my prayers. One day, I decided to look through some of my “prayer journals” and I saw that early in my Christian walk, most of my prayers were about ME and then about ME some more, but as I matured in the faith, I noticed my prayers had started becoming more about other people. Yes, I still pray about my concerns and life, but they seem to be a lot less about me and more for others now. Praise God.

In the Bible we can find many examples of intercessory prayers. Let’s look at three examples.

EZRA - In the book of Ezra, the scribe and scholar named Ezra, discovers an apathy developing among the Jews returning from Babylon to Jerusalem. The officials told Ezra about the Israelites and Levites not separating themselves from the Babylonians people and about their wicked acts and direct violations of God's will which included intermarrying with foreign women.

When Ezra heard this, he rent his undergarment* and his mantle*, he pulled hair from his head and beard, and sat down appalled. He trembled. He sat astounded. But then he arose from his depression and he fell on his knees and spread out his hands to the Lord his God. He then says, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads and our guilt has mounted to heavens. Since the days of our fathers we have been exceedingly guilty; and for our willfulness we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, captivity, plundering, and utter shame, as it is today.” [Ezra 9:6-7 AMP] “Now while Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there gathered to him out of Israel a very great assembly of men, women, and children; for the people wept bitterly.” [Ezra 10:1 AMP] Within this example, we can see the dire pain that Ezra felt toward those returning Jews. He was interceding on their behalf. Have you ever interceded for someone with that much depth and passion before?

Another person who came boldly to God's throne in prayer is Paul. Paul prayed many times for believers in the New Testament. In Philippians 1:9-11 ESV, Paul prayed, "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

Jesus was probably the ultimate intercessor of all times. He prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail. [Luke 22:32] He prayed for believers and His disciples. He prayed for those who crucified him. Many times Jesus prayed with deep cries and tears for those around him. As Jesus prayed, so should we.

But how do we know for whom to pray? There are so many people and so many needs. While not an exclusive list, I have found most of my directions to pray for someone has come from these sources.

  • Seeing a need;
  • Feeling a holy hunch that someone/some issue needs prayer;
  • Hearing about a need and it being brought to my attention; and
  • Discerning a possible prayer need.

Intercessory prayer is powerful. It is like putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, feeling their pain, and praying from God’s perspective. Let’s look around us this week and see for whom God brings to us to pray. There are many faces today that need our prayers. Look for that face in the crowd. And pray diligently and boldly.

In Jesus’ Name.

Bible Verses:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.
1 Timothy 2:1

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Romans 8:26

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
James 5:16

Jesus, let us pray in your power and strength. Lord, show us people and issues that need our attention in prayer. Imprint their needs upon our hearts so we can’t let go until prayers have been lifted up for them. Let us pray as you would - seeking God and trusting all outcomes to You. Take our prayers and bring them to the Father. Let your will be accomplished through our prayers. Cleanse us so we can receive Your wisdom and discernment in all we do. Thank you Lord. Amen.

God bless you.
Patti Greene

* The undergarment was a tunic.

* In biblical times, a mantle was typically a large, loosely fitting garment made of animal skin, probably sheep skin.

Breneman, Mervin. Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther: an exegetical and theological exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary). Holman Reference. 1993.

"What in a mantle in the Bible?" Got Questions Ministries. [15 June 2015.]

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Books by Patti Londa Greene
Awaken Me: a devotional prayer journal
God, It’s Me: 181 Days for Young Adults to Become Passionate about Prayer and Bible Study