Peace on earth, good will toward humanity (Luke 2:14). When did that change?
It seems these days that God’s good will toward the planet in the gift of His Son was wholly unmerited, but “revival” in our cities is dependent on us—our prayer and intercession. We pray as if Jesus never came, or still lies in the tomb.
There’s a dangerous delusion lurking in passion for prayer and revival. If we are not careful in our understanding and practice, we will descend into a pagan and anti-Christ mindset that believes, consciously or otherwise, that we are responsible for any manifestation of goodness in our cities. We will believe that “revival” is the fruit of our prayer efforts rather than the fruit of His grace. It is His kindness/goodness that leads to repentance, not our sincerity in prayer.
Many pray as if God, our Father, is reluctant to do good. We pray as if our efforts in prayer coerce, persuade, cajole, and nag God into bringing “revival” (whatever we think that is: usually “more” of what we like.). We pray like God is an inert heavenly potentate who must be conditioned by our prayers to reluctantly release a few crumbs of His grace and mercy, if we just cry long enough to persuade Him to do so.
Consider an example from the Old Testament: Sodom and Gomorrah. There’s no way that Lot’s family can be portrayed as “wholehearted seekers of God, crying out to Him day and night with fasting and intercession for city-wide or national revival!” Hardly!
In an inferior covenant, God was willing to forgive Sodom and Gomorrah if He could just find ten righteous people . . . if the mere presence of ten righteous people, who were not praying, not fasting, not even trying, would spare Sodom and Gomorrah, what do we think we are doing in our intercession? Why do we think the prayer “standard” for us is more stringent today? Why do we need ten thousand “prophetic intercessors” in a nation’s capital to beg, groan, and wail for revival in an era of a better covenant? Is God’s attitude toward us in the day of a better covenant made with the blood of His dear Son, when there are not ten, but millions of righteous in the land, now less than it was for Sodom and Gomorrah?
Bultmann called self-effort the primal sin.[i] Our prayer effort is included. The only work that impresses God is the work of His dear Son. Our work in intercession is not more persuasive than Jesus’ work on the Cross.
Prayers that either do not understand or that misrepresent the work of Christ, are prayers that God cannot answer, regardless of how many people are praying them and how sincere, enthused, and moved by them the petitioners might be. Our approach to God, and God’s response to prayer is based solely on the Person and work of His Son. There is no other foundation.
Crosby, are you saying our prayers for individuals, communities, and the nation are useless? No, I am not saying that. We’re commanded to pray: always, everywhere, and for our leaders. What we think we’re doing when we pray makes all the difference. We don’t bribe or extort God with our good behavior and our prayers as if we’re saying:
“C’mon Jesus, have a heart and be nice to us. We’re really sorry for how bad we’ve been, and we’re trying really, really hard to be good, and now we’re praying really, really hard too. We are entitled to see revival.”
No! Our prayers for our cities are only possible because God is already predisposed to be good to them! Our prayers only make sense, the only rational hope for prayer, is that God has already secured His own good intentions, because we are not trustworthy![ii] He put His Spirit in us, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of prayer, as the “secured beach-head” in us, and through us, for His good intentions for humanity. Let’s believe it, enter into it, and release it. In our prayer for our cities we enter into His goodness and His rest, we do not persuade Him to be good! All straining and striving in prayer, is a de facto confession of unbelief.
The only reason we have any hope in prayer is because God is constitutionally good, to the just and unjust alike. And has already secured His own interests. Jesus in resurrection as the representative God-Man is the intercession.
Hebrews 7:24-25 does not present Christ scurrying about taking care of cosmic events through prayer. The context refers to Christ’s priesthood as making access to God possible. His priesthood secures the salvation of those who would dare to approach a holy God. His priesthood is not the micromanaging of the cosmos through ongoing intercession!
The English rendering of “to make intercession” is at the root of the confusion. The words, “to make,” are inserted by the translators. It gives the impression that there is something undone—something yet to be accomplished which Jesus is now busy doing in the heavenlies with intercession.
The Greek is this: he ever lives to the interceding. It doesn’t translate well into English and it is understandable why some translators did what they did for readability, but meaning has suffered.
Notice the definite English article: “the.” The verse is not speaking about random miscellaneous “intercessions” for this and that. There is a specific intercession, a definitive, singular intercession, whose effects are continuously ongoing (present active tense).
His resurrection is the intercession. He ascended on high and sat down.[iii] The intercessory work is done. His intercession is not something He is doing. His presence in the heavenlies, as the representative Man, is the intercession! His resurrection is the intercession that makes and secures access to God for those who approach Him.
He is not currently scrambling about heaven beseeching the Father to do this and that. His work, His cross and resurrection fulfilled the longing and need for the “man to make up the gap.” There is a God-Man in resurrection who has forever closed the gap.
This should profoundly affect what we think we are doing when we pray. Much of what passes for intercession today is nothing but the anxiety-laced energies of the sincere and highly impassioned human soul trying to bring about on earth the things we think God should be doing. It is as if we are twisting the arm of a reluctant God who is otherwise disinclined to act unless persuaded by our intercession, as we erroneously think Christ Himself to be doing. This thinking is also an insult to the work of Christ.
It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who, without a shred of conviction, will drive miles to attend a prayer meeting for city-wide revival, passing the houses of their neighbors whose names they do not even know! What part of, “love your neighbors,” do we not understand? It is my conviction that if we spent less time in prayer for our cities, and more time in practical obedience on behalf of our cities, we would see the “revival” that we have been begging God for.
This is not complicated.
You cannot compensate with prayer for what is lacking in obedience to the clear, simple, and direct instructions of our Lord. I would like to suggest that if we want to see God’s goodness and power manifest in our cities in dimensions heretofore unrealized, the place to start in repentance is for the way we pray that is systematized unbelief, and for our disobedience in things so simple that a child could do them.
Prayer and the work . . . the work and prayer . . . like a bird with one wing, either is useless without the other. The love of God touching our neighbor through you and I . . . is revival. Revival is a present reality for the obedient, not a future hope for the spiritual mystic.
Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Portions of this article are excerpted from Don Atikin’s and Steve Crosby’s book, New Creation Prayer. See the Books and Materials tab on this blog. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
[i] Rudolph Bultmann. Existence and Faith, p.81.
[ii] Hebrews Chapter 6 – God made a covenant with Himself in Christ, because humanity was not trustworthy. He secured His own interests in humanity, for humanity, through Humanity. Why do we pray like everything is dependent on us?
[iii] Hebrews 1:3, 10:12.