A true masculine man is no chunk of cold, unfeeling granite. In fact, a man who comes to embody the full spectrum of masculinity as exemplified by Jesus Christ comes to possess extraordinary concern and compassion for others, particularly for those who are neediest.
Jesus Christ showed acute awareness of those who suffer. Before He became a human being, the God who became Christ heard the cries of the Israelites in bondage. After He delivered His people, He commanded them to give special care to the widows, the fatherless, the needy.
Even when the Israelites neglected Him, disobeyed Him, ignored Him and rebelled against Him, He showered compassion on them. Then He displayed a supreme act of compassion by becoming a human being. As a man, He subjected Himself not only to death, but also to the worst torture and execution ever. And His Father agonized as He watched this happen to His Son so He could offer eternal life to the people who killed Him.
We serve a God of compassion.
What did Jesus Christ do while He was a human being? He did not spend all His time with those who were wealthy or interesting or popular. He did more than spend time with disciples deep in discussion. He spent much of His time with the poor and the suffering, children and women. He expended much of His effort alleviating their distress.
Throughout His earthly ministry, Christ continually taught and preached and healed. “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
This is how the powerful, sinless God feels when He looks on this pitiful, sinful world. His perspective is not detached, intellectual, analytical. Christ is moved with compassion: He feels pity, concern and sympathy to His very core.
Notice just how Christ responded to what He saw. “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (verses 37-38).
Christ reacted to this suffering by commanding His disciples to pray. He told them to pray on behalf of the Work of God, asking for greater means to help relieve that suffering right then and there.
Today, Jesus Christ is the glorified, majestic God Almighty. He is still concerned about growing God’s Work so it can extend compassion and help people in their suffering and distress.
The compassionate Head of God’s Work has assigned you and me a specific, empathetic mission: to pray for God’s Work. He wants us to pray for more laborers, more reach, more power. Why? To help people! So that more people will be harvested into His Family.
Jesus Christ has done so much to express His love, including sacrificing His life on the stake. But perhaps what He has done more than anything—every day, continually—is pray. Jesus Christ prays as an Intercessor for those who suffer (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). He is High Priest to God’s people, representing our interests before God the Father (Hebrews 2:17-3:1; 4:14-16).
This is one of Christ’s full-time jobs. Before the Father, He pleads the cases of those in need—for instance, you! How much of His life is full of the work of intercession—interceding in prayer for you! This brings His mind into frequent focus on your trials, your problems, your difficulties, your requests.
And when we sin, Christ takes that role one step further and becomes our Advocate (1 John 2:1), pleading our case and beseeching the Father for mercy.
In fulfilling these responsibilities, Christ is actually setting an example for us to follow as men. We have a Christ-like duty to act as intercessors.
This responsibility applies to everyone—men, women and children—who follows Jesus Christ. But consider specifically how intercession is a key part of biblical manhood.
The Duty of a Protector
God has assigned men the duty of protector. This means protecting others from harm, from degradation and deprivation. This means recognizing those who are in need and taking action.
Perhaps the most basic, day-to-day duty of the Christian male intercessor is prayer. Jesus instructed His disciples to pray in His name (e.g. John 14:13-14; 16:23-26). He instructs you, as a Christian and as a man, to intercede for others the way that He does (e.g. Matthew 5:43-48; 6:9-13; 1 Timothy 2:1; James 5:16). He wants you to learn to think about what other people need and to beseech God on their behalf.
In many ways, your prayers are an indicator of how much you think like God. They reveal how much of Christ’s mind you have. They reveal how much you think about and advocate for the needs of others. That includes people in your family, in your congregation, in the Church and in this world. How much do you think about relieving their suffering and distress?
The more you intercede, the more Christ is in your prayer.
This is not only a measure of how much you think like God: It is also a tool to enable you to think more like God. If you drive yourself to pray more for others—to turn aside from praying for yourself and discipline yourself to pray for someone who is going through a health trial or a friend struggling to overcome a shortcoming—then you are thinking and acting more like Jesus Christ.
We who strive for biblical manhood need to continually strive to make intercession the main part of our prayers.
How to Intercede
How can you become a more Christ-like intercessor? Consider these practical steps.
Diligently maintain a prayer list. When you hear about something that would be good to pray for on someone’s behalf, you might think, I’ll remember that. But with something as important as this, you need to write it down. It is not a bad idea to record the names of all the people you regularly encounter and to note situations as they come up. Looking at those names also helps you realize that everyone is going through something. This also helps you be aware of people you haven’t talked with in a while. Seek out those who are in trial. Be alert during your discussions and listen for details you can pray about. During the week, give them a call or visit when needed and where possible. How much of an effect can you have on someone else’s trial? What if God would intervene for that person if you fervently prayed for him or her?
Let God judge others, not you. If you see someone struggling with an attitude or a coarseness or a sin that you find off-putting, don’t be put off! Rally to that individual, and pray that God will help him. If you are having trouble with someone, pray for that person, and your thoughts might turn from criticism to empathy. When we beat our prayers fine like incense, we have to meditate on others—their hopes, their needs, their struggles. That helps us think about them more like God does.
Set a goal to pray for a specific number of people every day. In an hour-long prayer session, consider devoting at least 10 minutes to praying for 10 different people. This is probably a good minimum of daily intercession for others. You might even hold out your hand and count them down on your fingers to keep yourself on task.
Pray daily for your wife and your children. Praying for them is part of your duty as their protector. You need God to watch out for them and to keep them safe physically. You also need to beseech Him to protect them spiritually. You know their weaknesses and faults. You need to be like a minister praying for the people he shepherds—and it is a sin for a minister not to pray for the people he shepherds! (1 Samuel 12:23). In principle, that is true of a man’s duty toward his family.
Fuel your prayers for God’s Work with compassion for the world. Christ’s example in Matthew 9 is striking: He had compassion, not just on members of His family or on His disciples, but on the unconverted masses. He deeply empathized with the multitude and implored His followers to pray for a more effective Work to reach them! Paul wrote that we should make supplications,prayers, intercessions and even thanksgivings for all men! (1 Timothy 2:1-4). God instructs us to think about all mankind because His plan includes all of them. He wants all to be saved and to learn the truth. God wants us to develop a “largest audience possible” mindset in our daily prayers. Bring more of God’s thinking into your prayers: Show real concern and love for all men.
Pray for your enemies and those who hurt you. God loves and extends mercy to those who hurt Him time and time again, and that includes us! In a sense this reveals God’s love in its purest form. Pray for those who have turned their backs on God. It grieves God to see someone turn away from Him and toward Satan and his way of hate, misery and pain. God wants to save His children, and He wants you to show patience, love, mercy and compassion to all His children. One of the most powerful ways you can do that is through fervent intercessory prayer. Is your love deep enough to think about, care about and remember to pray for these people?
Jesus Christ prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He is the great Advocate, the High Priest and Intercessor. He prays to the Father on behalf of the weak, the sick, the needy, the ignorant, the suffering. He wants you to do this too. So use intercessory prayer to develop more of God’s compassion every day.