Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Intercede for others – and you’ll be blessed too!

This is meant to be an encouragement; I have just started, far from being arrived
This article is solely for the purpose of encouraging fellow believers to intercede or pray for others (apart from our loved ones). In my Christian walk, if I just look at 3 matters, namely, hearing the Word, praise and worship, and prayers, I realized that I have been a consistent church go-er for years; I have not been doing too badly for my part to praise and worship God despite others thinking that I was (originally) tone-deaf. Since many years back after expressing my deep desire to praise and worship him, the Lord had over the years, especially in recent years improved my music senses; and because of my desire to praise and worship Him no matter what, and my desire to “fill the gap”, the Lord has honored me with gift of singing in tongues since some 20 years back. Over the years, this gift had grown from level to level, although today many in the body have been gifted in this area too. I feel the thing I did the least of the three, is in the area of prayer and intercession.

It is only in recent years that I have started to pray more, and more importantly intercede for others apart from loved ones. About 2 years ago, my life skidded down to the pit of darkness; I entered into the most difficult season of my life, desperate, helpless and lonely. For a time I was like what was depicted in the Bible – a voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted (Jer 31:14-16, Mat 2:17-19). I prayed and prayed but without breakthrough. I then solicited prayers but there were disappointments because some people were not keen to pray for me, despite the fact that they were the ones most reasonably be expected to intercede for my situation. I am still rising from the pit after meeting God when I persisted in prayer when I was at the bottom, in the most painful period of my life, which I have not fully come out from. One thing I learnt from the situation was that I must pray more, not just for myself but for others, despite suffering disappointments when people were not forthcoming to uphold me in prayer. But that is not to say that no people prayed and interceded for me. In fact, I believe a number did, and I am most grateful for those who did. For those readers who know my situation (still not the time to share publicly on this) and have interceded and helped me in one way or another, I want to say thank you.

As the Lord helped me to rise from the pit, I also started to pray more. I began to pray for the sick, and the Lord blessed me with words of knowledge for sickness conditions. Following that, I find myself attending my church ministry workers and leaders meetings, corporate prayer meetings, and even all night prayer sessions. Frankly speaking, I do not like to pray in the company of people, or for that matter praying (aloud) for people. I was too self-conscious and still is somewhat, but I tell myself it is what the Lord wants done, and so I have to do it. Of course, prayers and intercession are done in private and in public, both of which have their places. Now, while doing the above, I have made it a point to intercede weekly for some people – loved ones, and others I promised I would pray for them, or for people the Lord impressed upon me to intercede for a season. Yes, also not forgetting for the church services of my church.

Only after being desperate and helpless, did I fully embrace the need for the believers to pray and intercede for others, but you do not have to go through such painful experience to have your heart set to embrace prayers and intercession for people.

Before I come to specific testimony that I want to share with this article (typical of me, ah; long-winded!), let us go into the Word a little.

What does the Bible says about intercession?
There many examples in the Bible of situations where men of God would intercede for others, in some situations for those under their charges but at other times for groups of people or even unrelated people.

Numbers 21:6-9 – Bronze snake or serpent

6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them {after the Israelites murmured against God, accusing God of ensnaring them}; they {the snakes} bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people. 8 The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

It is without excuse for people in leadership positions, not to pray and intercede for those under their charges when requests were made to them. In my home cell leadership many years back, I remembered I had to pray for cell members and others despite my dislike of praying in public. I had to force myself to do because it came with the territory, so to speak. I could have abstained from being a cell leader for this reason but I faced my fear. Last weekend, my senior pastor said something very relevant here, and that was that when we take up a role for the Lord, we can look to the Lord for help. Here we see Moses interceded for those under his charge, the Israelites on the journey to the Promised Land.

In Genesis 18, we see Abraham interceding for Sodom:

20 Then the LORD said {to Abraham}, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know." 22 The men {The 3 Visitors; if you want to know who the 3 visitors were, read my separate article – Who are The 3 Visitors? } turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

You probably know the conclusion of Abraham’s intercession. From 50, Abraham “bargained” down the number to 10. The Lord agreed that if there were even 10 righteous people, He would not destroy Sodom. Some argue he was interceding for his nephew Lot who was living in Sodom. That might be true, but he could be interceding for just any righteous men who were in Sodom; in any case, he was interceding, and that is my point.

In the New Testament we also read of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation of believers to pray for everyone because it pleases God who desires all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4). In the Book of James (5:14) we read of what elders of the church should do when sick people come to them for help – they, the elders are to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. When we pray for the sick, we are interceding to God for their healing.

We also read of what the Lord is doing now, that He is seated at the right of the Father God – interceding for the believers (Romans 8:34). While He was on the earth, Jesus prayed for many – the sick, those unjustly treated, even for the dead to be brought back to life, and for many signs and wonders and miracles, demonstrating the love and compassion of the Father God.

Sometimes back I wrote on Jesus’ teaching on prayers. Of relevance here is part II (praying for another) of the 3-parts article. You may want to read that part II to understand that Jesus exhorted us to be persistent in interceding for the needs of others.

Also, when we look at the heart of God, we understand that God is the God of love and compassion; his heart is for the lost, the poor and needy, the widows and orphans, the oppressed and the afflicted, the weak and defenseless.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan summed it very nicely the attitude we should have. I believe it pays to look at the initial conversation before the story was related by Jesus:

25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

After this, Jesus related the story of the Good Samaritan. You can read the story from Luke 10:30-37. I will just draw out the point pertinent here. To the priest who passed by, the man who was robbed on the highway or byway was not his neighbor. The same was the attitude of the Levite who also passed by. But not so, for the Samaritan; he had compassion for the half-dead man. A person in needs or in afflictions is your neighbor (neighbor in the 2nd commandment above) or friend (Jesus’ teaching on prayers for another, a friend in need is a friend indeed!), regardless, color, race or religion.

When we talk about prayer and intercession, we are not even talking about rendering material help like giving of physical care, money or food or accommodation and physical shoulder to cry on, so to speak. Yes, of course, there is a degree of giving demanded in prayer and intercession – you have to set aside time and energy, even sacrificed some activities you could have enjoyed during the time you used for prayer and intercession but this is what our Heavenly Father would be pleased with; and just for that we should engage it. Actually, it is also for our own good, just like when we praise and worship God, it is also for our own good!

Am I done yet? Ok, ok I am done. Next is the testimonial bit
The testimonial bit that I am trying to tell happened last weekend (16th – 17th Jan 2010). On 16th, Saturday, as usual, at the 4 pm service, in my church service there was a time to release words of knowledge and ministry thereof, the only thing was that after the release of words, a veteran brother in church was called on by the senior pastor to give his testimony of his recent experience of a stroke. This brother suffered a stroke and in a couple of days, through prayers by pastors and others, experienced very speedy recovery. By the way, the word I released without knowing such a testimony was being lined up, was that there might be someone with discomfort or pain in their chest (heart, chest pain/discomfort, hypertension, blood vessels problems, and strokes are related things). In my church, we believe that the testimony of Jesus (e.g. of His miraculous work) is a word of prophesy (that He might want to bring to pass similar thing). We saw several people responded to the words as well as the testimony, but not as many that I thought the testimony might invoke when the call was given for people with the related problems, including fear of stroke (or repeat of it) to come forward for prayer. For myself, I prayed for one man with the chest pain I described.

Wade the pool!
What was painted to you above on the Saturday service, was not that unusual, in fact nothing unusual; and so I did not really think much about it. What was interesting was that on the next day, Sunday (17th) morning, in front of the mirror before my morning wash-up to go to church, I had the impression that I had to “wade” the “spiritual Bethesda Pool” at the front of the church sanctuary (regular readers would know that I believe the front of sanctuary of the church that I attend has been consecrated as a spiritual healing pool, stirred not by angels but by the worship of the congregation), instead of prayer-walking around the two red lines bordering the area (the “pool”), and then to do my usual stuff of prayer and intercession, kneeled at the front of my usual seat in the 1st row pew. Actually, I did not feel very nice about that thought coming to me because I did not want to have all eyes (the congregation looking) to be on me, like I would be a Pharisee, trying to be “super-pious” or something. As a common practice, I would prayer-walk first, at least half an hour before the first service starts; so very few people would see me do what I do at the front of the sanctuary (only the early birds would get to see me prayer-walking the pool). The problem was that the thought was to “wade” the pool to and fro. As far as I can remember, I probably had walked in between the two red line markings (marking out a rectangular area in front of the sanctuary) only once (at most, twice) in all my past prayer-walks; I walked around the pool, I do not walk in the pool. I only remember the one time I walked in the pool from one end to the other, was to receive greater anointing from the Lord. When I left home that morning I was still quite uncertain what I would do, maybe I would “wade” the pool but I would not be doing the “to and fro wading” repeatedly for all to see.

Haiti, intercede for Haiti!
So, about an hour before the 1st morning service, I was at the sanctuary. As usual, the worship team was on stage practicing for the services to come. By now, they have grown accustomed to my presence at the front of the sanctuary even as they practice for the services to come. This prayer-walk around the “pool” was really quite a standard thing for me, meaning I almost always cover the same items in my prayer as I walk – I would pray for God to look from Heaven, the Holy Spirit to come, and come with angels, warring angels, healing angels and ministering angels; the positions thereof of the angels in the sanctuary, continued consecration of the place as the healing pool, a prophetic act of “oil tunnel” with me picturing the angels lining the pool (from the 2 red lines) with wings raised and touching each other from opposite sides of the pool, forming an angelic tunnel, and then the Holy Spirit hovering over the tunnel, dripping anointing oil, and healing oil onto the wings of the angels and from there dripped into the pool, so the pool was not a pool of water as such, it was a pool of anointing oil of the Holy Spirit. Since I have said so much about the pool, please indulge me to digress a little further. Some months back, while in a ministry workers and leaders meeting of the church, a sister whom I did not know, in a sort of a prophetic circle exercise, gave this vision for me: She said she saw me at the front of the sanctuary, and she saw droplets coming from above, and she said she could clearly see some droplets hitting the floor. This to me is a confirmation from the Lord what I have been doing at the front of sanctuary, week after week, were not products of my own imagination. I am still learning, but one of the ways that God speak is by putting thoughts into us. I cannot explain to you exactly, but I want to say that such thoughts if they are from the Lord, you kind of know they are not from your own. I have to learn to sharpen my “hearing” so as not to make mistakes.

Coming back, I would also be praying for the worship team and the speaker for the services. So, you see I do not think about other things during this time of prayer-walking around the “pool”. About half way through the walk, suddenly, I felt that I had to “wade” the pool, and the moment I stepped into the pool, the word Haiti came to me, I realized I had to intercede for the Haiti situation. It is unusual to me, but I had to obey, and so I did a “to and fro” wading of the pool, standing in proxy for the people of Haiti. I cried out to God for aids for the people, God to save people, to do miracles, heal people, send resources from heaven, including body parts, send help by men, came against spread of diseases because of too many bodies lying around, asked God to take care of security issues, of the looting, of the hardship of the people, that their basic needs of medical attention, food and shelter be met. I could not help but felt tears from the corner of my eyes.

So what happened?
Just that it may be complete, I want to say I did not “wade” the pool until near service time, so, not many could see what I was doing. I still get to do my personal intercessions for my loved ones, and that included my children, my mother, and siblings and their families. Of course, I did not forget to intercede for the so-called other people (not my loved ones); a few of them.

The followings would be, I believe, the areas that my little prophetic act, intercession, and obedience might have impacted:

First, I want to say that, on that Sunday night, somehow, I got to “catch” some TV news, and I learnt that at Haiti, after 103 hours (more than 4 days) under rubbles, a lady and man were separately rescued. On Monday evening, again, (I do not usually get to watch the TVs news), I learnt from the TV news that another Danish man had been rescued. Then later I learnt the UN chief was saying things have improved from the previous day. I am not claiming credit for any of these. I can tell you many people were and are interceding for the Haiti situation, but I also remember what my senior pastor shared before – he said he (probably including other pastors as well) prayed for big things around world and they have come to pass. Was he blowing his own trumpet, and exalting himself by saying things happened because he interceded? No, I do not think so. But we rejoice in the Lord, and encourage others, when, if indeed we have contributed, even if it was in a small way, the situation has turned out to be better. Imagine what will happen if everybody thinks everybody else will be praying and so he will not be praying. We can easily end up with nobody praying because unless we cultivate it, praying and interceding for people are not what our sinful nature will want us to engage in. Nowadays, I tried harder to attend church corporate prayer sessions for this reason. If everyone thinks that he will not be missed, we will end up with no one coming to prayer meetings except the pastors.

Second, when the same stroke testimony was shared in the two Sunday services, large number of people responded to the altar calls and God was at work, with people being slain and felt ministered. In the first service I was surprised so many people came forward to the “pool”. I ended up not even releasing the word of knowledge, since people with all kinds of conditions were already coming forward. This I believe is a “side” blessing for the intercession done for Haiti.

Third, and this, makes me want to write this article, because I believe I have been blessed too with a healing, even as I stood proxy for Haiti. Some months back I started noticing that I could not lift my left hand high up my back without pain. I did not know how it happened or when it actually became like that. Since inadvertently realizing that it was painful to lift my left hand high up my back, from time to time I would try and see if pain was still there, and it was. Recently I checked; it was still so. I discovered on that Sunday night the condition had improved a lot. At the time of writing this, the pain is no longer there.

I hope this article will cause you to think a little more seriously the need to pray and intercede for others, especially people in afflictions. If you cannot think of who to pray for, the Haiti situation still needs our prayers; you can pray for me too – pray that I will continue to grow in favor with God because people with His favor can do mighty exploits for the Kingdom; that is if you can believe God’s favor would not be wasted on me.

Anthony Chia – Prayer and intercession are good works, and are fruits.

PS: Just before I uploaded this article to the blog site, I saw this article on the internet that another, an old woman, has been pulled out from the rubbles of a Cathedral on Tuesday. You can read it here - http://sg.news.yahoo.com/afp/20100120/twl-haiti-quake-rescue-cathedral-4bdc673.html - This story is no longer available on Yahoo news as at 16/03/2010.

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