Sunday, March 7, 2010

Who intercedes for us?

In my previous post on the topic of prayer, called Prayer Promises, one of the things I wrote about was this: Jesus said that we should pray directly to the Heavenly Father, and we do not even need Jesus to ask the Father on our behalf. Jesus said the reason for this is that the Father loves us because we love Jesus and we believe that Jesus came from the Father. Here's the verse I referred to in my third point of that post:

Direct Access to the Father
"In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father." (John 16:26-27).

This is so important to know and understand that believers in Jesus Christ have direct access to God's throne in Jesus' name.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit intercede with the Father 
Yet when Jesus said this to the disciples, He didn't mention the fact that both He and the Holy Spirit entreat the Father on behalf of His followers. This is an added ministry that we as believers receive, which does not contradict the fact that we have direct access to the Father. We learn this truth in the following passages.

  • "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Rom 8:26, KJV). This means that when we pray, the Holy Spirit helps us. Even when we don't know how we should pray in a situation, the Spirit intercedes for us. As we are praying, He appeals to the Father on our behalf with sighs too deep to be expressed in words.
  • "And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." (Rom 8:27, KJV). Again, the Holy Spirit intercedes for all those who have been made holy by the blood of Christ. And He intercedes in line with God's will.
  • "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (Rom 8:34, KJV). Here we learn that Christ is the Judge who has authority to condemn a person. Yet He is the One who gave His life for us. Now He has risen from the dead! He is on the throne at God's right hand, appealing on behalf of those who love Him.
  • "Therefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Heb 7:25, KJV). Again, Jesus lives forever. He completely saves everyone who comes to God through Him. And He lives to intercede with God for those who do.

So from these passages, we find that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are making intercession for those of us who know and follow Jesus. In the apostle Paul's letter to the Romans that I have just cited, he referred to the followers of Jesus as "saints" or "holy ones," just as this term is used elsewhere in the Bible of God’s people. It’s not referring only to certain people who have died who once lived lives that were more exemplary than other disciples of Christ. When Paul wrote to the Romans, he was alive and so were they. He said at that time that Jesus Christ makes intercession for “us”, meaning himself and the Roman disciples to whom he was writing.

This English word “intercede” found in these Bible passages comes from the Greek word entugchano. It means to entreat (in favor or against): - deal with, make intercession. This word is used in Romans 8:27, 8:34, and Heb 7:25, which are all cited above. In order to understand this word better, it helps to see how it’s also used in Acts 25:24 and Romans 11:2.

All the people interceded with or appealed to Festus, the Roman governor or procurator against the apostle Paul: Festus *said, "King Agrippa, and all you gentlemen here present with us, you see this man about whom all the people of the Jews appealed to me, both at Jerusalem and here, loudly declaring that he ought not to live any longer. (Act 25:24).

Elijah interceded or pleaded with God against Israel: God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? (Rom 11:2)

There’s another Greek word that is translated “intercede”. It is huperentugchano, which means to intercede in behalf of: - make intercession for. It comes from the same root word as entugchano. This word is used only once in the Bible -- in the Romans 8:26 passage cited above.

In Acts 25, we can see that people dealt with the governor or appealed to him regarding Paul, whom they wanted executed. And in Romans 11, we read that the prophet Elijah was appealing to God against Israel, since they had departed from God to follow false gods. So in both cases, the word is used in the sense of appealing against someone. So the word can be used this way or to mean appealing in someone’s favor, depending on the context of how it is used.

Other Passages about Christ's Intercession
There are still other passages that speak of Christ's intercession for His people.

The apostle John wrote: "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." (1 Jn 2:1, NIV).  He taught us not to sin, just as Jesus did.  But in case anybody does sin, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, is our Advocate with the Father. In fact, the Good News Bible translates this part of the verse to say, "We have someone who pleads with the Father on our behalf..."  Isn't it comforting to know that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself pleads with the Father on our behalf?

That is what the word Advocate means in the original Greek.  The original word is paraklētos, meaning "an intercessor, consoler: - advocate, comforter" (Strongs).

Job said, "Even now my Witness is in heaven; my Advocate is on high. My intercessor is my Friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man He pleads with God as one pleads for a friend." (Job 16:19-21, NIV).  Just as Job knew that his Redeemer lives (Job 19:25), he also knew that His Intercessor was his friend, who pleaded with God on behalf of man as one pleads for a friend.

Paul wrote to Timothy, "For there is one God, and one Mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time." (1Ti 2:5-6).  The Greek word for Mediator is "mesites," meaning "a go between, that is, (simply) an internunciator, or (by implication) a reconciler (intercessor): - mediator" (Strongs).

There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. 

Isn’t it wonderful to know that Jesus, who is at God’s right hand, always lives to intercede for us before God? And isn’t it wonderful to know that the Holy Spirit also intercedes with the Father on our behalf? This should reassure every follower of Christ that we don’t need to pray to any other, knowing Jesus Himself and the Spirit are dealing with the Father and appealing to Him on our behalf and in our favor.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.
Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the links in the side bar. My daughter has also written a beautiful poem called, "Our Intercessor." You may also access a collection of my most popular blogs at "Writing for the Master."

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Prayer Promises

I'd like to share from God's Word what He says about prayer. There are so many wonderful promises in His Word about this. We need to be reminded, because we often have great needs in our lives or in the lives of our loved ones, and where else can we turn but to the Lord. He alone is the answer. Take a look with me and let it encourage you today.

1. Jesus said to ask Him and He would do it
  • "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." (John 14:13-14)
  • In the Old Testament, God's people angered Him by praying to others besides than the One True God. They prayed to Baal (Num 25:3-5), Asheroth (Judges 3:7), the Queen of Heaven (Jer 7:9,18; Jer 44:17-25), and the heavenly host (2 King 17:16 and 23:5). They participated in sacrifices to dead people (Ps 106:28). In fact, their gods were as many as their cities (Jer 11:13).
  • Since Jesus has come and established the New Covenant, God's people who call themselves after Jesus name still do the same things to anger the Lord. They pray to others besides the Lord. They make images for themselves to help them pray to these entities, including the so-called Queen of Heaven. They even offer up sacrifices to her and the other dead who are in heaven. They have a saint to call upon for any kind of problem in life. This is spiritual adultery. It's evidence that they do not trust the Lord enough to take Him at His Word. It grieves the Lord deeply when His people do not trust Him like this.
  • This is what led to the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). They did not believe the Lord would hear them, if they called upon Him. So they called upon the name of Baal. Elijah challenged them all to call upon Baal and see if he would answer by fire. He said, "Whoever answers by fire, He is God." In the end, Baal did not answer, though they called upon Him all day and sacrificed to him. But when Elijah called upon the Lord God, He answered by fire, consuming the offering, even though it was soaked with water.
  • If we really believe what Jesus said, we will pray to God alone and no one else. We will trust that He will do it, just as He promised. His promise is clear: Ask Me anything in My Name, and I will do it.

2. Ask whatever you wish, believe and receive it
  • "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."(John 15:7).
  • He said you must abide in Him. That means you need to live in Jesus. You must have a personal relationship with Him. You've got to know Him personally in your heart, not just know about Him. You may know about some historical figure like Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther, but you don't know them personally. But most of us know our parents personally. I know my wife personally. You need to know Jesus personally. Jesus also said His words must abide in you. That means we will take to heart what the Jesus has said, as it is written in the Bible - His Word. But the promise is clear to you if you have a living relationship with Jesus and His Word is alive in you: Ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.
  • "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." (Mat 21:22). This is another powerful promise. Jesus refers here to all things you ask in prayer. But He was talking about believing prayer, not just uttering empty words. If you believe Him when you pray, then you will receive.
  • "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you." (Mar 11:24). First, Jesus said this about all things for which we pray, not some things. Second, he said we must believe we have received, which means we believe we have already received. But we have to believe this before we have seen the answer in the natural realm. We should speak, feel, act and think as if we have already received our answer. If we do this, He promised that it would be granted.
  • "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight." (1Jo 3:22). John said that receiving whatever we ask of the Lord is directly connected with our obedience to Him and doing what's pleasing to Him. Maybe the reason Christians pray to others beside the Lord is that they do not live lives of obedience or do the things that are pleasing in His sight. They don't feel they can go directly to the Lord with their prayers, because they don't feel worthy.
  • "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him." (1Jo 5:14-15) We cannot simply ask for silly things to feed our carnal appetites. John clarified that if we want our prayers answered, we must pray according to the Lord's will. We know His will by what is written in His Word and by His Spirit - the two are in agreement. If we pray this way, we have the requests we have asked of Him.

3. Ask the Father in Jesus name and He will give it
  • "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." (John 15:16). Jesus taught two important truths here. First we must ask the Father, and not pray to any other! We never see Him teaching us to pray to any other, always the Father. Secondly, He said to ask the Father in His name, the name of Jesus. To ask in His name is to ask the Father according to the authority given to His son Jesus. When we do this, Jesus promised the Father would give it to us. It's that simple.
  • "In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full." (John 16:23-24). Again, Jesus taught us to ask the Father in Jesus name. If we do, He will give it to us. Do you believe this? It's God's will that we ask Him and receive, because He wants our joy to be full.
  • "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father." (John 16:26-27). Jesus wants us to know that we do not need to ask Him to go to the Father on our behalf. He says the Father Himself loves us who love Jesus, so we should go directly to Him. Those who pray to others say that these help carry their prayers to the throne of God. The fact that Jesus taught us that we do not even need Him to request the Father on our behalf should be enough to settle the matter -- we do not need anyone to carry our prayers to the throne of God. The apostle Paul wrote: "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1Ti 2:5). If we love Jesus and believe that He comes from the Father, we have direct access to the throne. That's direct access without the need for other mediators!
  • "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. (Mat 6:9). When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, this is how He taught them. He taught them to pray the same way He prayed, which was directly to the Father in heaven. Jesus did not say, "Pray, then, in this way, 'Our mother in heaven.' " If that were necessary, He surely would have told us so. He also did not say, "When you pray, say, 'Saint Joseph, pray for us.'" We simply need to pray to our heavenly Father in Jesus' name.
  • "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Mat 6:6). Jesus taught us to pray to our Father who sees what is done in secret. And He promised our Father would reward us, so we don't need any other. Do you believe this?
  • "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Mat 7:7-8; Luke 11:9). There is a cause and effect relationship between your asking the Father and it being given to you. There is no extra step inserted between asking and receiving here. He did not say, "Make your petitions to others in heaven, asking them to pray for you, so they may carry your prayers to the throne of God, and then it will be given to you." Jesus simply said, "Ask and it will be given to you." He also promised that everyone who asks receives. It's not just for the supposed "elite," "higher-ranking" saints, but for everyone. That includes you, if you have a personal relationship with Jesus.
  • "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Mat 7:11). Jesus spoke to earthly fathers who were mere sinful humans. Yet even earthly, human fathers who are evil know how to give good gifts to their children. If a son asks his father for some bread, the father does not give him a stone. Likewise, our heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts to His children who ask Him directly.

4. Father knows what you need before you ask
  • "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." (Mat 6:8). We don't need to repeat the same words over and over to God, thinking we will be heard because of our many words. When we approach the Father, we need to realize He already knows what we need before we even ask Him. But He still wants us to ask Him, and then trust Him with the results, because asking this way is an expression of our trust in Him. After all, that's what faith is!

5. When two of you agree about anything, it will be done for them
  • "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven." (Mat 18:19). It's important to pray together at times with a partner. As the two of you agree together on the matter you are praying about right here on earth, the Father in heaven shall do it. You don't need to find a prayer partner in heaven to agree with you. Jesus said the Father in heaven would do what the two of you are praying in agreement for right here on earth. That's one aspect of this teaching. But there is another aspect of agreement that many fail to understand. Praying in agreement is not just finding someone who will agree with you, who will pray with you about a matter. That is only one side of it. Many times I've been in prayer with others, praying about a variety of matters. And just as the Holy Spirit put it in my heart to pray about a certain matter or to pray in a certain manner about something, another person has begun to pray exactly that way. As they did, I was in complete agreement, because I knew it was the Holy Spirit who led them to pray that way, and now we were in agreement with Him, as well as each other.

6. Draw near to God's throne with confidence, so that you may receive
  • "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:14-16). A high priest is one who represents the people before God. Jesus is our High Priest, who is not serving in an earthly temple, but right in heaven. He has experienced all the same temptations we have; yet He never sinned. So we can be confident that our High Priest represents us perfectly before God. He knows all our weaknesses, yet He Himself has always been perfectly obedient to the Father. Therefore, we should confidently, even boldly draw near to the throne of God. We come not by our own merits, but by the merits of His shed blood. And when we are near the throne, we can be sure we will receive mercy. We can know for certain that we will find grace to help us, no matter what we need. This should give us peace to know that God's throne is a throne of grace.

7. Call upon the Lord, pray to Him and seek His face
  • "Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." (Jer 29:12-13). God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, telling us to call upon Him. He said to come to Him and pray to Him. The prophet spoke these words hundreds of years before Christ, even while God's people were in exile, being punished for their spiritual adultery. God told His people to come to Him and pray to Him. And He promised that if they would do so, He would listen to them. The same is true today. God wants us to call upon Him, to come and pray to Him and He will listen. But He doesn't throw Himself on us like a cheap prostitute would. He wants us to search for Him. But we don't search for God with the remote control in our hand, reclining on the sofa. We need to search for Him with all our heart. He promises that when we search for Him with all our heart, we will find Him.
  • For "whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Rom 10:13). It can't get much clearer than this. The promise is for whoever will call on the Lord's name. It's not for those who call on any other name. The apostle Paul taught us from the prophet Joel's words to call on the Lord's name, not the name of Peter or Joseph or Mary, no matter how godly their lives were. And if you will call upon the name of the Lord Jesus, you will be saved.
  • "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Act 4:12). There is no other name but the name of Jesus that we must call on to be saved -- no matter what our situation, and no matter what our need.
  • "Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually." (1Ch 16:11). It's the Lord whom we must seek, no other. It doesn't say here to seek Baal or Asheroth, or to seek the Queen of Heaven. The Lord wants us to seek His face in an ongoing, continuous manner throughout our lives.
  • "And My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2Ch 7:14). So why don't people who are called by His name seek His face? Why don't they call upon the Lord? Maybe it's because they would rather not humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways. Maybe they know in their conscience that they are not living right and they feel that someone else is more worthy to take their requests before the throne. That's the way I was before I knew the Lord. I was living a wicked life, and when I was in need, I would pray, "If anyone in heaven can hear this prayer, get this message to God." Yet that's not necessary for those who know the Lord. He made a promise to all His people who are called by His name. There were a few preconditions though. He said we need to humble ourselves, pray and seek His face. He said we need to turn from our wicked ways. If we will do this, He promised to hear from heaven. He promised to forgive our sin and heal our land. Do you believe this? If so, then make it a way of life.
  • "The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing." (Psa 34:10). We do need to seek the Lord while He may be found. We seek after so many other worthless things, but there are so few who seek the Lord. Those who seek the Lord will not have unmet needs in their lives for any good thing.
I have a personal relationship with my wife, for which I am very grateful to God. And when I need to ask her for something, I don't go through a mediator. I ask her directly. On the other hand, when marital relationships are broken, husbands and wives speak to each other through mediators - they are called attorneys. When we have a personal relationship with someone in good standing, we don't need to go through mediators to communicate with them.

Jesus, our one and only mediator, has taught us that we don't need Him to ask the Father on our behalf. It's clear that we are to pray to the Father in Jesus' name, seek His face, and call upon His name. We are not to pray to any other. And as we pray, we need to believe that we have received what we have asked for. Then whatever we have prayed for will be granted. The Lord's throne is a throne of grace. And everyone who calls upon the Lord's name will be saved.

Maybe you have been like I once was, calling upon another name in your time of need. If you will acknowledge according to God's Word that this is sin and turn from your wicked ways, then go before the Lord humbly and pray and seek His face. He will hear from heaven and forgive your sins. There is still time to do this while you have breath in your lungs.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

I hope this has helped you, whether you are a mature believer or a new one, to grow in your faith in God's promises regarding prayer. If you enjoyed this post, you might want to look at my other one in this blog that tackles the question, "Who is interceding for us?". You may also access a collection of my most popular blogs at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
Maybe you have never come to know Jesus personally. You might be like I once was, having gone to church all my life and knowing about Jesus, but not knowing Him personally. He loves you and wants a personal relationship with you. If you want to know Jesus personally, you can.

Please find out how in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.