Standing in the Gap
There are lots of people who speak to men about God; we call that preaching. There are lots who speak to men about men, and that's called gossip. But there are few who speak to God about men--that's intercession, that's standing in the gap for people.
In 1 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul wrote, "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (vv. 1-4).
Notice the emphasis Paul put on this activity of praying for people. He said, "I exhort first of all," or, "The most important thing you can do as a matter of priority is to pray." Notice also the different kinds of prayer--supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.
Supplications could be translated requests; it means a request based on a felt need. Now, this kind of prayer is usually no problem; I find that I can easily engage in conversation with God about my needs. And look at the next word--prayers. Whenever this word is used in the New Testament, it refers specifically to prayer focusing on God Himself. In other words, I recognize who I am speaking to: God, who has absolutely no limits and who loves me and has my interests at heart. So, there's a balance to mature Christian prayer: there's supplication, but there's also prayer that focuses on God.
The next part of prayer is where it gets tough: intercessions. As long as I'm praying for myself or worshiping God, I could rattle on for days. But when I start praying for other people, it's very easy for my mind to drift. Look to Jesus as a great example of an intercessor--give John 17 a read. Wouldn't it be great to know that Jesus is praying for you? Well, the Bible says that Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father right now, and "He always lives to make intercession for [us]" (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus' work upon the earth is finished--He died on the cross. But His work in heaven is still going on; He's talking to God about you. Do you believe that today?
And finally, Paul listed thanksgiving--giving of thanks. Thanksgiving should mark not just the prayer life but the lifestyle of a Christian. As Paul wrote in Colossians, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (3:17). When a person thanks God, it indicates that they believe God is good, that the will of their Father is perfect and that He knows best.
Examine your own life: How many gaps are there? How many holes make us vulnerable because our team is not lifting us up, because we haven't said, "Pray for me specifically about this"? Let's stand in the gap for the Christians we know. Let's not cease to pray for one another. And may intercession strengthen the wall around each one of us.
And not only that, but let's pray for those we know who do not yet know Jesus Christ in a personal way. I thank God for the people who prayed for me when I was an unbeliever. There were a lot of them who decided to gang up on me in prayer, and the Holy Spirit was faithful to respond to their prayers.
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