What are some New Covenant “updates” that need to be considered when we approach the topic of prayer and intercession? I suggest at least four. If the significance of what Christ has wrought at the cross and in His resurrection and ascension do not form the foundation of all that we do in prayer, we will end up in with some very unsound beliefs about, and bizarre practices of — prayer and intercession.
New Covenant Update 1 – What is an intercessor?
And God gave some apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry . . . – Eph. 4:13. KJV
There are many different legitimate graces, callings, and arenas of ministry in the kingdom that are not explicitly defined in scripture. However, there’s a difference between flowing in graces that may not be explicitly defined, and making one of them equivalent to those that are explicitly listed. “Prophetic intercessors” are not included in the Ephesians 4 list. Where intercession is concerned, too much has been made of too little.
Dear ones, there’s simply not a shred of New Testament justification for a special class of individuals known as intercessors. There are believers who practice interceding. Intercession is a grace available to everyone called by the name of Christ. The only difference is, some give themselves to it more than others. Give yourself to it, and you will also be an intercessor.
I find it intriguingly odd that people whose faith is rooted in the universal priesthood of believers and opposition to the clergy/laity and secular/sacred divide, can so readily support a belief system that relegates prayer and intercession to a class of specialists.
We have entire conferences dedicated to the proposition that there are intercessors and then there are . . . others. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the mutual encouragement and edification of those who have given themselves to prayer and intercession, or any ministry for that matter. But developing an exclusive and elitist sub-culture for mystical specialists is outside New Testament boundaries.
New Covenant Update 2 – The Gap is Closed.
Because the New Covenant foundation for a specialized class of intercessory ministry is nil, almost all teaching on this topic comes from the Old Covenant and Old Covenant typological teaching regarding watchmen and standing in the gap. The danger in teaching the shadow is that without diligence, you will miss the substance.
Indeed, the Old Covenant calls for someone to “stand in the gap” to make up the hedge. Indeed, God was always looking for a faithful “man” to fill that position. News flash: The position has been filled. The job posting has been removed from God’s Monster.com account. As offensive as it is to our prayer ego and prayer machinations, He has found someone better than you, and me. His name is Jesus.
The gap between God and humanity has been closed for two thousand years. Christ Jesus in resurrection is the Man God was looking for to close the gap. God the Father is not looking for anyone else. He has found His rest in that Man, and in that Man in us. There is only one mediator. You and I in our intercessory prayer are not mediating or closing anything. To think otherwise is dangerously close to blasphemy. Thinking that through our shouting, declaring, and decreeing this or that, that we are somehow closing a gap, something left undone in Christ’s finished work, is, well . . . very troubling.
New Covenant Update 3 – God’s Good Will/Agape
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. – Luke 2:14 KJV
We are of course familiar with this passage from the Christmas story. God’s initiation toward the planet was based on His good will, not the spiritual disciplines of its inhabitants. He acted on behalf of planet that was ignoring Him. His chosen people were also ignoring Him, and their track record with Him had been a cycle of failure punctuated by His gracious intervention. The incarnation was not merited–by anyone doing anything, including prayer and intercession. What does God say to this world that was ignoring Him, to a world not even trying to please Him?
“Boy, you better be praying and fasting, because here I come and I am really upset with all your sin. I’m only going to reveal Myself to those worthy of it by their prayer devotion, only those who are whole-heartedly seeking My face are going to see Me move in this day. Only the intercessors on their watch are going to be blessed by this move of God. The rest or you are going to miss it, because you are just not sincere and disciplined enough in your prayer life. If you don’t have ten thousand intercessors praying in Jerusalem calling on God for revival, I am going to judge you.”
No, of course not. He revealed Himself to a despised profession (shepherds) from a despised people, in a despised land who were virtually apostate, with simply this: good will–don’t be afraid. Since the greatest blessing in the history of the cosmos was uncontingent and unmerited, I find it odd to think that subsequent lesser blessings are inexorably bound up with our spiritual disciplines of prayer.
Here’s my question. If God’s good favor was so manifest before the shedding of the blood of His dear Son, why do we think He has to be persuaded to manifest good will today by our intercessory prayer? Why do we think it requires our strenuous intercession to get God to be good to us? Our thinking and practice of prayer is flawed. We say God is our Father, but we pray like He is a deaf-mute despot.
Consider another example: Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no way that Lot’s family can be portrayed as “whole hearted seekers of God, crying out to him day and night with fasting and intercession for 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 standard for us is more stringent today? Why do we need 10,000 prophetic intercessors in a nation’s capital to beg, groan, and wail for revival in an era of a better covenant? Answer: Because money, ego, significance, reputation and fame are at stake.
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? To think that our intercession is somehow holding back God’s wrath from manifesting on earth, that you or I are somehow “standing between God and an offending individual or nation,” is at best an Old Covenant mentality, and more closely, an anti-Christ (instead of Christ) mentality. It’s nonsense and an insult to the Person and Work of Christ to think so.
Bultmann called self-effort the Primal Sin. 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. Being passionate for prayer is of itself, of no spiritual significance. Jesus said that hypocrites love to pray, especially at length, and in public.
Prayer and intercession that either does not understand or that misrepresents 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. But 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.”
New Covenant Update 4 – Jesus’ Intercession
But this man, because he continues ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them. – Hebrews 7:24-25, KJV.
There is much misunderstanding regarding Christ’s intercession based on the above verses. The common belief regarding Jesus’ priestly ministry is that He is currently engaged in heaven praying and beseeching the Father on various points of business that need to get done, more or less pleading with the Father not to release judgments on a wayward humanity, or otherwise trying to persuade the Father to do this or not do that. The implication is that Christ is busy at the priestly work of “making intercession,” and that intercessors on earth should be busying themselves in the same activity. This is a most unfortunate understanding, based on a most unfortunate translation.
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 most unfortunate. 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. The intercessory work is done. His intercession is not something He is doing. His presence in the heavenlies, as the representative Human, is the intercession! His resurrection is the intercession that makes and secures access to God for those who approach Him.
He is not currently scurrying 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 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.
Jesus is the intercession. That should bring some relief, I hope, to many reading this. In the upcoming third and final installment in this blog series we will take a look at some of the common pitfalls in practices that sincere folks can get lost in as they pursue prayer and intercession.
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This blog series is an excerpt from New Creation Prayer available in electronic media format only here.