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Intercession in the New Covenant

May 13, 2011

Since the late eighties up to the present hour, the ministry of intercession and prophetic intercession has morphed into an extra-biblical, delusional, moneymaking machine based on inaccurate belief systems and practices. It’s my premise that intercession as it is commonly practiced today in many Charismatic and allegedly apostolic/prophetic circles, needs a thorough New Covenant update if it’s to recover biblical and spiritual legitimacy.

New Covenant Update 1 – What is an intercessor?

And God gave some apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry . . . – Eph. 4:13. KJV

There are many different legitimate graces and callings in the kingdom that are not explicitly defined in Scripture. But there’s a difference between flowing in graces that may not be explicitly defined, and making one of them equivalent to those that are explicitly listed. Prophetic intercessors are not included in this list. Where intercession is concerned, too much has been made of too little.

Dear ones, there’s simply not a shred of New Testament justification for a special class of individuals known as intercessors. There are believers who practice interceding. Intercession is a grace available to everyone called by the name of Christ. The only difference is, some give themselves to it more than others. Give yourself to it, and you will also be an intercessor.

I find it intriguingly odd that people whose faith is rooted in the universal priesthood of believers and opposition to the clergy/laity and secular/sacred divide, can so readily support a belief system that relegates the ministry of prayer to a class of specialists.

We have entire conferences dedicated to the proposition that there are “intercessors” and then there are . . . “others.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the mutual encouragement and edification of those who have given themselves to prayer and intercession, or any ministry for that matter. But developing an exclusive and elitist sub-culture for mystical specialists is outside New Testament boundaries.

New Covenant Update 2 – The Gap is Closed.

Because the New Covenant foundation for a specialized class of intercessory ministry is nil, almost all teaching on this topic comes from the Old Covenant and Old Covenant typological teaching regarding watchmen and standing in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30). The danger in teaching shadow is that without diligence, you will miss the substance.

Indeed, the Old Covenant calls for someone to “stand in the gap” to make up the hedge. Indeed, God was always looking for a faithful “man” to fill that position. News flash: The position has been filled. The job posting has been removed from God’s Monster.com account. As offensive as it is, He has found someone better than you, and better than me. His name is Jesus.

Jesus Christ in resurrection has forever closed the gap between God and humanity. Christ Jesus in resurrection is the Man God was looking for to close the gap. God the Father is not looking for anyone else. He has found His rest in that Man (Isaiah 66:1-2). . . and in that Man in us. There is only one mediator. You and I in our intercessory prayer ministry are not mediating or closing anything. To think otherwise is dangerously close to blasphemy. Thinking that through our shouting, declaring, and decreeing this or that, that we are somehow closing a gap, something left undone in Christ’s finished work, is, well . . . very troubling.

New Covenant Update 3 – God’s Good Will

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. – Luke 2:14 KJV

We are of course familiar with this passage from the Christmas story. God’s initiation toward the planet was based on His good will, not the spiritual disciplines of its inhabitants. He acted on behalf of planet that was ignoring Him. His chosen people were also ignoring Him, and their track record with Him had been a cycle of dismal failure punctuated by His gracious intervention. The incarnation was not merited . . . by anyone, doing anything, including prayer and intercession.

What does God say to a world that is ignoring Him, to a world not even trying to please Him?

“Boy, you better be praying and fasting, because here I come and I am really upset with all your sin. I’m only going to reveal Myself to those worthy of it by their prayer devotion, only those who are whole heartedly seeking My face are going to see Me move in this day. Only the intercessors on their watch are going to be blessed by this move of God . . . the rest or you are going to miss it. If you don’t have ten thousand intercessors praying in Jerusalem calling on God for revival, I am going to judge you.”

No, of course not. He revealed Himself to a despised profession (shepherds) from a despised people, in a despised land who were in a condition of backsliding with simply this: good will. Since the greatest blessing in the history of the cosmos was uncontingent and unmerited, I find it odd to think that subsequent lesser blessings are inexorably bound up with our spiritual disciplines of prayer.

Here’s my question. If God’s good favor was so manifest before the shedding of the blood of His dear Son, as a propitiation for our sin, why do we think He has to be persuaded to manifest good will today by our “intercessory prayer”? Why do we think it requires our strenuous intercession to get God to be good to us? Our thinking and practice of prayer is flawed. We say God is our Father, but we pray like he is a deaf mute despot.

Consider another example, from the Old Testament: Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no way that Lot’s family can be portrayed as “whole hearted seekers of God, crying out to him day and night with fasting and intercession for national revival!” Hardly!

In an inferior covenant to what we have, God was willing to forgive Sodom and Gomorrah if He could just find ten righteous people. If the mere presence of ten righteous people, who were not praying, not fasting, not even trying, would spare Sodom and Gomorrah, what do we think we are doing in our intercession? Why do we think the “standard” for us is more stringent today? Why do we need 10,000 “prophetic intercessors” in a nation’s capital to beg, groan, and wail for revival in an era of a better covenant?

Is God’s attitude toward us in the day of a better covenant made with the blood of His dear Son, when there are not ten, but millions of righteous in the land, now less than it was for Sodom and Gomorrah? To think that our intercession is somehow holding back God’s wrath from manifesting on earth, that you or I are somehow “standing between God and an offending individual or nation,” is at best an Old Covenant mentality, and more closely, an anti-Christ (instead of Christ) mentality. It’s sheer nonsense and an insult to the Person and Work of Christ to think so. There’s only one Person who satisfies the justice and wrath of God: Christ Jesus in resurrection.

Bultmann called self-effort the Primal Sin. Our prayer effort is included. The only work that impresses God is the work of His dear Son. Our work in intercession is not more persuasive than Jesus’ work on the Cross. Being passionate for prayer is of itself, of no spiritual significance. Jesus said that hypocrites love to pray, especially at length, and in public.(Matthew 6:18)

Prayers that either do not understand or that misrepresent the work of Christ, are prayers that God cannot answer, regardless of how many people are praying them and how sincere, enthused, and moved by them the petitioners might be. Our approach to God, and God’s response to prayer is based solely on the Person and Work of His Son. There is no other foundation.

Crosby, are you saying our prayers for individuals, communities, and the nation are useless? No, I am not saying that. We’re commanded to pray: always, everywhere, and for our leaders. But what we think we’re doing when we pray makes all the difference. We don’t bribe or extort God with our good behavior and our prayers as if we’re saying:

“Come on Jesus, have a heart and be nice to us. We’re really sorry for how bad we’ve been, and we’re trying really, really hard to be good, and now we’re praying really, really hard too.”

New Covenant Update 4 – Jesus’ Intercession

But this man, because he continues ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them. – Hebrews 7:24-25, KJV.

There is much misunderstanding regarding Christ’s intercession based on the above verses. The common belief regarding Jesus’ priestly ministry is that He is currently engaged in heaven praying and beseeching the Father on various points of business that need to get done, more or less pleading with the Father not to release judgments on a wayward humanity, or otherwise trying to persuade the Father to do this or not do that. The implication is that Christ is busy at the priestly work of “making intercession,” and that intercessors on earth should be busying themselves in the same activity. This is a most unfortunate understanding, based on a most unfortunate translation.

Hebrews 7:24-25 does not present Christ scurrying about taking care of cosmic events through prayer. The context refers to Christ’s priesthood as making access to God possible. His priesthood secures the salvation of those who would dare to approach a holy God. His priesthood is not the micromanaging of the cosmos through ongoing intercession!

The English rendering of “to make intercession” is most unfortunate. The words, “to make,” are inserted by the translators. It gives the impression that there is something undone—something yet to be accomplished which Jesus is now busy doing in the heavenlies with intercession.

The Greek is this: he ever lives to the interceding. It doesn’t translate well into English and it is understandable why some translators did what they did for readability, but meaning has suffered.

Notice the definite English article: “the.” The verse is not speaking about random miscellaneous “intercessions” for this and that. There is a specific intercession, a definitive, singular intercession, whose effects are continuously ongoing (present active tense).

His resurrection IS the intercession. He ascended on high and sat down (Hebrews 1:3, 10:12).The intercessory work is done. His intercession is not something He is doing. His presence in the heavenlies, as the representative Man, is the intercession! His resurrection is the intercession that makes and secures access to God for those who approach Him.

He is not currently scurrying about heaven beseeching the Father to do this and that. His work, His cross and resurrection fulfilled the longing and need for the “man to make up the gap.” There is a God-Man in resurrection who has forever closed the gap.

This should profoundly affect what we think we are doing when we pray. Much of what passes for intercession today is nothing but the anxiety-laced energies of the highly empassioned human soul trying to bring about on earth the things we think God should be doing. It is as if we are twisting the arm of a reluctant God who is otherwise disinclined to act unless persuaded by our intercession, as we erroneously think Christ Himself to be doing. This thinking is also an insult to the work of Christ.

New Covenant Update 5 – Pitfalls

Because the New Testament says very little about prophetic intercessors, and because we have built entire ministries and networks around the proposition that there is such a thing, we are faced with having to deal with some self-inflicted problems: issues that the Scriptures do not directly address.

There are some pitfalls associated with intercessory ministry as it is commonly expressed that I would like to share with you. My caveat is that not everyone involved in intercession is failing in these areas. However, after having had exposure for many years to intercessory prayer movements and those calling themselves prophetic intercessors, I believe that those given to intercession can be uniquely vulnerable to the following maladies:

1.  A lack of a New Covenant understanding.

– We have covered this at length above. It’s a mistake to approach this topic in theory or practice without a thorough New Covenant understanding.

2. Looking for the enemy more than looking for the Lord.

– There can be an unhealthy fixation in some intercessory circles of spiritual warfare on what our adversary is up to. If we allow the Old Testament watchman motif as a typological counterpart to intercession, we know that the watchmen were not just supposed to be on the lookout for enemy activity. The more important activity was to announce the approach of the king to the elders of the city.

– If enemy activity is perceived it is because God has already begun to accomplish His purpose and is looking for earthly partnership. Our focus does not need to be on the devil this and the devil that, but to enter into the mind and counsel of God and pray it into existence.

3. Metron (sphere of authority and influence/jurisdiction) Violation

– Each watchman on a city wall had his own station. Sometimes people given to intercession can take on responsibilities that are not theirs. It can be quite spiritually exhilarating to believe the destiny of a city or nation is bound up in one’s prayers. The seven sons of Sceva learned the hard way about spiritual metrons. They didn’t have one and many intercessors don’t either.

4. Control

– A watchman had no authority to open the city gates. He gave information to the elders of the city. Intercessors transmit information. They do not set policy or direction.

– Watchmen do not bring correction to the city. Elders do that.

– The privilege of spiritual perception can sometimes be used as a manipulative tool.

5. Pride

– Thinking oneself to be the most spiritually astute person in the group because of alleged 3rd, 7th or 25th heaven visitations and insights is a common danger for intercessors.

– Accurate perception into spiritual realities does not define spiritual maturity. Living in right relationship with God and man does.

– A condescending attitude toward others, including leaders who are deemed not spiritually in tune frequently afflicts intercessors.

– It is very easy to believe oneself to be spiritually significant in a realm and in a way that is objectively unverifiable. Believing I am changing the course of history with my intercessory decrees while I am divorcing my husband, ignoring my neighbour, cheating on my taxes, in conflict with my boss, and alienated from my children (examples) is the height of spiritual delusion.

6. Legalism and Performance

– I know of a situation where a leader of one of the largest intercessory ministries in the world wrote in a newsletter that the reason a tragedy did not happen in their city, but in a city down the road, was because “her” intercessors were at their post and prayed away the “curse.” The fundamentally legal and arrogant mindset behind this thinking should be self evident, but it’s apparently not as tens of thousands follow this ministry.

– Would it not more accurately reflect the heart of God that if someone really had intercessory authority in the spirit realm, that he or she would STOP the atrocity from happening, not just kick it down the road to the next city that isn’t quite as “worthy as my own, because of our superior prayer prowess!?” Honestly, I find this not only an ignorant belief system, but spiritually and morally offensive. It’s the norm in most prophetic intercessory circles.

7. Gnosticism

– Often times intercessors or other prophetic people believe that reality is in the “spirit realm” which we govern by our prayers, decrees and prophetic declarations and that the temporal realm is “low order.” They view that “real spirituality” is in the invisible heavenly realms and that other ministries are “lower order”. At its root this a Gnostic belief system. Jesus in the incarnation forever sanctified the material order. The material world is where spiritual reality is worked out. We may pray into the unseen realms, but spiritual and moral significance is in the here and now.

8. Prayer influenced by natural perceptions.

– Intercessors can automatically assume that their pet doctrines, worldviews, and politics are identical to the Almighty’s. This can be intoxicatingly delusional.

9. Prayer that is influenced by personal factors.

– Emotional, spiritual, doctrinal, and psychological history as well as bitterness, anger, and wounds, can influence prayer. The burden of the Lord is not necessarily based on what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears.

10.  Unsanctified Mercy.

– That is, taking the wrong burden—the people’s instead of the Lord’s. We can have compassion on things the Lord is bringing discipline and chastisement to. We are usually merciful on the things that bother us the least and we are hard on others. Unsanctified mercy that is born out of human sympathy, is frequently in opposition to the Cross revealing and Cross in-working ministry of the Spirit of the Lord in a person’s life. Just because someone is a “sympathetic person” does not make him or her God’s intercessor.

11. Hyper-spirituality, spookiness.

– There can be a tendency to see spiritual and mystical overtones to everything. Some things are just not that deep. Sometimes a flat tire is just a flat tire, not a cosmic event of the significance of anything.

12. Poor relationships within the Body.

– It’s common that intercessors often have a lack of patience and tolerance for others who are deemed not to share their perceptions. They can embrace a sheriff and enforcer mentality, a messiah complex.

– Often those with unresolved leadership conflicts within a church environment will gravitate to para-church prophetic intercessory groups where their ministry is believed to appreciated and released unlike their experience within a local church.

13. Lack of identity and insecurity. 

– Sometimes insecure individuals who feel inferior because they might not be one of the Ephesians 4 ministries, carve out for themselves an identity as an intercessor. Our identity should NEVER be based on our ministry. That’s true for all of us.

The Better Covenant and Intercession

What then is New Covenant intercession? It is standing in the good will of God on humanity’s behalf. Intercession is based on rest, not anxiety. Intercession is prayer that is prayed from heaven to earth, not earth to heaven. Intercession is the response of the human heart to the mind and heart of God when it is revealed. Intercession is the privilege of every son and daughter of God to enter into the co-regency of the universe.

God’s disposition toward humanity is favor. His provision is Christ. His requirement is faith. Our necessary response to the Christ-Act is to believe, receive, and activate our faith with obedient works. Works are not dirty. They’re the fruit of saving faith. For those who can believe it, (let him who has ears, hear) every day since the Day of Pentecost has been a day of revival. The Holy Spirit is out, alive, and active in the earth. He’s not skittish. The dove landed on the Messiah, fire landed on the church (We shouldn’t swap metaphors)! He’s not hiding from us, waiting for us to sing a magic chorus or prayer in order to release Him to action.

In our prayer for our neighbors, communities, and nations, we stand with, and in Christ, on behalf of them all. We pray that the grace and good will of God will be effective for them all. We pray that the goodness of God will lead them to repentance. After all, that’s how you and I got in. He found us. We didn’t find Him. The glorious good news of the New Covenant is that revival isn’t dependent on our work of turning, but on His work of atoning.

We are as revived as we want to be.

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Categories: Jesus, New Covenant, Prayer
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