Monday, May 22, 2006

The Guest Room: Place of Intercession

The Guest Room in the Mansion of Prayer is where we spend time hanging out with God as we pray for the needs of other people. Paul exhorted Timothy to offer prayers on behalf of all men (Second Timothy 2:1). The idea of intercession describes one that goes to his father on behalf of another or a person who entered a king’s presence to submit a request for another person. You can see Abraham interceding for Sodom (Genesis 18:23-33) and the example of Moses who interceded for Israel as God prepared to punish them for making and worshipping the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:1-14). In Ephesians 6:18, Paul commands us to pray “at all times for all of the Saints.”

But just how do we do this effectively? It really involves two things. First, there must be intensity. Praying for others in a lackadaisical way has no effect. In Acts 12:5, when Luke describes the church praying for Peter who was in prison awaiting execution, he says that they prayed “fervently.” This is a medical term that describes stretching a muscle to its limit. That takes energy. In Romans 15:30, Paul asks the church at Rome not just to pray for him but to “agonize” in prayer for him. That takes intensity.

A great example of someone who prayed for others like this is a hero of the New Testament named Epaphras who is talked about in Colossians 4. He was a member of the church of Colosee and according to verse 7, he was involved in evangelism and discipleship and was very quick to serve others. According to verse 12, he was also submissive and had suffered for sharing his faith in Christ (see Philemon 23).

But take a careful look at Colossians 4:12. Notice how he prayed for the church. First, his intercession was frequent. He prayed “always.” This is an adverb of time showing persistence and frequency (the same idea as in First Thessalonians 5:17). In other words, he saw praying for others as a priority. Do you?

His intercession was also intense. He “labored earnestly.” Like in Romans 15:30, this is where we get our word “to agonize.” It was used to speak of wrestling or hand to hand combat. Tell me, do you pray for others with that kind of intensity?

Finally, his prayers for others were specific. He prayed specifically that they would stand perfect and that they would be fully assured in the will of God for their lives. He didn’t just pray a casual, “God, bless the church.”

So what is the key to open this room to greater effectiveness? I believe the key is to identify with the person you are praying for. In Hebrews 13:3, Paul speaks of remembering in prayer those who were in prison for their faith as if you were in prison with them. If I heard that your child was diagnosed with leukemia, I would pray for them. But if it were my child, I would pray much more intensely. Imagine how our prayers for others would change if we would pray for the as if their need were really our need? That’s the type of intercessor I want when needs come into my life, don’t you?

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