The Cost of Intercession
Today’s church in Malaysia or other countries are no stranger to the call for intercession to be made to God in unity. The clouds are dark over the world. National and international events are happening at roller coaster rates and are as unpredictable as the weather. But the word intercession may become so familiar that it is sometimes taken lightheartedly. Hence let us try to decipher…
Intercessors are people praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it as in heaven. Hence intercession is our offering to the Father all the time and not limited to Christian workers. To pay someone to be an intercessor is somewhat misleading because it is an ongoing necessity for His children because some church workers who have other job descriptions are also praying. Hence, let us consider the cost one has to pay for intercession but not in funds. It is done willingly and freely. In a way, when a burden is put into our hearts to intercede for a specific reason, it is often described as something to pray through till one senses that God has heard and taken over the burden. This can be achieved by all His children, past, present and future, though some with the specific gift of intercession pray more concertedly.
Let us look at our Lord Jesus, the only worthy High Priest at the throne of God the Father. What did the task of intercession cost the Son of God incarnated as the Son of man? How may we learn from Him? How may we imitate the Saviour?
1.The surrender of our pride of self-sufficiency …
Jesus paid the price of having to humble Himself in order to express His need for His fellowmen’s support while in the Garden of Gethsemane. Was that why for three times He kept returning to look for Peter, James and John (three out of the twelve disciples) in the midst of His struggle to be faithful to His Father’s will? Are we too proud to be ordinary people who need the moral support of our brethren to pray for others? Or do we have to be coaxed, labeled and even paid before we intercede because it is such an important occupation? We actually need His forgiveness of our hypocrisy and reluctance to intercede unless the terms are favourable to us. Self-importance is a sin. Jesus was willing to become a nobody in order to do God’s will even though He is perfect (Isaiah 53:5-9; Hebrew 2).
Jesus was like a tender shoot growing in dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty, no apparent attractiveness; was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows familiar with sufferings and not held in high regard. But He is the most powerful faithful intercessor in history, still is and will be!
There was once a middle-aged lady intercessor who had no permanent place to stay in Kuala Lumpur. She lived on the goodwill of church members as she moved around to be informed and to pray. One day, her pastor booked a pleasant retreat centre for her to rest after staying in his parsonage for a while. She looked haggard and tired on arrival. After a week with God alone, she was much refreshed. Even though poorer than many other church workers, she was grateful for the hideout and donated RM100 to the centre in thanksgiving. Her life, which demonstrated faithfulness and gratefulness, has touched many who knew her.
Are we willing to swallow our pride of self-sufficiency and receive His love and care through others?
2.The acceptance of loneliness
Jesus ached with deep loneliness till almost the end of His mission on earth while He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Nearer the time of His crucifixion, He experienced the ultimate sense of being misunderstood, misinterpreted and scandalized by men and at the verge of being abandoned by the Father because He was to be punished for our sin against the Holy, loving and righteous God.
Satan tried his extreme best to prevent Him from remaining loyal to His beloved Father, from whose hands He received the credentials to come to earth as a man. His mission was to become the atonement for our sins. Very likely Satan taunted Him:
“Your disciples have wasted Your time and effort in training them to carry on Your Father’s mission - look at how sleepy they are when You need their friendship and prayers. If they slack when You are with them, do you think they will do better when You are not with them? Your Father has left You in a lurch; He exists, of course He does, but does He really care for You…when You have to suffer for obeying Him…why bother at all? You are trying too hard! He is taking advantage of You! Might as well do Your own thing. Get out of this mission before You get Yourself and Your loved ones, especially Mary Your mother, into more trouble…many others have succeeded in this world without God’s help…why not You!”
For one who knows what it means to communicate with His loving Father God, to receive His approval all of earthly life, to have lived in His loving embrace in eternity and then to be taunted by His Father’s enemy to distrust His beloved Father’s commitment to Him - is severe testing to the limit of His humanity. On Satan’s side, it was one last push to get Jesus off balance by distrusting and thus dishonouring His Father by disobeying Him. (Sounds familiar in the Garden of Eden? Read Genesis 2 and Matthew 26:36-41)
Which human friend could fully understand His agony? It is indeed easy to be tempted to quit when disappointed, discouraged and depressed. Are we willing to be stretched by loneliness like Jesus was (Matthew 26:36-46) and stand firm in what we know is God’s will?
During my student days, as we were nearing the end of our respective courses, a friend told the Lord that he would be willing to be trained for the pastoral ministry (with returning to Malaysia in mind). But he needed a wife to accompany him first soon after graduation. God kept His side of the bargain but he did not. The fear of loneliness is sometimes deceitful and is not a reason for disobeying God as He has promised to be with us all the time. Probably the temporal security of a developed country was the attraction for him. However, Jesus was faithful to His Father till the task of facing a head on terrifying and horrible unjust crucifixion was finished.
Jesus paid the price of death to self-will for the implementation of complete submission to His Father’s will. The plan for the redemption of sinful man had been drawn up before He became man. He stuck to His part in the covenant of grace in spite of the weakness of the flesh to give up dying for His fellow men and women. (Jesus had no self-will, no self-justification and no resentment in obeying God.)
“Father, if it is possible for Your will to be done…another way…please, Father, please do not let Me go through the crucifixion...I cannot take the separation from You…It hurts a lot without friends’ support, but to be forsaken by You is too much…especially when it is to carry the sin of people who do not seem to care for what I am doing for them!”
Yet, He obeyed till it was “finished” out of loyalty and love for Father God. Are we willing to honour Him in our intercession till the job is done or are we praying His will to be done in our way (John 17:4; Matthew 26:39-44)?
3.The Determination Not to Give Up till God’s task is Completed
Scriptures record that Jesus prayed three times at the Garden of Gethsemane. On the first occasion, He asked to be spared the cup of ultimate sacrificial offering of His life for ours. The second and third prayer records His final total submission to God’s will for Him and the world. I believe that as He persevered, the Holy Spirit taught and empowered Him to do God’s will in His life. Do we dare do less? Could it be that many of the world, church and personal problems still exist because we give up half-way through our intercession for specific people and moved on too quickly to babble the so many “prayer items”? Are we willing to pray in obedience to His voice even when we do not see the fruits of His answers ourselves yet (Hebrews 11:1-40; Habakkuk 3:16-19)? He may answer that particular prayer in this generation or the next; it is His prerogative. Ours is to obey.
4.The Heart to Do It His Way till the End
At the last lapse of His covenanted mission on earth, Jesus accepted the totality of His Father’s will to be executed His way till the end – the way of the cross. Are we willing to pay this price or do we adopt worldly, political, intellectual, professional and commercial methods as the way to do God’s will, thinking that we are being helpful to Him or know more than Him (1 Peter 2:18-25)?
5.Willing to Become the Answer to our Own Prayers
Finally, Jesus became the answer to His very own intercession for His disciples’ atonement, leading to their salvation and reconciliation with God and man. Are we willing to give of our possessions, our family, our ambitions, our possibility of marriage, our time, our energy and our very lives if God chooses to use us as ‘pressed out grapes and broken bread’ (Oswald Chambers in Utmost for His Highest)? Are we willing to meet others’ needs according to God’s will for them and us (1 Peter 2:24)? Or are we concerned only for our loved ones in the natural family?
If we do not feel called to intercede as a vocation, at least we can offer ourselves to Jesus Christ through whom the Great High Priest can intercede (Romans 8). Soon we will be enabled to feel and cry with Him as we identify with His heart’s mission for the world lost in sin.
Really, intercession is a lifestyle, an ongoing activity and not only an intermittent job but it is to be done at a cost. For the Saviour, it cost Him His Father’s love and life…even though it was for a short earthly time, which is a mystery.
Let us pause in silence wherever we are and:
Record your dialogue with God in your diary and heart. Be faithful in what you have prayed. Those who know the Lord will know your faithfulness and thus be encouraged to remain faithful to Jesus Christ alone.