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In Prayer, You Don't Just Talk To God, He Talks To You Too
In our last lesson we mentioned that prayer is not just talking to God like a one way phone conversation. It is a two way relationship. And in any real relationship, there is effective two-way communication. In other words, you don't just talk to God in prayer, He also talks to you and draws you into a closer and more intimate relationship with Him.
So, what are some of the things God might choose to talk about, especially in the early days when you are first building that deep and intimate relationship with Him?
One of the first things God will do is to expose areas of your life that He wants to change. He will bring them to the surface and make you aware of them. Don't become afraid and pull back when He does that. The first few weeks where I spent time in intimacy prayer with God, all that seemed to happen was that God would bring up past sins and failures. At first I would be horrified by what He showed me, then I would repent and experience His cleansing. Something happened inside of me, some sort of inner transformation. I became free from these things as I dealt with them before God. They stopped having power over me. And I think that was the reason that God brought them up and forced me to deal with them. We did this for so long that I became convinced my prayer life would always look like that and all I'd ever do in my intimacy time with God was to repent and receive forgiveness. But we eventually moved out of that phase. He still brings things up from time to time it has become a much smaller part of my prayer life than it was in the early days.
When God brings conviction, the enemy will usually try to jump in and tell you that you can't approach God because you are "dirty" or not holy enough. That is just a lie designed to divert you from this process with God. Don't believe the enemy lies. Instead, believe what God says on this topic. He has quite a bit to say on it. Let's look at some verses.
Ro 5:8 tell us that God loves us even when we have sin in our life. It says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
There are several verses that assure us that if we get ourselves dirty with sin, God will clean us up and forgive us. Is 43:25 says, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins." 1 John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Hebrews 10:22-23 tells us that we don't have to be afraid to approach God, because He is faithful to forgive us. "22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."
We don't have to be afraid to approach God, fearing we are too dirty. God doesn't want us to run away from Him in fear. That is not "fearing God," that is being afraid of Him because we don't trust that the blood of Jesus will really work in our case.
Fearing God is a reverent respect for Him, it draws us to Him, makes us desire to do things to please Him. Fear of God drives us to God on His terms, we desire to do things His way. On the other hand, being afraid of God pushes us away from God, it makes us want to avoid Him, to run from Him, to be afraid that His desires for us are unpleasant, etc. We are not to be afraid of God, but we are to fear Him. We are to respect Him and desire to please Him and to be willing to do it "His way".
We don't have to be afraid when God brings conviction and cleansing to us. At first it may seem like the only item on His agenda. But we will get past that stage. Then He will start to talk to us about many other areas as well. He will speak to us of our calling and destiny. He may tell us about how He wants to move in our day-to-day life. He may reveal a deeper understanding of His nature to us. He may even tell us about something that is about to happen to us or in world events. He may choose to answer some of the questions we have been asking Him. He might tell us how He feels about certain current events. There are many different things that God might choose to speak to us about in prayer.
We have just spent a lot of time talking about what prayer is. Now, lets change gears and talk about what intercession is.
What is Intercession?
The Revell Concise Bible Dictionary gives us one definition of intercession. It says, "Intercession, addressed to God, is prayer for another person, usually to obtain God's help. Intercession is embedded in the concept of the priesthood, especially the Role of the High Priest, Heb 5:1 'Every High Priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins'."
Another popular definition of intercession comes from Ezekiel 22:30, which defines intercession as "Standing in the gap" on behalf of another, of asking God to have mercy on them and forgive them instead of giving them what they deserve and punishing them. The verse reads, "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before Me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it..."
Standing in the gap is born out of a personal friendship with God. It is basically asking Him to withhold judgment on someone else for the sake of your own relationship with Him. It is the same concept as what Moses did when the Lord became so angry with the Children of Israel that He wanted to destroy them all and start all over building a new people from Moses. Moses used his intimacy and relationship with God to say something along the lines of "God please don't destroy for the sake of my relationship with You, and the relationship of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob." And for the sake of those relationships, God spared the people of Israel and did not destroy them like He wanted to. You can read the account in Ex 32:9-14.
Intercession is very biblical. It seems that God expects His children to both pray and intercede. We are admonished to intercede for each other in the New Testament. 1 Timothy 2:1 says, "I urge you, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone." James 5:16 says, "... Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
While all believers are called to pray and intercede, God calls some of us to it at a deeper level; He sort of gifts some of us as intercessors. If we feel called as intercessors, we are in good company, because Jesus intercedes for us. First, His death on the cross was intercession for us. Isaiah 53:12 puts it this way, "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
After rising from the dead, He continues to intercede for us. Hebrews 7:25 says, "Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them." and Romans 8:34 says, "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ Who died, and furthermore is also risen, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also makes intercession for us."
And Romans 8:26-27 tells us that the Holy Spirit also intercedes for us. It says, "26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And He Who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."
So, intercession is "agreeing with God for His perfect will on behalf of others." God reveals His will to us in two ways -- the Bible and the Holy Spirit speaks to us and leads and guides our prayers.
From the Bible, we know that:
- God desires for all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9)
- God desires for His kingdom to advance (Luke 11:2)
- God desires to give good gifts to His children (Matt 7:7-11)
- God desires to meet our needs (Luke 12:22-31)
- God desires for us to be fully equipped (2 Timothy 3:17)
- God desires us to be mature in Him (Colossians 4:12)
- God desires the fullness of Christ to be manifest in our lives (Ephesians 4:13)
- God desires for us to obey Him (John 14:15, 15:14)
- God desires to be our Lord/boss (Matt 7:21)
- God desires for us to be in unity (John 17:23)
- God desires for us to be full of His love and joy and peace (Gal 5:22, John 17:13)
- God desires that we lack nothing (James 1:4)
If you are a bit stuck on how to pray for someone, then look to the Bible for God's will for that type of situation and pray that over them. You can never go wrong by praying in agreement with scripture.
However, intercession is also being led of His Spirit to find what He desires to do in a given situation. Here is a simple four-step approach to be spirit-led in our prayers: 1) draw near to Him, 2) ask Him what His will is, 3) wait for Him to answer, 4) pray His will. (We will look a bit more at hearing Him speak to us in a future lesson.)