By: Brother Andrew
I. The Power of Focused Prayer
Thirty years ago, when I first began my lifelong mission of bringing Bibles and hope to Christians behind closed borders. I learned a powerful secret about prayer. I discovered why Christians don’t pray more – even though we all feel that we should. The reason is simple: We haven’t learned to focus our prayers.
Wouldn’t you like a real challenge in your prayer life… build your prayer power and discover how to focus on specific needs? I can provide that challenge by presenting to you prayer requests from the toughest arena on earth: countries where proclaiming Jesus Christ is forbidden.
My discovery about prayer came during a prayer meeting in my hometown in Holland. Like many others, our prayer group was praying for the millions of people around the world who were being persecuted for their Christian faith.
Everybody said a prayer. and then we moved our attention to a girl in our town who had lost her parents and was now being mistreated in a foster home.
As we heard her story, many of us began to cry. Yet we all had prayed with dry eyes about desperate needs in the Body of Christ behind closed borders!
Then the thought hit me: Why do we cry about a little girl who is so close to home that any one could go and comfort her, or we could bear witness-directly to her foster parents?
My conclusion was that we don’t have enough specific information about these situations to be moved with compassion. We cannot focus our prayers, and thus don’t release the prayer power that can move nations.
Sometimes I think the devil knows much more about the power of prayer than we Christians do. But I also know that we can unlock that secret power in our own lives if we learn how to focus our prayer as Jesus did.
Whenever our Lord prayed, things happened. No wonder the disciples asked Him to share the secret with them. “Lord. teach us to pray.” they said, even though they had been praying throughout their lives, in the synagogues and in their homes.
Prayer was the heart of His success, and it is also the key to our success as Christians. Yet too often we fail just where Jesus succeeded.
The world has not yet seen what God can do through a person who is fully dedicated to Jesus Christ and understands the power of prayer.
Prayer is the basis of everything God is accomplishing in the world, and that is why I consider it so important for us to unlock these hidden reserves of divine power and confront the enemy who is sweeping the earth today.
Would you like to join me in attacking Satan’s strongholds? You can provide prayer support for our fellow Christians “behind enemy lines” – in countries that deny religious freedom.
“Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:17, 18 NIV).
II. We Have a Worldwide Potential
Did you realize that Jesus is not praying for the world?
Then who is?
According to John 17:9, Jesus in His great “High Priestly Prayer” said He was not praying for the world. Yet He added (verse 11) “…but they are still in the world….”
And we, His followers, twenty centuries later, are still confronted with that world and all its problems.
Jesus was leaving the world. He was going through the cross, providing redemption for the whole world.
He leaves us here, and our way out is the way Jesus went, through the cross. No other way for us, except in a redemptive intercession for the world.
Intercessory prayer for the world can be effective only if we know God and His character. If we do not know God we can have no influence on God. If we do not have influence on God, then we have no influence whatsoever in world affairs.
Intercession is having influence on God. It is God changing His mind because His conditions for change are met.
To speak about intercession for the world makes no sense, if God cannot do in us and through us what He did through His servants Abraham and Moses, or Joshua or Daniel.
If you think God cannot do through you what He did through Samuel or Elijah, then you do not understand God. God is not a respecter of persons. All these men were “just like us.”
From that statement in James 5:17, we can also logically affirm that we are only persons like Elijah and the others. It is God who worked in Elijah. And it is God who will work in us. God has exactly the same plan for us as for the saints of old.
When we think of prayer and intercession, we immediately have a mental image of old people praying. Actually, older people can pray better than younger people, not only because they might have more time, but also because they have accumulated a knowledge of God. They understand His character and methods better than younger Christians.
Once we had a missionary speak at an Open Doors staff prayer meeting in Holland. When he saw all the beautiful, young Open Doors workers, he asked, “Why are so many young people in the prayer meeting?”
He was upset! “You ought to be on the missionary field. not in a prayer meeting.”
Well, maybe some should have been there. But then, why can’t old people go to the mission field?
I fail to see his logic. I celebrated Corrie ten Boom’s 75th birthday with her inside Vietnam! There is no age problem with God.
Intercession is cooperation with God. Through it, we share the throne-life with Jesus Christ. We carry out the assignment Jesus gave us in John 17.
III. Doing Battle with God
God is looking for people who, in desperation, will jump into the gap for a world that is at the point of exploding. God has indeed made up His mind to judge the world…but He’s always willing to change His mind if people repent and turn to Him!
The story of Jonah is an excellent example of this. God sent the prophet with a genuine message for Nineveh: “Go into that big city because their sins have come up to me in heaven before the throne. Tell them that in forty more days I will turn the place upside down.”
That was a message from God. He had made up His mind that Nineveh would be destroyed. Jonah reluctantly went to the city and delivered God’s message: “In forty days God will turn this place upside down.”
The next morning he went back and preached: “Thirty-nine days and God will turn this place upside down!”
The next day: “Thirty-eight days….” The countdown had started.
Many people believe the countdown for the world has started. Some say we are close to the zero point, but when will it really happen?
For Jonah, that final hour came…and nothing happened!
There was nothing wrong with his prophecy. No, it was a perfect prophecy; it had come straight from heaven. But the people met the condition of God, and God, true to His just but forgiving nature, changed His mind.
That is exactly what can happen when we intercede for the world.
Let me give you another scriptural example, that of Abraham. In Genesis 18, it is recorded that God spoke to His friend Abraham. God said, “Sodom and Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain, are going to be destroyed.” The witness against them has been completed; enough is enough.
At this point. Abraham became an intercessor for a lost world. Remember, God had made up His mind that the world was going to be destroyed. There was no more hope for Sodom and Gomorrah, according to God’s statement.
But Abraham had a nephew there. who was married and had daughters; he also had friends in these cities of the plain. Something in Abraham made him think of them, not simply of Sodom and Gomorrah.
So he asked God. “Suppose there are fifty righteous there: are you going to destroy the whole place?”
God’s reply was, “No, I won’t.”
That sounded encouraging to Abraham, so he continued, “Suppose. God, there were five less than that. Would you still do it?”
God said. “No, I won’t.”
“Now, God, maybe you will find this presumptuous, but just in case there are only forty, will you then destroy that city?”
And God replied, “No, I won’t.”
What was Abraham doing? He was entering into true intercession. We can speak very clearly and very truthfully about the destruction of the world, or about the rise of revolution and the anti-Christ. But what are we doing to influence God in relation to the people that will perish when the whole thing does go up with a big bang?
Please note that in the account of Genesis 18, God never once said to Abraham, “You’ve asked enough; I’ve been lenient with you so far. Now I’m going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.”
It was Abraham who ended the conversation, when he said in effect, “Lord, here is the limit of my faith for I’m getting scared of you and I think you may be getting mad at me. Don’t become angry with me. Lord. I want to ask you once more just for ten.”
Abraham set a limit on what the love of God could accomplish. How far would you go as an intercessor in dealing with God?
IV. Knowing God Intimately
The success of your intercession will depend on the intimacy of your relationship with God. How well do you know Him? How secure and comfortable are you in relating to your Father?
In the story of Gideon, God had made up His mind. In Judges 6, God had told Gideon he would win the battle God had assigned him… but Gideon needed to gain confidence through confirmation.
As a child of God. you have a right to clear guidance, including confirmation of that guidance. If God tells you to do anything, you have a perfect right to say, “God, will you please confirm that to me?”
God loves to give us confirmation, and with it the confidence of His leading in our lives.
Gideon said. “Lord, here is a wool fleece. If it is wet and the grass around it is dry in the morning. I will know that you can save Israel through me.” And God did just that.
God had spoken to Gideon before. He had already accepted Gideon’s sacrifice. So where does this man get the courage to ask for a special confirmation from God?
Because God loves for us to ask, and Gideon understood that. God wants to give us every bit of encouragement He can to help us become fighters for Him, to stand in the gap for a lost world!
Gideon even asked for a second confirmation. Do you suppose God was angry I think God was smiling broadly. He probably was thinking: “Isn’t that terrific! This Gideon talks to me as to a friend.”
When we know how to talk to God that way, we are entering into intercession that can change lives. We have a relationship with God. If we don’t understand that relationship, how can we cooperate with God in intercession for the world?
Another illustration is that of Moses in Exodus 32. Again God had made up His mind.
Israel had fallen back into idolatry. They had made a golden calf during the forty days Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments. God said. “I will destroy them in my anger.”
Who would want to argue with the Almighty God. especially when He is angry? The intercessor will take up such an argument.
Did you realize that Christianity is the only religion in the world in which you can disagree with God? You dare not do that in any other religion. We Christians have a special privilege.
When God said, “I’m going to destroy this nation,” He had made up His mind. Unfortunately, throughout history there has been too much pious acceptance of the expressed will of God, without imploring God to be merciful and meeting the conditions of God that would cause Him to change His mind.
When God told men like Eli and Saul and others that “your children will not follow you, because you have sinned,” they simply said, “the will of the Lord be done.” That was not the reason God gave that message against them. He wanted them to repent! If they had, God would have said, “OK. I am going to change my mind. Your children will succeed you.”
We tend to piously accept a word that comes to us as being an immutable judgment, when that word really should encourage us to get on our knees, to repent and storm the gates of heaven with intercession.
In this case, Moses was also faced with a difficult personal temptation. Because God, in the same verse in which He declared He would destroy Israel (Exodus 32:10), said to Moses, “I will make you into a great nation.”
God offered Moses an unusual opportunity to really become somebody. Like Moses, you may come across opportunities as an intercessor that appear to be discouragements… but, remember Moses. What a bait God held out: “Out of you… a great nation!”
Now the true intercessor appears. Moses speaks for his nation. He reminds God of His own eternal purposes for Israel. He speaks by revelation, in such an impassioned way, that hundreds of years later. God sends Moses from heaven to the Mount of Transfiguration to speak to Jesus about what He was to accomplish in Jerusalem (Luke 9:30,31). Link that event to Exodus 32:10.
Moses prayed with insight and authority. In other words, he did not accept a word from the Lord as the word from the Lord. He was a man who did not just accept change, but who also caused change! We need more people like that in the world today, people who will make things happen.
Then follows, in Exodus 32:32, the boldest of all prayers, equaled only by the prayer of the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:3. Moses, in effect, says to God, you can’t do this. I know something about atonement. I’m going to make atonement. Here am I. Blot me out from Thy Book which Thou has written.”
Moses is not speaking in defiance of the Holy God. saying, “If you don’t want Israel you won’t have me either.” No, he is presenting himself as the atonement sacrifice. He is offering to do what Jesus did! An intercessor is ready to complete in his body the suffering of Jesus (Colossians 1:9,24).
V. Reasoning with God
In Moses’ struggle to avert the judgment of God on Israel for their sin at Sinai, he gives God three reasons why He should change His mind. First he asks, “Why are you angry?” You were the one who brought them out of Egypt” (Exodus 32:11).
Second, Moses argued that the Egyptians would slander God by saying that He had started something, but couldn’t follow through on it (Exodus 32:12).
Finally he says (Exodus 32:13), “Lord, remember the promise you made to Abraham.”
Have you ever, as you faced your particular problem, taken the Book, pointed to a specific verse, and said, “God, remember your promise?”
Have you ever talked to God that way? That’s intercessory prayer.
In Exodus 32:14, it literally states, “So the Lord changed His mind.”
Did you know that one possible result of intercession could be that the Lord would change His mind? Did you know that we could have that much influence with the Almighty God? Many things can happen when you become an intercessor.
Another illustration of reasoning with God is given by Joshua as the Israelites begin to conquer the Promised Land. The fact that God had promised the land shows that the Lord had His mind set: Canaan was for Israel. Joshua was to lead them to victory. Predictably, there would be some human problems, but the final result would be the same, because God had said it.
Then immediately after the first successful conquest at Jericho. Israel made a big blunder (Joshua 7); they stole devoted things. I personally think that Joshua over-reacted. He had only thirty-six casualties at Ai,
not thousands. But he cried out, “God, are you going to destroy us?”
As Joshua prays on, he shows his experience as an intercessor. Joshua makes a statement I love so deeply (verse 9): “What then will you do for your own great name?”
Do you see what Joshua did? If he were an intercessor today, he would be asking God: “If the Church of China is lost, or if those believers in Russia perish, or if the Church in El Salvador dies, then God, what are you going to do for your great name?” You can ask the same question, make the same plea, “God, for your glory in the world, for the sake of your great name, strengthen your Suffering Church.”
You have no idea the tremendous influence you can have in the heavenlies and in world events if you become a true intercessor. Wars could be stopped. Floods and earthquakes could be prevented by one person saying to God, “What then will you do for your great name?” The course of an entire nation could be changed by one person saying, “God, if you allow this to happen, then everyone will say the devil had his way. Then what are you going to do for your great name?”
VI. Preparing for Intercession
Every sensible question addressed to God gets a sensible answer. God replied to Joshua’s question, in Joshua 7, by ordering them to “Stand up” (verse 7) and “Consecrate yourselves” (verse 13). That was God’s answer.
What else can God do for His great name in the world today except to say to His children, “Stand and consecrate yourselves.” Too many people have stopped asking questions of God, because they are not prepared to carry out His answers. Instead, they are sidetracked by little, unimportant things, by selfish, pious, even religious things.
Turn to the prophecy in Jeremiah 29:10: “This is what the Lord says, ‘when seventy years are completed for Babylon. I will come to you and fulfill My gracious promise to bring you back to this place'” (NIV).
Seventy years! The plans were fixed, the time was set. Jeremiah had prophesied it: God had plans for Jerusalem.
Years later, Daniel read Jeremiah’s prophecy that God would take His people back to their land. At the time it didn’t look a bit like it could happen. Jerusalem was a heap of ruins and Israel was well entrenched in a faraway country. Daniel himself had served three successive governments in high positions. By now he must have been 90 years old, perhaps no longer able to take a decisive leadership role.
But when he realized the implications of that prophecy, he reacted as an intercessor. In Daniel 9:3 he notes, “So I turned to the Lord.”
Another requirement for an intercessor is to give undivided attention to the Lord. You cannot allow your plans, nor your interests, not even your problems, to receive primary attention, but only the God you serve. Give your attention to the Lord; seek Him by prayer and fasting.
Daniel sought the Lord with sackcloth and ashes… he who had lived like a prince in the palace of the king. Even in that great age, he stripped off his beautiful clothing and put on sackcloth.
Why such “fanaticism?” The return, after seventy years in captivity, would happen because it had already been prophesied. So what is your concern. Daniel? Why be so terribly upset about the matter?
God still needed a man to do what He said had to be done between the prophecy and its fulfillment. There had to come a time of repentance and intercession. God’s prophetic will, no matter how clearly set forth in the Scripture, cannot happen until His conditions are met.
Not everything goes according to the plan of God. The repeated apostasies of Israel were not God’s plan. And the lawlessness of our own country is not God’s plan.
God gave His only begotten Son, the most crucial aspect of His plan. Why, then, do not all subsequent events go according to God’s plan? Because God is looking for intercessors for the world.
VII. The “Superpower” of Intercession
Jesus taught in Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven….” Daniel had those keys. Peter and Paul had them. You can have them, too, as you exercise your role as an intercessor for the world.
What you bind on earth is bound in heaven! We have influence in the affairs of the world, even in matters whose magnitude we cannot understand.
We Christians really have more influence than the leaders of what we call “the superpowers.” These “superpowers” can’t even stop one volcano from erupting… or make one heart beat again. There are really no superpowers in the world: “All power,” He says. “has been given into the hands of Jesus.”
The power of intercession, you see, is based on our relationship with the living God. It’s entering into a partnership with God.
We need to get to know God’s character, because if we know God’s character. We know what God will do tomorrow.
The ministry of intercession for the world is the greatest ministry we can have. Jesus, in His greatest prayer in John 17:9, said “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world….”
Jesus’ ministry in heaven is just that. He is praying for us!
We must accept our responsibility: we must pray for the world.
We become intercessors as we pray for a lost city, as we pray for a lost nation, as we pray for a seemingly lost cause. As we do so, we do the will of God. If something that happens in the world which, without that prayer, would not have happened, that’s the power of our intercession.
We have been called to share the throne life of God. We are not puppets in the hands of an Almighty God who just pulls the strings.
We are people with whom He wants to deal. We are people who can become intimate with a God we can know and understand. That relationship is the secret.
Open the door in your life to real intercession! (The above material was published by Open Doors with Brother Andrew, 1988). Christian Information Network