By Pastor Mitch Horton | July 2002 | Posted in • Archives | (1) Comments
For the past several months, I‘ve been discussing the importance of prayer. This month I want to continue the theme of prayer and continue discussing the prayer of intercession.
I Timothy 2:1 reads, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men…” One of the prayers that we can pray as noted in this verse is the prayer of intercession. Webster’s Dictionary defines to intercede as: 1) to plead or make in behalf of another or others and 2) to intervene for the purpose of producing agreement; mediate.
Of course, we never intercede for ourselves! This is a prayer that is always prayed for others. To intercede in the biblical sense also means to take another’s place.
There is a deeper realm of prayer available that many believers have not known existed. There is a realm of intercession that goes beyond the mental and reaches into the spiritual world for aid and help for others. We are often confronted with our inability to know how to pray effectively for others. And that is where the Holy Spirit comes to help us!
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).
This verse reveals some rich treasure for our prayer life! Notice in the first part of the verse that it says “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.” Our weaknesses are that we don’t know how to effectively pray. And the Holy Spirit comes to our aid to enable us to pray productively. The word helps is the compound word sunantilambano in the Greek language. It means to take hold together with against. When we don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will take hold together with us against the situation and will help us pray it through to victory.
I believe that the phrase “with groanings which cannot be uttered” in verse 26 refers to praying in the Spirit, or praying in other tongues. The Amplified Bible translates this phrase “with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance.” The New English Bible reads, “but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit Himself is pleading.”
Believers that are baptized with the Holy Spirit have the ability to pray in the Spirit, or in other tongues (see Acts 2:4; Acts 10:44-46; Acts 19:1-6). And sometimes, if we will give ourselves to some extended time in prayer, the Holy Spirit will “take hold together with us against” certain things we’re praying about.
Sometimes, in praying for the lost, we may find that travail in the Spirit will manifest. Remember that in Isaiah 66:8 we read, “as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children.” The apostle Paul mentioned this travail in praying for new believers in Galatians 4:19 when he said, “My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” He was praying for their spiritual maturity and as he did, he found himself travailing in prayer for them. This travail mentioned in Isaiah 66 and Galatians 4 is the same as what is mentioned in Romans 8: 26 when we read of the Holy Spirit helping our weaknesses in prayer.
Believers of yesteryear found themselves praying this way before and during moves of God that changed many lives. Charles Finney attributed the revivals that accompanied his ministry in America in the 1800’s to the spirit of prayer that prevailed. One man, Father Nash, would often come to a city several weeks prior to Finney’s revival meetings. He would check himself into a hotel and pray, not even coming out to eat for days at a time. On one occasion, the owner of the hotel where he was staying was concerned because of the groaning noises that he heard coming from Father Nash’s room. He inquired of Finney when he arrived if Finney knew what was wrong with the man. Finney replied that he should not worry because Father Nash was simply travailing in prayer for the upcoming meeting. A great move of the Spirit of God followed.
Historically, a spirit of travailing prayer among those involved has preceded every major move of God in every generation. Just as babies are born through the travail of the mother, so spiritual babies are born through the spiritual travail of the saints of God. If we’re not seeing new converts in our churches, it may be because we’ve neglected to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us and help us in travailing prayer!
In our day, we’ve replaced prayer with technological advances, programs that appeal to the unsaved, and events geared to cater to the flesh of the saint and sinner alike in order to draw a large crowd. And that’s the reason we sometimes lack the spiritual results that we know we should see in the church.
I believe that the Spirit of God is searching through every local church looking for those who will yield to the spirit of prayer and travail. He wants to once again invade our parched lives with life from heaven! And it will only happen as we pursue the Holy Spirit’s aid in prayer!
I want to encourage you to begin a sincere life of prayer and intercession. The salvation of the lost depends on our obedience in prayer. Instead of criticizing your pastor or church leaders, turn your energy toward standing in the gap for your pastor, church family, and community. Ask the Lord for the rain of the Spirit to fall in your community and church. Become a part of the solution to the spiritual lukewarmness of our times and not a part of the problem. The Holy Spirit is awaiting our commitment to prayer. Let’s get after it!
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