At the age of 46, I was serving alongside my husband, Joe, of 29 years, in pastoral ministry. Things were going well at the church in which we were serving as senior pastors, our children were raised, and Joe and I were excited about what lay ahead for Tuxedo Assembly of God in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Then, suddenly, on an early Sunday morning, Joe passed away, leaving me there to deal with a life without him. We were in the middle of remodeling our home and had assured the material supply companies in town that we would pay them within 90 days to avoid paying interest. Without warning, I was standing in an empty, unfinished house, facing a funeral and a $10,000 debt without my breadwinner by my side.
As I had learned to do with every situation in life, I began to pray and ask God what to do. His words to me were simply, "Ask big. Believe for big." So that is exactly what I did. I told him I needed $10,000 cash within the next 90 days. Remember, while $10,000 is still a reasonably large amount of cash now, $10,000 in 1981 would now be equivalent to over $25,000! But God's Word began to resonate with me: "You have not, because you ask not." (James 4)
Little by little, money began to be sent to me. $500 here, $100 there. Churches who heard of my husband's passing dropped checks in the mail. And just before the 90 days' due date arrived, all $10,000 had come in!
While I had always been a woman of prayer, I now knew I was being called to intercessory prayer. And that is what I wish to talk to you about today. Intercession is the responsibility and privilege of every believer.
What is Intercessory Prayer?
Going between and bridging or standing in the gap. God spoke to Ezekiel about such a need in Israel:
30 So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.(Ezekiel 22:30-31)
Pleading in favor of another, often when others can't pray for themselves.
Intercessory prayer is often characterized by an overwhelming sense of urgency, expectation, and even desperation. This involves fundamental issues of life like saving the lost, terminal illnesses, hunger relief, protection from persecution, the unity of the Church, and so on. While the small or routine issues of life are also important, intercessory prayer usually deals with the eternal issues.
Simple. God expects us to act as children--simple, dependent, and trusting. He isn't interested in flowery words or theological pronouncement. God is interested in our hearts.
Persistent. Sometimes the answer comes instantly. Sometimes His answers takes years, decades, and even centuries. But intercessors continue to pray.
Often painful. A wise person once said, "Prayer that costs little is worth little." The pain in prayer is found in waiting for God's answers, in the inconvenient times He prompts us to pray.
One of the greatest miracles I received shortly after Joe died came at the hands of a true intercessor's willingness to persist in painful and inconvenient prayer. On the seventh night after his death, I sincerely prayed to die. I no longer wanted to live and couldn't imagine a future without Joe. I asked the Lord, "Just let me go to sleep and not awaken." In the middle of that night, a precious lady in our church, Sister Asher, was awakened by the Lord, asking her to intercede for me. She walked the floor, she knelt, she prayed in the Spirit. And it was during that night that God visited me in my bedroom.
When I awakened the next morning, I knew something had changed. I got up out of bed and looked out the window. As I saw the sun, the very Shekinah glory of God shone out of it and I began to sing, going from one song of praise to another. God had healed my heart. And on this eighth day, the day of new beginnings, I began a new walk of faith, power, and prayer! God did have plans for my life and wanted to use me. I'll forever be grateful for the willingness Sister Asher had to obey the Lord into intercessory prayer on my behalf.
Expectant. As I stated previously, in James 4, verse 2, "We have not because we ask not." How many prayers have not been prayed because the pray-er didn't really believe God would answer that prayer? God can handle anything from the simplest of issues to the weight of the entire universe!
Specific. Don't simply ask God to "bless all the missionaries", but name them one by one and address their specific needs. Don't just ask God to forgive all your sins; enumerate them. "God, heal the sick". Take it further and name the person, the illness, and implore God's healing!
Bold. While the primary goal of an intercessor is to discover God's will and to ask for God's assistance in conforming to it, intercessors may boldly petition God to transform his or her will: to save one who is lost, heal one who is dying, bless one who is infertile. (Heb 4:16)
Intercessory prayer isn't always exciting, but it is always hard work and involves little recognition. Intercessors must live holy lives, with no un-confessed sin. The psalmist wrote, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." (Ps 66:18) Sin blocks the prayer of the intercessor.
Moses was an intercessor. Exodus 17 describes one of his moments of intercession. While Joshua led the Israelite military into battle with the Amalekites, Moses raised his hands in prayer. As Joshua fought the physical battle, Moses fought the spiritual war!
Although Moses did not receive the recognition Joshua did when the battle was won, the victory would not have happened without his prayers.
Few people actually see intercessors at work, but the connection between prayer and spiritual victory is valid and invaluable.
What can intercessory prayer do?
Intercessory prayer will hold back the plague. It can prevent natural disasters from occurring! God can quench the violence of fires, both in the natural and in the supernatural (Heb 11:34). He can quiet the storms and tempests through prayer. Through intercession, cities can be spared. Intercession can combat the intercession of hell. Yes, even hell makes intercession! But according to Ephesians 6, believers must not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Through prayer we will pull down the satanic forces by and through the Spirit of God (Rom 8:26).
We must be willing to give ourselves as living sacrifices unto God in prayer to change things from bad to good.
In these Last Days there may be earthquakes, tornadoes, and all types of calamities coming to this earth. As the body of Christ, we must be the patrol guard over our cities, nations, and families. Satan would love to destroy the children of God just as he tried to do with Job. But Job is named as one of the great intercessors of the Old Testament (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). Job made intercession for his children continually (Job 1:5). He felt alone, yet, had he not interceded for his city, every one of his so-called "comforters" who had said the wrong things about God would have lost their lives (Job 16:20-21).
Ladies, we are the restrainers. We are the ones who hold the judgment back and we can hold it back from interfering with many areas of our lives, and even in the lives of our families. The old term "plead the Blood" still applies to our prayer lives today, covering those we love and those yet reached by His precious, life-saving Blood.
Won't you join me today? Let us be women of much prayer, only increasing with each passing day. There is only one way we can really know how to pray in the league with God against the forces of evil, and that is when we are in the Spirit. Let's press in to His presence and mark our territory by His Blood.
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Reverend Betty Calabrese of Sand Springs, OK is 82-years-young and as vibrantly involved in ministry as ever. Following her husband's passing in 1981, she stepped forward to fulfill the Lord's call of ministry on her own and has served as youth pastor, both sectional women's & youth representative within the OKAG, and the OKAG youth camp pastor for several years. Under Betty's leadership, the Anna Prayer Ministry was established as she traveled across Oklahoma to train over 700 intercessory prayer warriors to pray for missionaries & pastors. She currently teaches discipleship courses for the local boys Teen Challenge center, as well as serves in various leadership roles within her home church of 13 years, Crosspoint Church. Betty loves being Mom to her two children & their spouses, Grandma to four grandchildren and Grammy to five great-grandchildren! When she finds free time, Betty loves to read, pray, visit hospitals and make phone calls to encourage others. "I have no plans to retire...I'm only re-firing!"