The church will be revived, the Great Commission completed, and society transformed only if God’s people are faithful and earnest in prayer and obedient to his command “that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” (1 Timothy 2:1). Prayer is essential because it is the way God has chosen to work. It is his plan, not ours. When we work, we work. When we pray, God works!
Here are five qualities believers should have in order to be effective intercessors:
- A clean heart and an obedient mind. In Psalm 66:18, David reminds us that God will not hear those who cherish sin in their hearts. James underscores that it is the righteous who are able to pray powerfully and effectively (James 5:16). And John declares that confidence before God is based upon our obeying his commands and doing what pleases him (1 John 3:21-22). None of us are ready to be intercessors before God until we have settled the issues of sin and obedience in our relationship with God. Either sin will hinder our prayers, or our prayers will hinder sin. To be effective, you must regularly ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and to deal with sin that he reveals.
- Compassion. Jesus reached out to those around him and effectively touched their lives—not because he had a great program but because he had compassion. Matthew 9:36 reminds us that “when [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
If you are not rooted in Christlike compassion, then ask Jesus for it. He lives in your heart and is willing that you should be motivated for ministry in the same way he is. Ask out of true desire. Ask in faith, and God will give you a heart of compassion toward others (Luke 11:9).
- Persistence. Jesus told two parables to confirm that persistence is necessary in prayer—the parable of the friend at midnight and the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8). In these parables Jesus reminds us that securing the blessings of God for others is not something that will happen through casual or perfunctory prayers.
Again, it should be said that the very Jesus who taught us of the need to be persistent, and who himself prayed persistently, will help us to pray with persistence when our prayers are in line with his will (John 15:7-16). Continually ask Jesus to enable you to persevere in prayer.
- Openness to opportunities. The apostle Paul was opportunity oriented in his approach to ministry. When asking the Colossians to pray for him, he invited them to pray “that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3). In writing to the Corinthians, he rejoiced: “A great door for effective work has opened to me” (1 Corinthians 16:9).
- Dedication to praying with others. New Testament Christians often prayed together. Nearly two-thirds of the references to prayer in the book of Acts are accounts of believers praying together. In Matthew 18:19, Jesus encouraged mutual prayer when he promised that “if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Believers who pray together find their faith strengthened, their prayer lives expanded, and the effectiveness of their prayers multiplied.
–Adapted from Shine His Light: A Simple Way to Pray, Care and Share Jesus in Your Neighborhood by Alvin VanderGriend. This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
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Praise God that “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). Thank God for being both your dwelling place and your destination. Confess times that you have tried to live independently of his authority. Commit yourself to offering your body “as [a] living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom. 12:1). Ask God to help you in “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, [to] do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17).
Pray for all the unsaved persons in your city, that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11).
“Prayer is hardest when it is hardest to pray.” —Anonymous
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