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The Blessing and Responsibility of Intercessory Prayer

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The Blessing and Responsibility of Intercessory Prayer

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Brethren continue to receive prayer requests regarding others who are struggling with serious illnesses and trials. We are updated weekly, sometimes daily, regarding the physical and spiritual needs of not only the brethren in our immediate congregation, but also the needs of brethren throughout the world. Furthermore, we are often called upon to pray for many who are not members of United Church of God.

When we respond to these requests, we are partaking in an ancient form of supplication called intercessory prayer. That is, we are praying fervently on behalf of someone else. We take someone else's needs very personally; we see that someone else has a problem and we bow before God on their behalf.

Sodom Lost; Lot Saved

One of the earliest recorded examples of intercessory prayer is the famous example of Abraham interceding for his nephew, Lot (Genesis 18:16-33 Genesis 18:16-33 [16] And the men rose up from there, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. [17] And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; [18] Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? [19] For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring on Abraham that which he has spoken of him. [20] And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; [21] I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come to me; and if not, I will know. [22] And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. [23] And Abraham drew near, and said, Will you also destroy the righteous with the wicked? [24] Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: will you also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? [25] That be far from you to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from you: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? [26] And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. [27] And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken on me to speak to the LORD, which am but dust and ashes: [28] Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: will you destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. [29] And he spoke to him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. [30] And he said to him, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. [31] And he said, Behold now, I have taken on me to speak to the LORD: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. [32] And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake. [33] And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned to his place.
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). Abraham had just finished preparing a meal for the preincarnate Christ and two angels. Christ told Abraham that He was about to visit Sodom to decide whether or not He should completely destroy this wicked city. Abraham, realizing that his nephew, Lot, and his family would also be destroyed in Sodom, began interceding with God on behalf of his nephew.

We have all been inspired, even amused, at the boldness of Abraham. First, he pleaded to the Lord that if 50 righteous people were found in the city, could possibly the city be spared? When the Lord said He would not destroy it if 50 righteous were found, then Abraham asked Him to consider 45, then 40, then finally 10!

This is a marvelous example of intercessory prayer. Abraham was fervently beseeching God on behalf of another, in this case, Lot and his entire family. The city of Sodom was destroyed, but God did hear Abraham's prayer and provided a way of escape for Lot.

Daniel's Example

A second example of intercessory prayer is found in the book of Daniel. This is the time when Jerusalem had been conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar and many Jews had been deported to Babylon. Among them was Daniel.

In chapter 9, we read that Daniel understood, at least in part, through the prophecies of Jeremiah, that ultimately the blessings promised to the tribe of Judah would be restored. The entire world would be refreshed by the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on this earth. But before Daniel received the explanation of the 70-weeks prophecy, he realized that he needed to fast and pray and intercede on behalf of Israel (Daniel 9:11 Daniel 9:11Yes, all Israel have transgressed your law, even by departing, that they might not obey your voice; therefore the curse is poured on us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.
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This was a remarkable prayer in many ways. First, it shows Daniel's own heart of repentance because he acknowledged that he too was a sinner: "We have sinned" (verse 5); "We have rebelled" (verse 9).

What is also recorded is Daniel's intercessory prayer for Israel. See verses 17-19: "Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant and his supplications [urgent and fervent prayer for mercy]...

"Oh my God, incline Your ear and hear...for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name."

This is a classic example of a person applying intercessory prayer on behalf of others.

"Intercession for the Transgressors"

The greatest example of intercessory prayer is found in the mission of Jesus Christ. We read in the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12 Isaiah 53:12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
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that Jesus Christ was to bear "the sin of many." Further, He "made intercession for the transgressors."

Indeed, while on the cross, Jesus prayed for and interceded for those who were killing him (Luke 23:34 Luke 23:34Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
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). Even before this incident, while He was being arrested, He insisted that the disciples be let go (John 18:8 John 18:8Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore you seek me, let these go their way:
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). And, just a few moments before His death, He interceded on behalf of His own mother and instructed John to provide a home for her (John 19:26-27 John 19:26-27 [26] When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman, behold your son! [27] Then said he to the disciple, Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
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). These are examples from the One who, by His very office, is to intercede on behalf of His people.

In Romans 8:34 Romans 8:34Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
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, we read of Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for all of us. And finally we read in Hebrews 7:25 Hebrews 7:25Why he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.
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that as our High Priest, Jesus is "also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them."

Needed as Never Before

What an incredible blessing that we have in realizing that Jesus Christ is our Intercessor! And what a wonderful responsibility we share in following the example of Christ in offering up intercessory prayer on behalf of others!

God's people need each other's prayers as never before. May God bless you in your prayer life as you strive to follow the intercessory example of our elder Brother, Jesus Christ.