The early Church gives a great object-lesson to the modern Church on how prayer alone can most surely draw down the treasures and powers of heaven into the life of the earth. When Christians appreciate the power of prayer, they understand the one power on earth which commands the power of heaven. Prayer is indispensable and yet irresistible. There is so much unknown and untold power and blessing stored up for us in heaven. And this power makes us a blessing to others and makes us fit to undertake any work or face any danger. However, this power has to be continually and persistently sought in prayer. Those who have this heavenly power can pray it down upon others. It is the one secret of success in all the ministrations of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and in all the interactions of His ministers and people.
Prayer defies all the power of the world and makes men fit to conquer this very world for the LORD Jesus Christ. It is the power of the heavenly life, the power of God’s own Spirit, the power of Omnipotence, the power that waits for prayer to bring it down from Heaven.
The prayer of the early church had very little thought of personal need or happiness. They had the desire to witness for Christ and bring Him and His salvation to others. The disciples were possessed of the thought of God’s kingdom and glory. The modern church, on the other hand, must be delivered from the sin of restraining prayer by enlarging our hearts for the work of intercession. Modern Christians must cease from praying for themselves and embrace intercession for others in order for faith and love and perseverance to be aroused and the power of the Holy Spirit to be found to fit us for the salvation of men and women alike. Intercession must be recognized as the most perfect form of prayer, which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself ever lives to pray on His throne.
Lessons from the Master of Prayer
The Master teaches in the parable of the friend who comes at midnight (cf. Luke 11:5-8), that intercession for the needy calls for the highest exercise of our power of believing and prevailing in prayer. He speaks of the urgent need for three loaves of bread at midnight, by this friend who finds himself faced with a friend who has arrived at his house from a journey and yet he has nothing to offer him. It is midnight; quite an untimely hour when there is nowhere to buy bread. The visitor must really be hungry, but this is not a good time to start baking bread.
Nonetheless, he takes time to consider and realize the need of the friend. His eye and heart are open to see the need to intercede in his friend’s behalf to his neighbour. He takes his weary, hungry friend into his house and into his heart as well. He cannot bring himself to give the excuse that it is after midnight and he himself has no bread to offer. He gives of himself, at this not so friendly hour, to seek it for the friend. He sacrifices the comfort of his night’s rest, so to find the much-needed bread. He demonstrates a willing love in giving up and forgetting himself for the sake of the other. He takes his friend’s need and makes it his own.
Even though he is most willing to give his friend some bread, he has none. He senses the impotence of his inability to help, and this is what sends him out begging. The neighbour he approaches however only sees trouble in this request. It makes him insensible both to the urgency of the case and even to the claims he makes of their friendship. This favour requires him to exert himself, and he is not willing to do so. The loving heart had not counted on being disappointed in this manner. It cannot consent to accept it.
Thus, the supplicant presses his plea for a needy friend from another friend who has abundance and refuses to accept a denial. If a friendship does not get this grumpy and self-indulgent man out of that bed to give the loaves, importunity in the form of sheer persistence and determined perseverance will surely prevail. As St. Paul teaches, a positive refusal can and will be won over by determined perseverance in prayer with Him whose very nature is enriching to all who call upon Him (cf. Romans 10:12).
The Soul of Intercession
We believe that God alone is able to help and that God certainly will help in answer to prayer. We must open our eye and heart to the need that is around us, so that all the people’s needs make intercessors of us, as people who give their lives to prayer for those around them. We must take time to consider and realize the need for every soul that is going down into outer darkness or perishing of hunger from the lack of the knowledge of Christ. We must identify with the need for those of our neighbours and friends who are souls entrusted to us, yet are dying without hope. We must empathize with the Christians that are living a sickly, feeble, and fruitless life. And we shall do all this, knowing that nothing but prayer to God for help will avail.
We need the very nature of love to give up and forget the self for the sake of others. This nature makes us take the needs of others and make them our own. In it, we find real joy in living and dying for others as the Lord Jesus did. Although it is quite possible to do a great deal of faithful, earnest work for our fellowmen without having true love to them, only true love for souls can become in us this spirit of intercession. Otherwise, it becomes like a love of the profession and a high sense of faithfulness to duty that compels without any special love to each subject.
The servants of Christ may give themselves to their work with devotion and even self-sacrificing enthusiasm without the Christ-like love to souls being necessarily strong. Unless the delight in thoroughness and diligence in the love of the profession and work sinks away in the tender compassion of Christ, love will not compel us to prayer and praying. True love prays because we cannot rest in our work if souls are not being saved. The consciousness of being unable to humanly help takes possession of God’s servants, and intercession becomes their only hope and refuge. When we know how to make impotence the motto of our ministry, we get the urge to pray for souls.
The feeling of utter insufficiency puts us in the supernatural power and life needed to save men on the Day of Judgment. Intercession appears as we think of the midnight darkness and the hungry souls. It appears as our only hope, the one thing in which love can take refuge. Thus the feeble are encouraged by those who are strong and wise since the sense of impotence is the soul of intercession.
Believe in Answered Prayer
The Lord God is the rich friend nearby, who is both able and willing to give the bread. And we are sure that we only need ask, and we will receive. Such faith will make us leave home (our comfort zone) at midnight if we ourselves do not have the much-needed bread to give so that we can go and ask of another. Where this faith really exists, we cannot pray. In God’s Word, everything stirs and strengthens us in faith. We go in with confidence that God’s true heaven is filled with all spiritual blessings of divine light and love and life, heavenly joy and peace and power. God’s Word reveals to us that the LORD God is waiting and delighting to bestow these blessings in answer to our prayer.
We believe that what we cannot possibly do ourselves for those whom we want to help can be obtained by prayer. There must be no question to believing that our prayer will be heard. Believing that through prayer the poorest and feeblest can dispense blessings to the needy. Each of us, as poor as we are, may yet be making many others rich. We should not consent to or accept any sudden and/or unexpected restraint; the supplication must continue. The love that made you open your house at midnight, and leave it so as to seek help, must be allowed to win.
The Certainty of an Abundant Answer
We are certain to find difficulties and delays with the answer, but we still hold fast to the confidence that He hears and will answer. It is harder to persevere in full assurance that we shall surely have what we ask, but we must remember that the LORD God looks for this from us. We have that confidence in Him, being as it were the highest honour that we the created can have for He the Creator, and which He will do anything to train us, in order for us to trust in Him. This is how we become the blessed, who is not shaken by God’s delay or silence or apparent refusal; but being strong in faith and giving glory to God at all times and in all things.
When we find it difficult to pray much, would that we fix our eye on the recompense of the reward, and in faith learn to count upon the divine Assurance that our prayer cannot be vain. We believe in the LORD God and His faithfulness so that intercession becomes the very first thing we take refuge in when we seek blessing for others and the very last thing for which we say we cannot find the time. Intercession should become a thing of joy and hope because all the time we pray, we know that we are sowing the seed that will bring forth fruit a hundredfold. Disappointment should be impossible because He will definitely get up to give us whatever we need because of our persistence.
Time spent in prayer will yield more than that given to work because prayer alone gives work its worth and its success. Prayer opens the way for God Himself to do His work in us and through us. We must take courage and let our chief work as messengers of the LORD God to be intercession. In this work of intercession, we secure the presence and power of the LORD God to go with us.
In the darkness of midnight, at the most unlikely of times and in the greatest need ever, the Everlasting God and Father is our rich Friend in heaven, who only waits to be asked aright. In that moment when we have to say of those we love and care for that we have nothing to set before them. We find the Everlasting God and Father as our rich Friend in heaven who only waits to be asked aright.
The onus is upon us to confess before Him our lack of prayer. We must admit the lack of faith as proof of the symptom of a life that is largely not spiritual. We must admit that we are too much under the power of self, flesh and the world. Then, in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ who spoke this parable and now waits to make every trait of it to become true in us, we should give of ourselves to be intercessors. Every sight of souls needing help, every stirring of the spirit of compassion, every sense of our own powerlessness to bless, and every difficulty in the way of our getting an answer must come together to urge us to do this one thing.
With importunity, we cry to the Lord God, who alone can help and who in answer to our prayer, will surely help. The secret of successful intercession is to first get from God, and then give to others that which you yourself secure daily. Intercession is the blessed link between your impotence and God’s Omnipotence. We must do our utmost to train a young generation of Christians so that they profit by our mistake (failure to pray) and avoid it altogether (cf. Deuteronomy 3:28). At least we must encourage those who come after us to enter into the blessed life of unceasing prayer.
Adapted from “Standing in the Gap – An Invite to Minister as Intercessor” by Dr. Pamela M. Idenya