Intercession and Standing in the Breach

The people of God – followers of Christ – are to be a praying people. The apostle Peter says of us that we are part of a holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9). When we consider the priests of the Old Testament, one of their tasks was to be intercessors on behalf of the people. Today, as members of the priesthood of believers, this holy and sacred baton has been passed onto us. Are we being faithful, or have we been fumbling it?

We are told by the apostle Paul,

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-6

I don’t profess to understand prayer. I only know we are called to pray. While I know God is sovereign and doesn’t need our help, I also know that He calls you and me to pray. While our prayers do not change God, in some mysterious way God has decreed that He will only do certain things in response to the prayers of His people. For example, after telling him about the corruption of the false prophets, priests, and political leaders of the day, God then tells His prophet,

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God. ~ Ezekiel 22:30-31

Did you catch that? God sought for persons to intercede for the nation, for someone to ask Him to turn away His wrath and judgment, but He couldn’t find anyone. God implies that He wouldn’t have sent destruction if He could’ve simply found someone to stand in the breach on behalf of the nation. Beloved, do you believe our nation and world aren’t experiencing the judgment of God? If not, read Romans 1. We are told of three judgements which occur as God begins giving a people over to their sins. With each judgment, there is a deeper, darker, and more dangerous pit. Beloved, whether we admit it or not, America is in the third phase of judgment. Yet, WHERE are the people of God? We’re so busy playing games in church, we don’t have time to take intercession seriously. You don’t believe me? When was the last time your pastor spoke about revival? How often do the television and radio preachers talk about it? We hear people all the time saying how crazy our world is becoming, but how many of the same are saying, “Come with me, we must pray and seek God’s face”?

How many churches today still have prayer meetings and altar calls? Of those that do, how many are filled with people pleading to God for His mercies on behalf of our nation and world? How many people truly plead to God to send revival? There is no lack of evidence for the urgency of such prayers, but where, oh where, are God’s people to be found pleading?

Beloved, let me ask you something. Why do people need the Savior? What is the eternity awaiting those who die without Jesus? These are not trick questions. And if you’re born again, you’ll know the answers are that those who die apart from the saving grace of Christ will die in their sins and be forever condemned to hell. There are no second chances or do overs. Do we believe this? Tell me, DO WE BELIEVE THIS??? Then how can our churches not be burdened? How can we not be on our faces pleading before God?

Beloved, I don’t care about your theological camp. What I care about is the heart of God. And He tells us as He speaks through His prophet, “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin…. For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the LORD God; so turn and live” (Ezekiel 18:30, 32).

Churches and pastors, lest we continue in our religious fun and games, and remain focused on building our empires in our own names and for our own glory, God also speaks through His prophet this warning:

So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. ~ Ezekiel 33:7-9

Beloved, our prayers matter. And our hearts matter. And to God our Father, the people all around us matter. The question is, do they truly matter enough to intercede and stand in the breach for them. If not, then let us be clear that our religious activities are nothing but sheer garbage.

Somebody Needs Your Prayers 

Somebody needs your prayers,

   Family, friends, and strangers;

Life’s full of hurts and wounds, 

   And so many hidden dangers.

Someone needs encouragement,

   Another needs a loving embrace;

Someone needs guidance and direction,

   So many are lost and need God’s grace.

Life’s full of disappointments,

   And so many burdens and cares;

Lift your voice and heart to God,

   ‘Cause somebody needs your prayers.

~ G. P.

Ours is a hurting, confounded, wounded, broken-hearted world. While some will be afflicted more than others, none of us is immune. All around us there are hurting people—our homes, schools, workplaces, businesses, and churches.

Each day we pass by persons who are weighed down by loneliness, grief, consequences, fears, and depression. All around are people who appear to have it all together but many are facing parental, marital, and financial problems. Others are hounded by physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual issues. Others are facing rejection and betrayals. Some are battling various addictions or disorders. Sadly, whether we understand or not, many lose hope and grow so tired of the hurting they take their own lives.

We are not called to fix everyone’s problems, and we certainly can’t heal everyone’s pain—but we can, and should, pray. Pray that they may turn to the Lord for His help and guidance. Pray that He will infuse into them His grace, mercy, comfort, and wisdom. Most importantly, that they may know Him, through His Son Jesus Christ. For what is all the healing and blessings of this world if one’s soul is not healed and redeemed?

Let us beware of three common pitfalls: 1) Apathy, indifference. 2) To speak truth apart from love. And 3) To love apart from truth. Too often, we pass others by without any thought or consideration of what they might be going through, oblivious to telltale signs they might be displaying. Sometimes we can hammer persons with truth while withholding any compassion and grace. Still, we sometimes make the mistake of cradling persons while minimizing the behaviors and attitudes which led them to painful situations they find themselves in. There are so many dynamics. We need wisdom. But something we can do, even when we lack love, truth, and wisdom is pray. For God is not lacking in any of these. 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. ~ John 2:24-25

We don’t always know what to do, but we’re always to pray. Oswald Chambers wisely observes, “We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but Jesus wants us to pray before we do anything at all.” Today, be open to the Holy Spirit, and know that there are many who need your prayers.

A House of Prayer 

Jesus says explicitly, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’” (Matt. 21:13; Luke 19:46). Therefore, not only is He stressing the importance of prayer, but it is to be of highest priority of any congregation gathering in His name—from the vocational ministers to the attending laity. So we should ask ourselves, how did churches become houses of worship? Understand, this is not simply a changing of terms. These are not synonymous. No, this shift is quite consequential.

“My house is to be a house of prayer,” the Lord declares. Yet, consider the emphasis of most churches. Is it prayer? No, most churches emphasize the preaching, worship, or missions/outreach of some kind. Yet, typically in any service prayer is given only a couple of minutes. Certainly the preaching of God’s Word, worship, and missions/outreach are all important. However, it is through prayer churches show their dependence on God and seek His directives. Furthermore, it is through prayer these other things are infused with the power of the Holy Spirit versus man’s ingenuity and activity (there is a distinction). Incidentally, it is by the lack of prayer churches reveal their trust in themselves (rather than on God) and seek after their own agendas instead of God’s will. Oh sure, in many cases buildings are erected and congregations grow numerically—but not infused with the power of God and a deeper knowledge of Him!

Henry Blackaby writes this haunting observation, “Those who know they can do nothing apart from abiding in Christ will cry out to God continually (John 15:5). People who become self-confident and proud will find they are too busy to pray.” How much do you and I, as well as our churches, genuinely cry out to God in total dependence and with abandonment of ourselves?

We say that we follow Christ and that He is our Teacher and example—that we want to be like Him. But is this true? Do we follow His example? Do we really want to be like Him? Oswald Chambers is right when he says, “Prayer seems like such a small thing to do—next to nothing at all in fact. But that’s not what Jesus said. To Him prayer is everything.”

Consider how many times in the Gospels we read of the Son of God rising up early in the morning while it was still dark or staying up late into the night for the purpose of praying. Before calling His disciples, He prayed. So devoted was He to prayer that His disciples (who no doubt were familiar with prayer) requested that He teach them to pray. Before His passion, knowing the cup of suffering was being given to Him to drink in its entirety, He pleaded that there was some other way; nevertheless, He wanted the Father’s will to be done. Is this our mindset—our desire—to seek long and hard after God, to enquire of His guidance in every decision, and to surrender our desires and agendas in order to align ourselves with His? This is difficult. In fact, this is impossible if we are not being infused with His Spirit. Cheryl Sacks rightly notes that this cannot happen apart from fervent prayer.

Please understand, I’m not speaking as one who is some great prayer warrior. But I see so much powerlessness of the church as darkness spreads further and many people falling away from the faith. We have Christian literature and media galore, but where is our influence? We have plenty of nice facilities and events, but where is the power? Is not our lack of influence and power simply a result of our lack of prayer?

The purpose of this article is not to shame the church or put her down. Rather, I am simply wanting to encourage you, and that we may encourage one another, to seek passionately after the heart and face of our Father—just as our Savior exemplified. By the moving of the Holy Spirit within us, may our church buildings be restored to houses of prayer instead of houses of worship. May we become completely dependent on God rather than our own abilities, and may we learn to sincerely pray patterned after His, “Your will be done.” From here, only God knows what incredibly positive effects this would have in our lives, our homes, our churches, our communities, and our world. We won’t ever know, except churches becoming what God has willed for them to be—houses of prayer.