"Father forgive them..." Luke 23:34
Principle: Discernment into the failure and foibles of others is a call from God to intercede for them, not an invitation to criticize them.
Oswald Chamber's died in 1917 serving as a chaplain to the British Expeditionary Force in Egypt. After his death, his wife took her short hand notes of his messages, and published a devotional book, "My Utmost for His Highest." During his short life, Chambers allowed God to do a great work in his heart. His words remain to this day some of the most treasured insights into the mind and heart of God. He felt strongly about the power of intercession, and the impact it could have on the improvement of relationships. He taught, "Discernment is given for intercession, never for faultfinding."
Praying for hurting people is a fine way to begin to develop a personal ministry of intercession. It has the power to restore right relationships between God and His people. It also has power repair relationships that have broken down between people. The prayer warrior has every confidence that prayer for another person is heard by God. The finest expression of intercession is reached when the prayer warrior begins to pray for people who have hurt them or have failed them in some way.
When Jesus was on the cross, He spoke three words that transformed prayer from a daily devotional exercise into a power play for redemption. People often do their worst to a child of God. Jesus knew about this personally. As The Child of God, Jesus had suffered immeasurable physical abuse prior to His crucifixion. He endured extreme, extended, public humiliation while he hung on the cross.
However, brave men had preceded Him to this arena of abuse. This was not the first time that men had been executed in this manner. Jewish history was full of martyrs who faced the cross as a result of their rebellion against Rome's iron grip of oppression. They had died on the cross, but they had not died to themselves. They certainly had not died for their enemies.
Jesus interceded for the people who hurt Him the most. He did not waste His breath outlining and orating over offenses. He went to His Father with a request for the people who had hurt Him, and pleaded with His Father not to hold their offense against them. Unforgiven people had done their worst to Him, and Jesus was doing His best for them. This is intercession.
Jesus went to the Father in prayer, and asked Him to remove their sin like a scribe would blot out a record of a debt from a line item account that was in need of collection. He was not appealing to God for those who had extended favor to Him, and were in need of God's blessing to understand what was happening around them. He did not pray for the strength to endure what was being done to Him. He seized the moment of the infliction of the worst kind of pain to invest in the best kind of ministry. He interceded for those had done their worst to Him.
Jesus set the standard for intercession. He stood between man at their worst and God at His best and offered to bring them together. He lived to do this on earth, and continued it with His dying breath. He lives to do it today while seated the right hand of the Father in Heaven.
Christ followers still face a constant choice between criticizing people for what they have done to them, or interceding for the very people who are the source of irritation. Jesus provided the example, but He promised His Presence would empower His people to follow His example.
The Spirit of God dwells within the heart of His children, and cries out on their behalf when they are wronged. God is aware of what is happening to His family. Intercession by the His Spirit and His Son on behalf of His Church supplies Him with constant and clear communication of the chaos and confusion that the enemy unleashes on His children. He is near to those who draw near to Him in prayer. He inclines His ear to hear the slightest cry of the weakest child.
Intercession brings a new purpose to the offended and a new possibility for the offender. There may be times when the pain is so fresh and the person so intimidating that the prayer warrior does not have the words to say on behalf of the one who needs to be forgiven. The language of the Spirit is the language of prayer. He takes to the Father even the intent of the heart when the words fail to rise up out of the voice.
"The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." Romans 8:26
Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, and when a request for forgiveness comes before the throne of God it catches His attention because it touches His heart.
"Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us." Romans 8:34
There is no hope for Christ followers to pray for those who are their enemies without Jesus interceding for them to have God's grace under fire. He provides a powerful picture of His personal interest, when His followers take a stand for Him. The Book of Acts describes people around Stephen who were doing their worst to him. Stephen was somehow able to sense the Presence of Jesus in the middle of his pain. He said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56) Jesus did not remain seated, but He stood in honor of a man who took the worst life had to bring, and he brought it to God.
Intercession is the form of prayer that yields all personal rights. It enables an offended Christ follower to avoid bitterness in their own life and to achieve the greater good in the life of another. It is the stand of Jesus that empowered the early Christ followers to express this highest level of intercession. Choking in his own blood from a vicious stoning received after telling people how to be saved, Stephen said, " 'Lord do not hold this sin against them.' And having said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7:60) Jesus still takes a stand for those who choose to intercede for people He died to save, and who still do their worst to His followers.
The Practice of Prayer: What keeps you awake at night? Is it a memory of a past hurt, or the fresh wound from a hurtful person? Start praying for God to relieve you of the responsibility to get even, and ask Him to bring about His best in their life. You may be surprised how fast you fall asleep.
Thought for the Day: Talk less about people and pray more for people.
"All of God's answering our prayers is on the basis of God's dealing with us as forgiven sinners, and God cannot deal with us as forgiving sinners while we are not forgiving those who have wronged us." R. A. Torrey