God is acutely aware of others’ suffering. In the Old Testament, He heard the cries of the Israelites in bondage and delivered them. He legislated that His nation give special care to widows, the fatherless and the needy. When the Israelites neglected, disobeyed and rebelled against Him, He extended mercy. He showed immense compassion by becoming a human being, spending time and effort with the poor and needy, then subjecting Himself to the worst torture and execution ever! His Father agonized while watching this ravagement of His Son.
There is no question that we serve a God of compassion!
Here is one example from Matthew 9:36: “But when he [Christ] saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” This is how the powerful, sinless God thinks when He looks on this pitiable, sinful world.
Notice Christ’s reaction to this suffering: “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). He immediately thought about the Work and what it could do to relieve the distress.
Today, Jesus Christ, again a glorified spirit God Being, is still concerned about the Work. His Work today is still aimed at extending compassion and helping people who are suffering. The compassionate Head of God’s Work has assigned you and me the same specific, empathetic duty: to pray for the Work so it can help more people.
After He sacrificed His life and was resurrected, Christ ascended to God and began to continually pray for those in need. He is an intercessor for those who suffer.
Your duty and mine is to intercede like Christ intercedes.
Our Intercessor and Advocate
Look at the inspiring vision the Apostle John received, recorded in Revelation 4, of God’s throne room in heaven. John saw the radiant throne surrounded by 24 elders—majestic, stately angelic beings serving as part of God’s heavenly administration. John then described seven angels and four angelic “beasts,” who worship God constantly. He also saw that these angels all hold harps, “and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints” (Revelation 5:8).
When we kneel down to pray, our prayers are delivered before God in golden vials in the hands of these angelic beings! Our prayers are so important to our Father that He has spiritual infrastructure in His throne room created specifically for the incense offered by His people.
Notice who else is in the throne room with the Father: “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain …” (verse 6). This Lamb is Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, sharing God’s throne (1 Peter 3:22; Revelation 3:21).
Before our prayers reach the Father, they go through Jesus Christ. He takes that incense and acts as our Intercessor (Romans 8:34). He brings each petition before His Father on our behalf. So much of His effort and energy is put into these intercessory prayers. His mind is constantly focused on our trials, problems, difficulties, requests.
And when we sin, Christ takes that role even further and becomes our Advocate (1 John 2:1), pleading our case and beseeching the Father for mercy.
What a wondrous process! God puts a high premium on hearing and answering our prayers. These scriptures show that some of the highest levels of the angelic realm are involved in our prayers—as well as both of only two God Beings in the universe!
This is particularly true when we follow Christ’s own example by prioritizing intercessory prayer—praying for others.
Our daily prayers should include praise, thanksgiving and repentance. But the majority of our prayers should be intercessory prayers: praying for God’s Work and for other people. We must become skilled at praying in detail for others. The more spiritually mature we are, the more this will form the heart of our prayers.
Praying for others can help them a lot. But you can also profoundly benefit from daily interceding on behalf of other people! The time you spend interceding in prayer is not only a measure of your conversion, it is a tool to grow in conversion. If you drive yourself to pray less for yourself and more for a member with a health trial, a friend struggling to overcome a fault, or that personal appearance campaign aimed at reaching Trumpet subscribers, then you are thinking and acting more like Jesus Christ.
Consider all that you can learn from daily interceding on behalf of other people and God’s Work.
Illustrating God’s Government
When Abraham was journeying through the land of Gerar, he was afraid the king would take his wife, Sarah. Though he had tried this once before unsuccessfully, Abraham told Sarah to say she was his sister. The plan didn’t work this time either: King Abimelech took her anyway.
After the king brought Sarah home, God spoke to him in a dream, saying, “Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife” (Genesis 20:3). Abimelech protested. But God responded, “[R]estore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine” (verse 7). For Abimelech and his household to live, Abraham would have to pray for him. The king’s own prayer wasn’t good enough.
Why? Because God wanted to teach this king who His man was.
This story illustrates that there are times when intercessory prayer can show us God’s government.
Another scriptural example will hit closer to home.
“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray …” (James 5:13). Afflicted means to undergo hardship or suffer trouble. God says the appropriate response to trial is to pray—pray for your own needs. Particularly in those circumstances, we need to draw close to God.
The next verse talks about a special case: “Is any sick among you?” it asks. But the answer this time isn’t to pray for yourself. The verse continues, “[L]et him call for the elders of the church; and let thempray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (verse 14). James specifically states that healing comes from the intercessory prayer of God’s ministry (verse 15).
Why wouldn’t your own prayer be good enough in this case? There are probably several reasons why God does it this way. Perhaps He wants people to understand the seriousness of physical sin, and thus makes calling on that sacrifice—the stripes of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24)—more involved. (Request a free copy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet The Plain Truth About Healing to understand this crucial biblical truth.) Perhaps He wants to give the ministry an opportunity to evaluate a person’s faith and spiritual maturity to better serve him.
Certainly He wants to confirm people’s understanding of government in the Church, requiring that people look to the ministry in this case. Perhaps God even wants to evaluate the minister’s attitude toward the person—for example, testing whether the minister continues to pray for that individual after the anointing.
Whatever the case, this is a situation where God commandsintercessory prayer.
God expects His ministers to be a praying ministry. But the responsibility for intercessory prayer goes beyond the ministers.
The Apostle James commands, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). This verse doesn’t say, “Pray for yourself that you may be healed.” God wants us to pray one for another. How much do you draw strength and support from the other members in the Church? Conversely, how do you feel when someone else asks for your prayers?
Another marvelous benefit to intercessory prayer is that it can help us conquer selfishness and vanity.
This verse shows that God hears the intercessions of His people! How much impact can you have in someone else’s health trial? How many people in prayer does it require to cause God to intervene in a certain trial?
The Good News of September-October 1969 said, “[T]here seems to be a law of prayer that one person praying for another carries more weight with God than one man praying for himself.”
That is not natural. Particularly when we are in a trial, our prayers can begin turning inward, focusing on ourselves and our troubles. Some people’s physical pain can be so intense that it is difficult to focus attention on anything else. In a way, that is probably how we all tend to be: Whatever pain or problem we might have, it is easy for that to dominate our minds—and our prayers.
We must struggle daily against selfishness in our prayer life.
“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (verses 19-20). How could any of us “convert” such a sinner? This isn’t directed just at the ministry, who may counsel someone who has been suspended from services because of a major sin. Remember, the context here is intercessory prayer!
In Romans 16:17-18, God instructs that someone in His Church who acts contrary to Him must be put out of the Church, and members must suspend their relationships with him. When this happens, God says that we should not bear them ill will, but pray for their repentance. How much love do we show those people? Do we forget about them? We are living in the Laodicean era of God’s Church (Revelation 3:14-22), when the great majority of God’s people are in danger of losing their eternal lives! It grieves God to see a member turn away from Him and toward Satan and his way of hate, selfishness and pain. It should grieve us too, and drive us to our knees! Pray regularly for those who have left God’s Church.
When you see someone having a spiritual problem, take it to God. When you see your mate struggling with something, diligently pray for him or her. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much—and he who converts a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sins.
James 5:20 says we can actually hide sins. Note that it doesn’t specify whose sins. Might God be quicker to forgive our sins when He sees us fervently praying for the forgiveness of others’ sins?
Intercessory prayer is truly God’s way of give in action. It is a powerful antidote to our carnal selfishness.
If you want to become a more Christ-like intercessor, diligently maintain your prayer list. When you hear about something that would be good to pray for on someone’s behalf, write it down. It’s too important to risk forgetting. Keep a list of the people you can pray for: your family, people in your congregation, your co-workers and so on. Looking at those names helps you realize that everyone is going through something. Aim to pray for a certain number of people every day—perhaps five to ten people in 10 minutes during an hour of prayer.
James 4:3 shows that one main reason prayers go unanswered is that they are too selfish. How much more does it move God when He sees us placing the needs of others before His throne—showing our concern—beseeching Him on their behalf?
Look again at the model prayer Christ gave His disciples: “Our Father …. Give us …. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive …. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil …” (Matthew 6:9-13). The entire prayer is spoken in a collective sense!
It may not even occur to us to ask for our daily bread, because maybe we already have it. But there are many people who may not have enough to eat!
Lead us not into temptation. It can be so easy to focus only on the trials you face. But think beyond yourself. Pray for the spiritual success of fellow spiritual family members—especially if you know someone who is struggling with a spiritual problem.
Forgive us our debts. The Bible contains some tremendous examples of leaders who asked for collective forgiveness—even when they were not personally at fault. Read Nehemiah’s example in Nehemiah 1. Or Ezra 9, which shows Ezra fasting and praying on behalf of the nation of Israel.
Ezra prayed a deeply moving prayer of repentance for the nation. Ezra blushed and was greatly ashamed. The nation was all one family. Ezra set us an example in family repentance. … Do we realize that when we sin, we affect the entire family? … God’s pcg ministry and members must learn to stay on top of serious problems and not let them develop. But when they do happen, we need to take them to God.
Yes, your sins affect the entire family. That being the case, so do the sins of your brothers and sisters in the Church! Thus, it is in your best interest that others are as spiritually successful as possible! Understanding this truth can better motivate you to pray forgive us our debts.
Notice the Prophet Daniel’s example: “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments” (Daniel 9:3-5).
Do you see how Daniel approached God? He said we. … Although Daniel himself had not forsaken God, he knew his people had. … Daniel loved his family enough to cry out to God, “We have sinned.” Daniel had so much depth! That’s because he had God’s love.
We cannot let our love become shallow. We are Christ’s Bride. And some of the members of that body have turned away from their Husband. Then there are those in the world, all of whom have the potential to be born into God’s Family as children. Are we motivated to reach God’s Family—even those who are only potential members of that Family? Jesus Christ died for all humanity. Is there that much depth to our love?
You can see how our prayers are really a measure of our love.
A Way to End Your Trial?
Job was a righteous man who endured a series of terrible trials—loss of personal property and family, and a cripplingly painful health trial. He had a strong relationship with God (Job 1:1, 5), and prayed intensively throughout his trial. But he was not healed. Nevertheless, in the end, Job learned the important lesson God was teaching him through those trials (Job 42:1-6).
Afterward, God turned His attention to Job’s friends, who had accused and railed against him because of the trial. “My wrath is kindled against thee,” God said, “for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath” (verse 7).
What did God do? After instructing the men to make an offering, He said, “and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly” (verse 8). If Job had not prayed for these three men, they would have been cut off! They were in a similar situation to Abimelech in Genesis 20.
But what then happened to Job? “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (verse 10). God ended Job’s trial only after he had prayed for his friends!
This may be the only such instance in Scripture. But is it possible that this gives insight into why some of your prayers remain unanswered?
Growing in Love
Philippians 2:4 says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Where better to practice this command than in our prayers?
Look again at 1 Timothy 2:1. The rsv reads, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men.” Paul urges us to make supplications (petitions or requests), prayers, intercessions and even thanksgivings (gratitude—grateful language to God, as an act of worship) for all men! We should actually thank God for them, and for the good things He does for them. Regularly make requests, intercessions and offer thanksgiving for all men! That means more than just saying, “I pray for all men—I thank you for all men”—it means really breaking it down, beating it fine, and getting specific.
Paul gets even more specific. He instructs us to pray for kings and those in authority, that they would make decisions that would help us to live in religious freedom and peace (verse 2). God wants us to expand our thinking and broaden our perspective through our prayers. He wants us to build the mindset of Jesus Christ by the way we pray.
Our switchboard would never interrupt me in the middle of a class unless it was an emergency. Was my wife taken ill? I hurried to the telephone.
“Mr. Armstrong, President Kennedy has just been shot in Dallas, Texas!” came the startling message. “Also Governor Connally of Texas. They have been rushed to a hospital. The president is still alive, but in critical condition.”
All of us in the room were simply stunned. Back on the platform I asked the class immediately to rise. The Word of God instructs us to pray for our civil rulers. As the class bowed, I prayed immediately that if Mr. Kennedy were still living God would spare his life and restore him to a fit condition.
But the president was already dead. …
John F. Kennedy was a Roman Catholic, and I am not—I take no part in politics, and therefore I did not vote for him—but I did pray for him, and I hope you did, too! …
I wonder how many of our readers know that the Bible commands us to pray for the heads of our nations?
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Plain Truth, January 1964
Notice: What is the purpose? “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (verses 3-4).
God wants us to broaden our perspective through our prayers. He wants us to build more of His love through our prayers! This is the second great commandment: love toward neighbor—the world! (Matthew 22:39). Yes, God is only calling a few today. But He is only calling those few to help Him bring everyone into the Family! He wants all men to be saved and to learn the truth. Paul is saying that we need to want the same thing! We need to learn to think like that—and we do that through our daily prayers. This is how you become like God.
Another major benefit is that intercessory prayer can help us grow in God’s love.
Intercession is hard. But what is happening as you learn how to pray this way? What is happening as you meditate more deeply on others’ trials and problems, as you think through the situation and pray about it according to God’s will? What is happening as you love that person enough to stick with it, think it through, and really beseech God passionately about it?
Can you see how practicing that and learning how to do that is actually building the love of God? It is teaching you to think like God—to become God!
What happens if you have a problem in your marriage, and you build the habit of going to God first to get Him involved, praying for your mate? What happens when you intercede empathetically for a spiritual brother or sister who is suffering in trial? What happens when you see one having a spiritual problem and you take it to God? What happens as you entreat God for the repentance of someone who has left God’s truth? What happens as you cry out for the Laodiceans, whose eternal life is at stake?
If you are driving yourself to give detailed, faithful, fervent, Spirit-led prayers on their behalf, those prayers are the love of God! The more perfect those prayers are, the more they reflect the perfect love of God!
Learn to Empathize Like God
The story of Moses’s intercession on behalf of Israel illustrates the point. After the Israelites made a golden calf to worship, God was furious. He told Moses, “[L]et me alone,that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation” (see Exodus 32:7-10).
Imagine hearing those words straight from God’s mouth! Surely you would be trembling with fear. You likely would hastily submit to His determined will—after all, this is God! Perhaps, had you been in Moses’s position, you would have recalled your difficulties with the people. How easy to think, Yes, God—you are right. This is the only just thing to do. You have given them several chances. I must agree—they have it coming.
But how did Moses react, and what does this tell you about his spiritual maturity? Read his marvelous prayer in verses 11-13. What an eloquent speech for a man speaking to the Creator God! Put yourself in Moses’s position, and you quickly see that his godly love was much deeper than yours and mine. Learn from his example.
Think about this: This event occurred before the Word (who was the God of the Old Testament) became flesh (John 1:1-14). It was before Jesus Christ assumed the job of High Priest. He hadn’t yet experienced the pulls of the flesh. Perhaps Moses really did help God see a different perspective here!
Might God be moved by your perspective, as you passionately intercede for a struggling brother or sister? Is it possible that your intercessory prayers could touch the great God and enlarge His thinking?
God was certainly moved by Moses’s empathetic intercession. “And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people” (Exodus 32:14). What a tremendous example of answered intercessory prayer. It saved the nation!
What might your intercessory prayers accomplish?
When we see someone doing something wrong and then suffering the consequences, it is natural to want to remain hands-off. We don’t want to get involved. Or worse, we believe they had it coming to them. God wants us to learn instead to take a sense of personal responsibility. He wants us to mature spiritually to the point where we begin to take on His empathy!
How much does God extend compassion and mercy to people who disappoint Him time and again? Consider His perspective of the world today. He aches for His future family. All His deepest feelings and passions are tied up in this plan for humankind. Yet what a catalog of tragedy He witnesses all the time: disloyalty, failure and personal ruin on an incomprehensible scale. Even among His Spirit-begotten children, 95 percent are rebelling against Him in this end time. And even within His faithful remnant, how often we ourselves can disappoint our Father!
Still, what compassion, mercy and patience He has with us—to keep forgiving and blessing and loving us. He never lowers His standards, but none of us could say we have borne the full measure of punishment for our weaknesses, failures and sins.
God wants us to become more like Him by developing an increasing measure of His patience, compassion and mercy. Daily, heartfelt intercessory prayer is one of the most powerful ways to do that. We learn to become big enough to pray even for the person who is hurting us.
Numbers 16 contains another remarkable example of intercession. The chapter begins by telling of Korah’s blatant rebellion against Moses, and God. Moses told Korah and the men with him that God would show them with whom He was working. When that time came, a great earthquake split the ground open and swallowed the whole company of rebels—a dramatic demonstration of God’s indignation over Korah’s attitude!
You would think this dramatic display would have convinced the rest of the nation that God truly did back Moses! But astoundingly, the people blamed Moses! (verse 41).
God was furious! “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment” (verses 44-45). He immediately started a lethal, fast-spreading plague among the Israelites!
Moses sprang into action. He instructed his brother, Aaron, the high priest, to quickly make atonement for the people to stop the plague. Aaron ran to fulfill the instructions (verses 46-49). And despite the speed with which these two men acted—it may have taken mere minutes—14,700 Israelites perished!
What would have happened had Aaron delayed even a few moments? Had he moved slowly, or debated in his mind what to do? How many more would have died? Surely Moses and Aaron, in dealing with the congregation day in and day out, got frustrated, and their patience wore thin with certain individuals. Still, they knew they were responsible, and leaped into action to fulfill their duty!
Understand this lesson! Yes, there are many ways you can benefit from improving your intercessory prayer: understanding God’s government, overcoming selfishness, developing God’s love. But where the power of such prayer really becomes evident is in how much you can help others!
Pray for Enemies
Moses and Aaron set a superb example of interceding for people they had trouble with. God actually commands that we pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. Here is where His love becomes powerfully evident.
Christ said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44; see also Romans 12:14). That is certainly what Moses and Aaron did.
That is also what Christ Himself did—as He was hanging from the stake, bloodied beyond recognition: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Why should we pray for our enemies? “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven …. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:45-48). This develops in us the loving mindset of our Father. We grow as His children, becoming perfect as He is. Yes, it is hard—perhaps one of the hardest things God asks of us. But He asks nothing of us that He is unwilling to do. We are to love those who hurt us, as God loves those who hurt Him.
So I usually, in my prayers, start out by thanking God (if that is any kind of example to you). Next I pray for my enemies, and they are many; and I do have enemies. There may be some waiting to serve a subpoena or summons of some kind on me outside right now, for all I know. … We are to love all people, and I pray first even for my enemies. I wonder if you’ll understand why? I don’t pray and ask God to harm them. I don’t say, “God, smash them. Make them suffer, God.” Oh, I don’t say anything like that. I say, “God, I want you to bless them. I want you to bless my enemies.” I pray for them before I pray for you, because the only way God can bless them is if they turn around and start to go the other way—the blessing of pulling them out of the way they’re living in now. I want them to have God’s blessings. … Most people think, “Oh, I should pray against my enemies.” Oh, no. I don’t pray against them. I pray for them, and I name them by name; and there are several that I name every single day. God is going to hear my prayers. They are going to find out where God is working.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, sermon, October 2, 1982
Keep in mind that many Church members have experienced miraculous delivery from trials after diligently praying that, for example, a difficult boss would have a change of heart.
Remember, God has cut off the vast majority of this world from access to Him at this time. To pray for those who cause us personal difficulties is to keep in mind God’s master plan for offering salvation to all mankind. King David, a man after God’s own heart, did pray that God would chastise his enemies. But why? So they would come to understand and know God (e.g., Psalm 83:15-18).
We all tend to be too small-minded in our prayers—too focused on ourselves and the people or circumstances immediately around us. That is natural. This is why we need to bring God into our prayers more and more, to pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20). That is why we must keep working to make our prayers more perfect! As we do, our prayers will show real concern and love for all men. And we will be earnest in our prayers for this Work, which is their only hope. We will pray that we would reach more people with God’s warning. We will pray that God would correct them in love and with mercy. We will pray that they would all come to the knowledge of the truth. This is an empathetic way to pray for our enemies—who, hopefully, one day, will be members of God’s eternal Family!
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy [Spirit]” (Jude 20). We need that most holy faith of Jesus Christ, who should live in us. Pray in the Holy Spirit with that faith—that is truly effective prayer. That prayer will always get results.
Praying in the Spirit is not just prayer. It is life-changing prayer that gets through to God. It gets marvelous results. This is how we keep building that most holy faith.
Can you discern if you are praying in the Spirit? This is a vital question that we all need to answer!
Jude is condemning 95 percent of God’s people today. Too many of their prayers have become sinful. Most of the time, they are not praying in the Spirit.
As much as God wants us to pray for those in the world, He wants us to focus special attention in our prayers on the members within His Church. If we are to pray for our enemies with empathy, how much more should we be able to intercede for each other empathetically?
When we beat our intercessory prayers down like fine incense, we are compelled to meditate deeply on others’ situations and problems. Perhaps you are having trouble relating to someone. If you pray for him or her, you will find yourself empathizing with that person’s specific troubles more. Your perspective on that person will more closely align with God’s.
Prayer does deepen your relationship with God. But in this way it also strengthens your relationships with others. Yes, intercessory prayer unifies the body of Christ.
Notice Paul’s example: He never ceased to pray for the Church members (Ephesians 1:15-16). He continually thanked God for them! “I do not cease … remembering you in my prayers” (rsv). He prayed for all men with thanksgiving. And he didn’t just pray for those who were going through trials—but for all the brethren. He prayed for their spiritual enlightenment and growth (verses 17-19). He wanted them to succeed as much as possible. We all need these types of prayers. And we all need to give these intercessory prayers for others.
Paul’s example also radiates in Colossians 1:7-11. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (verses 9-11). Paul wanted them to succeed as much as possible. His love for the brethren was powerfully evident in his prayer life. He was always “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (verse 12; rsv).
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12). This man’s prayer life is canonized in Scripture as an example for us! The words “laboring fervently” are translated from a single Greek word, agonizomai.Agonizing! Struggling, competing for a prize, or contending with an adversary! Those are truly effortful prayers for the brethren.
How much more effective could your local minister be, or your congregation, or God’s whole Church, if we were all diligent in praying for each other?
Our pastor general bears an enormous load. On several occasions, he has told the Church how much he relies on our prayers for his success.
This leads to one of the most important benefits of intercessory prayer: It can keep our minds on God’s Work. And that benefit is secondary to the fact that those prayers truly do help the Work. God’s Work truly needs our prayers—now more than ever!
Pray for the Work
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance,to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2-4). Paul asked for prayers for the Work’s sake. Mr. Flurry does the same. We need to beseech God earnestly that He would open doors for us to proclaim the mystery of Christ to the world!
Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. Paul detailed many of the towering challenges he faced in doing God’s Work. And he wanted all the prayers he could get! Verse 11 reads, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf [or, in the Moffatt, ‘Tell God thanks for us—it will mean more if it comes from more people’] for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers” (rsv). In other words, “I know you’re all going to be praying for me, and God just won’t be able to ignore all those prayers, so, when the answer comes, then thank God for us as well!”
Paul said that the more people praying, the better. He knew success in his ministry would take many prayers!
[W]hat part does the individual local member have in taking the gospel message to all the world? This is done primarily and directly by the apostle. In this latter half of the 20th century it is done also by radio, television and in print!
In the first century it was done by personal proclamation. Then what part did the individual lay member have in it?
Much! Without this larger body of lay members the apostle could do nothing!
Notice a scriptural example: Peter and John had been proclaiming the message at the temple in Jerusalem. A miracle had been performed by Peter and a large crowd had gathered. As a result Peter and John were thrown in prison overnight, and severely threatened. Their lives were in danger. They were unnerved.
They went immediately upon release to the lay brethren (Acts 4:23). They needed the backing, support, encouragement of the brethren. They fervently prayed! Peter and John sorely needed this loyalty, backing and the prayers of the lay members. They were all a team together!
Elsewhere Paul wrote, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to Godfor me” (Romans 15:30). “Strive together with” comes from a single Greek word similar to that used in Colossians 4:12, but this is sunagonizomai. It means to agonize or struggle in company together. Don’t be casual. We all should struggle, agonize in our prayers together for God’s Work! This Work truly is a group effort!
God’s people have been called out of season to support God’s Work, and we supply much of that support through prayer. Mr. Armstrong would tell people to ask themselves, as they prayed, how would the Work do today based on my prayers alone? That truly is how the Work gets done!
Don’t limit God by thinking, Well, all I can do is pray. Prayer is powerful! Jesus knew He could do nothing of Himself (John 5:30), and neither can we. Yet we are engaged in the Work of the Almighty God! Christ stated “greater works than these shall he [that believes on me] do …. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do” (John 14:12-13). Believe that He will work greater deeds through you than He wrought on Earth in person! Expect greater miracles. You can access the power that performs miracles. Our prayers can change lives and save lives! Of course, it is only through God’s mighty hand that this Work can get done. But God requires our prayers on the Work’s behalf before He will step in mightily.
God’s Work is depending on you: your obedience, your faith, your walk with God, your fervor and earnestness, your perseverance. What can be achieved by your urgent prayers is unlimited! As Jesus Christ’s return approaches, pray with greater and greater power—and witness “greater works than these”!
Assisting Our Husband Forever!
Praying for yourself is not wrong. Christ instructed us to pray for ourselves. Christ prayed for Himself.
But He also set a tremendous example of intercessory prayer. In Chapter 6 we will study John 17, the most complete prayer of His recorded in Scripture, spoken in the time of His own greatest need, the night before His crucifixion—and it is almost entirely a prayer for others!
Remember that picture of God’s throne room. Jesus Christ is there, interceding for us yet today. This is one of His full-time responsibilities! He is the great Advocate, High Priest and Intercessor. He prays to the Father on behalf of the weak, the sick, the needy, the ignorant, the suffering. It only makes sense that we need to think as our Husband does. Is it possible that, when we are sharing His throne in God’s Kingdom, we may be assisting Him in this monumental job?
Let’s become experts at it today. Learn the lessons and gain the blessings that come from intercessory prayer.