My father in the ministry and mentor was Calvin Coolidge Inman. He was a man of prayer. He kept a notebook with pictures of those he prayed for. He prayed for certain people on certain day. Several years ago, I was going through the most horrific crisis of my life and I had serious doubts as to whether or not I would survive. I had lunch with Bro. Inman at Ryan’s in Decatur and he assured me that he was praying for me. By the grace of God and no credit to myself, I survived that storm and I have always believed that Bro. Inman’s prayers had something to do with my survival. I believe in the ministry of intercession and in this message I want to show you from scripture how this ministry is vital.
THE BIBLICAL RECORD OF INTERCESSION
- Genesis 19:26-But God had listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe, removing him from the disaster that engulfed the cities on the plain.
- Genesis 20:17–Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants, so they could have children.
Exodus 8:8-Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Entreat the LORD that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.”
- Exodus 32:31-So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a terrible sin these people have committed. They have made gods of gold for themselves. But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, erase my name from the record you have written!”
- Samuel: I Samuel 12:23- Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.
- Job: Job 42:10-The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.
- Jesus: Luke 22:31-32- “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
THE MINISTRY OF INTERCESSION
Aging can be tough: an elderly woman asked her pastor, “Why do you suppose God is keeping me here? He didn’t know how to answer her question so he sat silently, praying for wisdom and she answered herself….She began talking about her son who was a heavy burden on her heart. He did not show any love for Jesus our His body the church. He lived in open rebellion against the teachings of Christ. It was evident that she loved this wayward son like no one else on earth. In listening to her the pastor found the answer and he told her…”Look, no one loves your son like you. Who would intercede for him if you were gone? Suddenly she realized that her ministry was not over.
- It is common knowledge that most people develop their passion before retirement. If you’ve never done woodwork, it is not likely to become a passion when you turn 65. You need to develop some passion for things that you can do with or without a young or healthy body. One of these things is intercession. You can’t say, “Well, when I retire, I will start a ministry of intercession. Probably will not happen. But if you develop the passion, you can carry it to your departing moment. The very last thing you are going to do on this earth is pray. I wish I could arm Senior Adults by helping them to see that their most productive years lie ahead.
- Intercession enriches you personally. You will gain by praying for others, just like Job…The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold. A man came to his pastor about a person who had betrayed him. He said to the preacher: “I can’t forgive him and even if I could, I would not.” The pastor said, “I’m not asking you to forgive him but I will ask you to pray for him, Jesus taught us Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.” “I can’t pray for him after what he did to me,” he responded. “I’m not asking you to pray for God to bless him, I just said talk to God about this situation and lift his name up.” The pastor was very intelligent. Let me tell you what you cannot do in prayer: you cannot run another person down. Try it if you don’t believe me. A pastor friend of mine came up with an ingenious way to deal with criticism, simply agree with them and then kneel and asked them to lay hands on and pray. Prayer melts anger and hate.
- Prayer enriches those for whom we pray. When Martin Luther was having an unusually good time or felt particularly strong, he would exclaim, “I feel as if I were being prayed for”. He was not kidding. Bro. Inman told me more than once, “Jack, you will feel the prayers of your people and you will also feel their criticism and you’ll have a good idea of who is doing what.” Over the years I have marveled at his wisdom. When he first told me these things, I thought, “There is no way that a preacher can feel the prayers of his people but I have changed my mind. Ken Blackwood wrote me a long thank you letter. They were blown away by your generous offering but Ken said, the thing that impressed Allison and I the most was the laying on of hands and the anointing of prayer. You say, “If I had a choice, I’d take the $2,500,” but your are not a missionary. I have never meet a true missionary that did not covet prayer more than anything else. Unfortunately, this has been a slow developing thing in my life but I am in agreement with the missionaries. If you came to me and said, “Bro. Jack, I will either support you in prayer in 2014 or I will support you financially, I would not hesitate to tell you…keep your money…but don’t dare stop praying for me.
- Intercession also inspires and guides. God most often speaks to me through His Word and prayer. Many times, God speaks to me while I am listening to someone else pray. There have been times that I had no sense of direction and didn’t know what to do next but during a prayer meeting, God would speak clearly and I would have absolute confidence which direction to take. I have been inspired to write cards, letters and make visits because of intercession.
WAYS TO IMPROVE OUR INTERCESSION
Let me be honest, half of this top ten list comes from chapter 21 of Charles Allen’s book, “All Things Are Possible Through Prayer.”
- When you intercede, ask for specific things. Pray like a rifle not a shotgun. Shotgun prayer are ineffective because you have no way of knowing if or when they are answered. Example of a shotgun prayer: “Dear God save all the lost, feed all the hungry and heal all the sick.” That prayer does cover a wide area but it has not power. The laser is a powerful instrument because of its focus. A laser is a light that is concentrated on one tiny spot. Pray like a rifle or a laser. Pray for specific people and needs; then you will know when God answers your prayer. Not long ago [last summer] I prayed about a specific need in my life. It was a little embarrassing so I did not share the need with anyone other than the LORD. Out of the blue came an invitation to preach a revival at another church. I was hesitant to go because I am not an evangelist but the pastor assured me that he was following the LORD’s instructions. God used this church to meet that need. I did not mention it to them or the pastor. I knew it was a direct answer from heaven because I had prayed about a specific need.
- Visualize the person for whom you are praying. Bro. Inman kept a note-book with photos. He would look at your picture and then pray for you.
- Recall a story from the life of Jesus that relates to the situation you are praying about. Example: if it is an issue of forgiveness you can think about the story of the woman caught in adultery.
- Literally, think of yourself as introducing the person to the LORD, presenting them, or even lifting them up to Him. A good story is found in Mark 2 where the guys actually lowered a friend into the presence of Jesus.
- Be open and honest: God knows your heart. Do not try to hide anger, resentment or your inability to show forgiveness. Talk openly with Him about these things. It may take some time but prayer is going to melt the resentment and anger so keep praying.
- Keep praying to you get an answer: someone said, “God answers pray four ways: yes, no, wait and you must be kidding.”
- Write your prayers. Keep a prayer journal. Go back one year later and read the journal. You are going to be shocked.
- Make Christ your delight. When you get to the place that all you want is what He wants then He will give you the desires of your heart.
- Remember: physical death due to cancer and other diseases does not spell defeat for a believer. All of us have suffered the disappointment of asking God to heal a friend or love one only to see them depart this world due to their sickness. It was a lost to us but is was a marvelous gain to them. You and I cannot imagine what a wonder promotion they received.
- Prayer is a tri-fold ministry: it helps us, it helps others and it is one of the highest forms of worship. We cannot pray without drawing near and God loves to have conversation with His children.