The Ministry of Intercession

My wife and I have been challenged by the life story of Rees Howells. He was raised in a Welsh mining village a century ago and grew to be a man of great spiritual zeal and witness. This founder of the Bible College of Wales demonstrated the amazing potential of intercessory prayer. His biography recounts the ways in which God often brought people to salvation, provided financial needs, and physical healings through faithful, believing prayer. His intercession was based upon a surrendered life and full reliance upon God.[1]

In Biblical history, Moses was a famous intercessor. Jessie Penn-Lewis observed,

“As we read on in the record of the marvelous life of obedience and faith which sprang from that interview with God on Mount Horeb, the words ‘Moses cried to the Lord’ meet us at every turn. When the people he had brought out through each suffering and conflict turned upon him, his resource was God. Boldly the faithful servant is permitted to speak to Jehovah, as again and again he throws back upon Him the responsibility of the fretful Hebrews.”[2]

Episodes in the life of Moses convey three incentives for intercessory prayer.

1. God’s co-partnership

The first is recorded in Exodus 17:8-16. Here the Israelites were attacked during their wilderness journey by the army of Amalek. While Joshua led the army of Israel, Moses climbed up a hill overlooking the battlefield and prayed for God’s victory for His people. The text states,

“And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” (Exodus 17:11-13).

Notice how the agency of the soldier and the agency of the intercessor were both necessary for victory. “Joshua is sent out to fight, as though there was no uplifted ‘rod’ on the hill-top; and Moses must lift up the rod at the cost of suffering and strain, as though there were no armed men fighting the foe in battle, because the time had come when Israel must learn the lesson of co-partnership with God, and the people of God learn from the object lesson how to work with God in prayer.”[3] In our lives today we too need to cooperate with God through practical obedience as well as intercessory prayer.

2. God’s mercy

The next example in Moses’ prayer life comes in the aftermath of the golden calf episode. Before Moses can even come down from the mountain with the tablets of God’s law, the people commit crass idolatry by making the calf idol. God expresses His holy anger as He says to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation” (Exodus 32:9-10). Moses stands in the gap and intercedes for the sinful nation (Exodus 32:11-14).

J. Oswald Sanders observed,

“Like all great leaders, Moses was sifted by the test of ambition … The test was the more searching since it was God who initiated the suggestion. Never was Moses’ selflessness and nobility of character more clearly seen than in his reaction. His concern was solely for the glory of God and the welfare of His people. Audaciously and tenaciously he laid hold of God and through his intercession averted judgment on the apostate nation.”[4]

When we intercede in prayer our motive should likewise be selfless compassion for those who need divine mercy. Moses’ identification with his people was so great that he was willing to take their punishment. He prayed, “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin–but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written” (Exodus 32:32). What compassion!

3. God’s presence

The third passage about Moses’ prayer life is Exodus 33, where he enjoyed face to face communion with God in the tent of meeting. In his prayer he asked for God’s continued presence in their wilderness journey:

“If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth” (Exodus 33:15,16).

The Lord also answered this petition, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name”(Exodus 33:17). How wonderful that our Savior will never leave nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5).

This caliber of intercession requires the believer to fully reckon his identification with Christ. As F.J. Huegel wrote,

“It is when we realize our oneness with Christ in death, and in resurrection, that prayer becomes the marvelous force that we find it was in the life of the Savior; the invincible dynamic that reveals itself to be in the book of Acts; and the ineffable experience of the great saints of the ages. It is then that our spirits, liberated by the power of the cross, from the fleshly and soulish entanglements, ‘mount up with wings as eagles.’ … It is then that prayer becomes a working out of the will of God, and therefore, must prevail, be the difficulties what they may, however staggering the problem, however great the need.”[5]

With Christ as our life, prayer need not be a chore, but a glorious opportunity to cooperate with God. With Christ as our advocate in heaven and the indwelling Holy Spirit as our intercessor, let us follow Moses’ example and mature in the ministry of intercession.

Prayer: We thank You for making Your righteous throne a throne of grace for us. May we depend upon the intercessory ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, always confident of Christ as our advocate. In Your merciful name, amen.

[1] Norman Grubb,Rees Howells–Intercessor. (CLC)

[2] Jessie Penn-Lewis,Face to Face. (CLC), p.36

[3] Jessie Penn-Lewis,Communion With God. (CLC), p.44

[4] J. Oswald Sanders,Bible Men of Faith, p.67,68

[5] F.J.Huegel,Bone of His Bone, p.98,99

Copyright 1999 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. 2nd edition. Please credit the author and Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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