THE POWER OF GOD THROUGH INTERCESSION
WHY BE DEVOTED TO PRAYER?
TO BE OBEDIENT
God places His limitless resources in the hands of His children. They are utilized by prayer. If we neglect those resources, it is not the fault of God. Paul wrote, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." (Col. 4:2). God not only offers us His power, but seems to limit Himself to some extent, to our praying. For instance, God's will is to seek and to save the lost, which was Jesus' purpose for coming down here (Luke 19:10 ). Yet He entrusted to us the responsibility to pray to Him for workers for the harvest (Luke 10:2). He chooses to place us into the executive "loop" of command. He didn't have to do it this way, but He did. This places great responsibility upon us, because the resources are there to "will and to work for His good pleasure." We may debate "whether the intention of the Father and the Son in the great transaction of Calvary was to save any more than actually are saved." (J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 67), but God would like to give far more than He actually does give, in response to prayer ("You have not because you ask not." James 4:2)
To rephrase, why would God tell us to "devote ourselves to prayer" if it was ineffective or marginally effective? On the contrary, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5:16b). God invented prayer and it was not to waste our time. Because of the God who is behind prayer, what more powerful thing can you and I do for one another than to pray? God notices when we pray (Acts 9:11 , Saul; 10:31 , Cornelius).
TO BRING GLORY TO GOD
God chooses to make Himself in some measure dependent upon us. We will draw closer to God as we see Him answer us. He will derive glory for amazing things done in and through such weak people. For the same reasons He also makes us dependent upon one another. Because of sin, sickness (a result of sin), the world, the flesh and the devil, we are often a needy people. God has called out a people for His own possession, a kind of divine demonstration project. Perhaps the epitome is found in Acts 2:44–47, "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people." The unsaved looked and even they approved of this new humanity. But even if they didn't, Peter wrote, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." (1 Pet 2:12).
IT CREATES FELLOWSHIP
Prayer creates bonds with other Christians, with prayer partners, and within our family. You want to hug someone who is praying for you. There are few things I appreciate more than hearing someone praying for me for exactly what I need at that moment.
HOW DO WE PRAY?
IN THE SPIRIT
We are to devote ourselves to prayer. Further, "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert [it’s easy to focus upon some distraction] and always keep praying for all the saints." (Eph. 6:18; Jude 20). The Spirit will direct our praying, or we would simply be lost in a sea of prayer possibilities. Allow the Holy Spirit to impress upon us for whom to pray. The direction may surprise us.
Prayer requires self-control and clarity of mind (1 Pet. 4:7). It takes self-mastery to rise early, to make appointments with God and keep them. But it does little good if we are too tired or distracted to pray. When are you most alert (Eph. 6:18 )? When will you be most free of distractions? Will you first need to pray about some matters before getting to your real priority? Do you need to first take a shower?
PRIORITIES FOR PRAYER INTERCESSION
It seems from the above passage that the first prayer priority which we have is to pray for fellow Christians (cf. Gal. 6:10 ). And I'd suggest that first among those be our family. I'm ashamed to confess how little I've prayed for my wife. I've identified her now as my most important person for whom to pray. We are one. We stand or fall together. Next, I'd rank our children, if any. Why has God made us one, according to Malachi? He wants godly offspring (Mal. 2:15 ), not hellions. He hates divorce I think in part because it makes it so much more difficult to have godly children. (I was such a child.) We can pray for godly life partners, for their salvation, for an inheritance for them, for their children, for their special needs and protection. James Dobson attributes his phenomenal ministry growth to the prayers of his father and grandfather.
Then I'd rank prayer for the church. Pray for your leaders regularly that they will grow and not fall. For wisdom and grace and vision and example. For their families and special needs. Paul prayed for the Roman church that he had not yet visited, "God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times..." ( Rom. 1:9).
The leadership in turn should pray for the flock. 2 Cor. 13:7 "Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong." 13:9 B "... and our prayer is for your perfection." An amazing prayer, both of them, given our sinfulness, and so-called freedom of will. God is able to keep us from falling. We can pray that God will keep other Christians, even leaders, from making mistakes.
Prayer is also a way toward Christian maturity. We can pray and people can mature. List all the church families alphabetically and pray through the list. Donald Carson taught me that Paul prayed for Christians when things were going well with them, not simply when they weren't. Read 1 Thess. 1:2-3. We are to remember not only special needs, but the godly attributes of Christians. Someone has pointed out that Satan does not need any help to accuse the brethren. I've been guilty. I'd remind God of this or that sin which needed correction as I prayed for a person. It is better to pray for the remedy, and also to offer thanks for the good qualities of the brother or sister.
Sometimes it is difficult getting along with each other. The biographer of Hyde (Praying Hyde) wrote, "Oh these petty quarrels, jealousies, and misunderstandings among the dear children of God. How can they be done away with? I think that Hyde's way is sure to succeed. BE MUCH IN PRAYER: let any slight or even insult be an occasion to pray for the very persons that do these things, and praise God for the privilege of being permitted to bear these things. I think it is Madam Guyon that used to say when she was insulted or persecuted, 'Thank you, Father; you saw I needed just this humbling.'" (Hyde, 115).
HOW TO PRAY FOR MISSIONARIES
Paul's epistles are replete with requests for prayer. This world is under the control, temporarily, of Satan; "the whole world is under the control of the evil one." (1 John 5:19). Yet in the previous verse John wrote, "the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him." The last piece of the armor of God to put on is this: "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Eph. 6:18). Soldiers are trained to be a team, not individualists. They cover each other's back. They offer supporting fire. They retrieve and nurse the wounded. We are all supposed to be firing in the same direction.
The New Testament gives us guidelines for how to pray specifically for missionaries.
For deliverance from enemies: "On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers." (2 Cor. 1:10-11). Paul, in jail, wrote, "For I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance." (Phil. 1:19). "Pray that we'll be delivered from wicked and evil men" (2 Thess. 3:2). "Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea ..." (Rom. 15:31 ).
For fearlessness in the face of enemies: (Eph. 6:19-20, "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel....Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
For opportunities to share the Gospel: (Col. 4:3, "And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ." "Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored." (2 Thess. 3:1). Paul asked that he would share the Gospel with clarity (Col. 4:4). This requires being sensitive and discerning with the individual or group we are trying to reach.
"Pray...so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed." (Rom. 15:32 ; cf. Heb. 13:19). "I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you." ( Rom. 1:10). Missionaries need prayer for safe travel, considering roads, weather, breakdowns and bandits. Satan will oppose the spread of the truth, so even getting to the destination requires prayer. They also need refreshment. Privacy may be precious and places to which to escape, few.
"Pray. . .that my service may be acceptable to the saints there [in Jerusalem ]." Rom. 15:31. Meeting reasonable expectations is crucial for usefulness to nationals and continued ministry. Missionaries need prayer for cross–cultural competence.
While not specifically a prayer for missionaries, Phil. 1:9–11 would be an excellent intercession. Pray for ever–increasing and wise love (1:9); the apostle to the Gentiles prays for the right priorities (Phil. 1:9-11): to "discern what is best". Missionaries have great flexibility in the use of time, generally, and set their own priorities, together with advisors. To be effective, not simply busy, missionaries need to be doing the right things, not anything. Priorities reflect strategy. To be "pure and blameless." Missionaries sometimes have moral failures on the field. Because a man or woman gets on an airplane does not mean that they aren't susceptible to immorality or even lesbianism. "Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ" ( 1:11 ). A missionary's life will either underscore or undermine his or her message. It is spiritual fruit which will make a lasting impact. Character impacts disciples.
Col. 1:10–11 is also a model prayer for Christians generally, but it is particularly useful to those on the field. "We pray. . .that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully  giving thanks to the Father." A missionary needs to continue to grow to continue to disciple and lead others closer to God, and must have the power of God, together with "great endurance and patience.” He may wonder why he and his family are sacrificing so much, while other Christians are so comfortable and secure. They also need to be joyfully thankful, because they can get their eyes upon trials and off God.
OTHER SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYER FOR MISSIONARIES
Needs Related to Evangelism, Church, and Missionary Work
You may wish to pray for God's angels to speed the granting of permits; to coordinate weather; to provide traveling mercies; to help with complex arrangements; to ensure that equipment works properly; to give favor with local or other government authorities; to attract the attention of key people; to motivate people to attend important meetings; to distract the opposition, or to silence and remove the opponents; to help them to answer questions and objections; to help break sinful habits (Duewel p. 57.
Needs Related to Defeating Satan.
You may pray for the assistance of God's angels to bind Satan's influence; to disrupt his plans and check his control over certain people; to dispel satanic darkness and drive back his demons; to help Christians in times of temptation, giving them power to resist Satan, and uniting them against Satan and his forces." (Duewel, 57).
EXAMPLES OF EFFECTIVE MISSIONARY INTERCESSION
"As the bus pulled out I [Duewel] waved good-bye to them, but as soon as it rounded the corner, I lay my head on the back of the seat in front of me, too ill to hold it up any longer. As I felt so feverish, the eighteen–mile ride down the winding road to Dehra Dun was very difficult. At Dehra Dun I caught the train to Delhi. For some reason that night the fuse was out and the fans and lights in our coach were not working. Me fever rose as I struggled with nausea and headache. I thought, 'If I could only find one Christian and ask him to pray for me!'"
"Suddenly, as the train sped on in the darkness, I felt as if a human hand with a cool, wet washcloth had wiped my brow. Instantly my fever, headache, nausea, and sore throat were gone and I felt completely well. Immediately I thought, 'Who prayed for me?'" "One day when the mail was brought, there was a letter for me. I opened it and read that at about 9:15 PM on the day I left Landour, the person had felt a heavy burden of prayer for me. Yes, that was the time and day." (Duewel, 61-62).
"He [Satan] arouses suspicions, jealousies, hatred, and all forms of opposition against gospel workers penetrating a non–Christian society with the gospel. He precipitates persecution, threats, and even murder." (Duewel, 123).
“During our first term in India , it seemed that every time I [Duewel] left home for an extended evangelistic or ministry trip, Satan attacked my family through accident or illness. These incidents became so frequent that my wife would say as I left, 'Well, I wonder what will happen this time.' I would assure her that God would protect the family, that Christ's blood would cover them, and not to fear or worry. But invariably, each time I was away, something would happen. This continued until some time later, when a church in London prayed one night. Afterward, the chain of incidents stopped for fifteen years." (Duewel,124).
WARFARE PRAYING FOR SALVATION
Satan will do what he can to keep people in his kingdom of darkness. When we pray for the lost, we invoke an exponentially higher power than the one keeping the lost in darkness. Packer put it this way:
"There is a second way in which you acknowledge that God is sovereign in salvation. You pray for the conversion of others." "I think that what you do is to pray in categorical terms that God will, quite simply and decisively, save them: that He will open the eyes of their understanding, soften their hard hearts, renew their natures, and move their wills to receive the Saviour." "In prayer, then (and the Christian is at his sanest and wisest when he prays), you know that it is God who saves men; you know that what makes men turn to God is God's own gracious work of drawing then to Himself; and the content of your prayers is determined by this knowledge. (JI Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, p. 15).
I'm convinced that the best way to evangelize is to first pray. When going into an area to witness or minister, I usually will take a prayer walk, circling the area, binding the forces of the evil one and asking God to draw those out that He is saving. I ask Him to take the ground that is His, since the earth is the Lord's and all it contains (Ps. 50:12). We prayed for good weather to show Christian videos on weekends in housing projects. During 1993–1994 we were not rained out once. Before such praying, in 1992 we were rained out 50% of the time. In 1992 Inner City Ministries began praying for the Harriet Tubman projects across the street for one month, early in the morning. On average, there was a shooting or murder there almost every weekend. During that time of prayer, binding away the spirit of murder, there was not one murder there, to my knowledge and that record lasted for about a year.
EXAMPLES OF PRAYER FOR SALVATION
There are some remarkable instances of God answering prayer for salvation. God gave a mother, "a great burden for the salvation of her son. Again, as she prevailed in prayer, God reminded her of the promise of Isaiah 55:9. At that very time God spoke to Jacob in his prison cell, and he surrendered his life to Christ." (Duewel, 82).
"OMS International began its work in India in 1941. The first twenty-five years of hard labor, sweat, tears, prayer, and fasting saw an average of one to two new local churches per year. As I flew across the Pacific to furlough in 1964, I was praying about what more we could do to see India's harvest reaped. God led me to ask for at least one thousand prayer partners to spend fifteen minutes a day in prayer for India and our work. A few years ago I was back in Allahabad, India, with our senior leaders during a day of prayer and report. One by one they told how mightily God was working. One of them turned to me and said, "Duewel Sahib, all of us...all of us are seeing results beyond anything we have known."
'Praise the Lord!' I said.
He continued, 'Duewel Sahib, are you surprised?'
'Yes, praise the Lord!' I replied.
'You ought not to be!' he immediately responded. 'Did you not go to America and get one thousand people to pray fifteen minutes a day for us?'
'More than that.'
'Then why are you surprised?'
'Thank you, George. I needed that reminder,' I said. 'Why should we be surprised when God answers prayer!'" Now our churches number about three hundred with some twenty-five thousand believers, and with twenty-five or more new churches established every year. One thousand prayer warriors united in praying for harvest was the secret!" (Duewel, 212-213).
What can we do for the evangelism of the world? A great deal if we pray.
What can one praying person do for evangelism? Please let me know.
Rev. 9/23/04 ; 10/5/04