“Lord, turn back the rain.”
Two weeks ago I wrote about an important moment in my prayer life on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Our outreach was starting, and a storm was rolling in. We hadn’t even reached the Gospel presentation when the event was stopped because of thunder.
I knelt in the grass as the rain became more consistent. I answered the important question, “Why” in my prayers. “God,” I prayed, “I want you to turn back the rain so that people who don’t know You can hear the Gospel and respond to Jesus.”
The rain didn’t stop. But then God performed the miracle.
I grew up going to Sunday school, so I had heard the word “intercession” before. I guess I thought it was an older word for “prayer” used by old and overly spiritual people. But I was wrong.
I’m so thankful for the work of Oswald Chambers. He was the first writer I read to introduce the concept of intercession in a new way.
“Intercession,” Chamber writes, “means that we rouse ourselves up to get the mind of Christ about the one for whom we pray.”
As I knelt on the grass in D.C. and prayed, God opened my heart.
Those who know me know I don’t cry. It’s not that I’m a tough, macho guy; I just have a very high emotional tolerance.
I started crying. And this wasn’t a polite, dignified cry. I knelt on the grass and sobbed, rain water and snot running down my fingers. And in my heart, I believe I felt what God felt for those gathered there.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
“True intercession,” Chambers continues, “involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance.”
“Until YOU are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance.”
Intercession brings home a driving principle of prayer: God often answers our prayers by changing us before changing our circumstances.
4 Principles of Intercession
That experience on the National Mall deepened my prayer life in a new and significant way. Looking back, I’ve learned several lessons about intercession:
Intercession means seeking God’s will for someone, not your own.
It’s so easy when we come to prayer to already have determined how a person or circumstance needs prayer. Intercession is humbly acknowledging that maybe we don’t know everything, and asking God to show us how to pray—which leads to the second point.
Intercession is about listening.
If we want to pray God’s desires for others, then we need to listen to God’s desires for others. Listening to God doesn’t look the same for everyone but will always be grounded in God’s Word. I could write an entire post about this (and maybe I will next week!).
Intercession takes time.
Our culture values speed and efficiency; prayer is about neither. Prayer is a key way God desires to retrain our minds to slow down and bring our lives (and the lives of others through intercession) before Him.
Intercession is about knowing God.
This is my great passion, and I love how intercession makes it plain. Andrew Murray wrote, “Some people pray just to pray, and some people pray to know God.” Intercession isn’t just about knowing the needs of others, but ultimately it is about knowing God. If you really want to know God’s heart, intercede.
In case you were wondering how the story concludes, the rain did stop after about ten minutes or so. For some reason the change in weather drew people out, because when I returned to the outreach, about twice as many people had gathered as before!
The miracle that day wasn’t that God stopped the rain. Yes, He heard my prayer, but He also opened my eyes and my heart to see and feel deeper than I ever had before.
If you’re wondering what intercession looks like in your life, I suggest you start by humbly coming before God and asking Him to help you. Ask Him to help you listen well to His heart for people and circumstances in your life. Listen, then intercede.