November 13th, 1988 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-13-88 10:50 a.m.
And once again we welcome the throngs and multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on cable television. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am the pastor bringing the message entitled Intercessory Prayer.
In our preaching through the holy of holies in the prayer life of our Lord, we have come to chapter 17 in the Gospel of John, called the high priestly prayer of our Lord. And in the heart of that prayer in verse 9, “I pray for them—My disciples—for them whom Thou hast given Me” [John 17:9].
Then in verse 20 and verse 21, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on Me through their word”; that is, for us who have been converted to the faith by the testimony of these for whom the Lord first prayed. “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, then that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I give them” [John 17:20-22].
This is the last night of our Lord’s earthly life. And in this touching and tender intercession, He prays for four things: “I pray for them—for My disciples” [John 17:9]; “I pray for those who will believe on Me through their word” [John 17:20], that is, for us; “I pray that they all may be one” [John 17:21]; and fourth, “I pray that the world may believe” [John 17:21, 23]. Our Lord, after praying this prayer recorded in chapter 17 in the upper room, our Lord then crossed the Brook Cédron with His disciples [John 18:1].
And as His wont was, as His custom was, came to Gethsemane. And there in Gethsemane He bowed down as a victim before an altar, with the wood in order and the fire kindled, and He poured out His soul, as the Book of Hebrews says, “with strong crying and tears” [Hebrews 5:7]. This is but a reflection of the whole praying ministry of our Savior.
In the first chapter of Mark, he begins with the Lord Jesus praying all night long [Mark 1:35]. He follows with the prayer of our Lord before choosing the twelve apostles [Luke 6:12-13]. Then he speaks of the praying of our Lord before the feeding of the five thousands, the breaking of the bread, and the multiplying of the fishes [Matthew 14:19; John 5:8-11].
And always praying, praying before opening the [ears of the deaf] [Mark 7:34]; praying before raising Lazarus from the dead [John 11:41-44]; praying before the institution of the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26]; praying from the cross to His Father for us [Luke 23:34]; and finally, in His ascension into heaven, extending His hands in prayerful blessing upon those, upon us, He leaves behind in this weary world [Luke 24:50-53]. Having ascended into glory to the right hand of His Father, He prays intercessorially for us [Romans 8:34]. Hebrews 7:25, “For He is able to save to the uttermost,” all of us who go to God the Father through Him, “seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” What an emphasis upon prayer. Thirty-three years living in this world, three years of ministering, one mighty act of dying [Matthew 27:32-50], and now two thousand years of intercession [Hebrews 7:25]. And how meaningful is the praying of our Lord before the throne of grace!
In Romans 5:10 Paul writes, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” On the cross He paid the atoning debt for our sins [Romans 5:11]. But what if we fall into hell between the time that we receive His atoning grace and the time we appear before the judgment bar of Almighty God? What is our ultimate security that someday we will walk those golden streets and be counted with the saints in heaven? [Revelation 21:21]. We shall find that security in the continuing intercession of our Lord, saved by His life in heaven [Hebrews 7:25].
It is a wonderful assurance for us that while we are in the evil world in which our present days are cast, our Lord is in heaven interceding for us, praying for us, a surety that we will make it someday into that glorious home He hath prepared for us on high [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-5]. O God, the prayer life of the Lord Jesus, and into that life not only are we blessed being the objects of His loving intercession, but we also share in it. We participate in it. We are a part of our Lord [Ephesians 1:22-23].
Last Sunday I preached on that beautiful parable in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, the vine and the branches [John 15:1-17]. We are a part of our Lord. And the hand cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee. And the eye cannot say to the ear, I have no need of thee [1 Corinthians 12:21]. But the whole body is vital in its living and ministering. So we, as a part of our Savior, are a vital part of all that He is and all that He does. And if our Lord is praying and we are a part of Him, we are His body.
Then we also participate in that intercessory ministry. We also are a praying, interceding people. I speak now of the power of that intercession. Our Lord said to Simon Peter,
Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
But I have prayed for thee, I have prayed for thee. . .And when you are converted, when you come back, when you turn, strengthen the brethren.
What a difference that made when our Lord avowed to His chief apostle, “I have prayed for thee” [Luke 22:32]. O God, how the character and how the destiny of this whole earth is colored and changed and turned by the intercessory prayers of God’s people!
While Joshua was fighting the battle of the Lord against Amalek down in the valley, Moses, the servant of Jehovah was on the hill with his hands uplifted in prayer in intercession. And as long as Moses raised his hands in intercession, Joshua prevailed. But when his hands became weary and he dropped them, Amalek prevailed. And it was then that Hur stood on one side of him and Aaron stood on the other side, and they held up Moses’ hands in intercession. And God gave the victory to the people of the Lord [Exodus 17:8-13].
If you come to my study across the street, you will find there in front of my desk and in front of the sofa upon which you will sit, you will find a beautiful bronze sculptured piece, created by the finest artist in Israel today. And that’s it; Moses with his hands uplifted interceding for his people, and Hur on one side, Aaron on the other, holding up his hands before God. The power of intercession; it makes an effect in human life that we cannot deny. It is the most powerful instrument under God.
Do you ever think, when you read about Saul of Tarsus who became Paul, the apostle? [Acts 13:9]. In the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, you have the story of the martyrdom of Stephen, the first Christian martyred. And as they stoned him to death, beat to the ground, he raised his face and his hands to heaven and prayed for those who were taking his life away [Acts 7:60]. Then in the after chapter, the conversion of Saul who presided over the execution of Stephen [Acts 7:58]; and when Jesus appears to him in the way, the Lord says to him, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” [Acts 9:5].
What does that mean? It is very obvious. Watching Stephen die; not hating but loving; not cursing but interceding; when Saul of Tarsus saw him die, and he died praying for him and for those who persecuted him and for those who stoned his life away, how do you forget? How do you drown it? How do you other than what happened to Saul of Tarsus? It had a devastating effect upon his persecution of the people of God [Acts 9:1-6]; the power of intercession.
Thus it was when the mother Hannah brought the little boy before Eli, the high priest, and said, “For this child I prayed” [1 Samuel 1:27]. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? Prayed for this child. I prayed. O God in heaven, what a difference it makes praying for someone whom you love! What a difference.
Long time ago, over forty-four years ago, I followed the pattern of Dr. Truett in preaching every Easter at the Palace Theater. As long as that big theater was there we held a week services every pre-Easter. Well, the first time I preached there, I was the last one to leave. And walking out the foyer, I saw a little tiny, bent-over, invalid woman dressed in black, waiting there for someone to pick her up and take her home. I walked over to her and spoke to her. And she said to me, “I am so old and invalid and poor that I can’t come to church any longer. But today a neighbor brought me to the theater, that I might see my new pastor.” And she said to me, “I am so old and I’m so poor and I’m so invalid, I can’t do anything but just pray for you.”
I exclaimed to her, “Dear, as though that were little or nothing! I would rather have you pray for me than anything else in this earth.” Isn’t it a strange thing how persuasion comes into your heart? That has been forty-four years ago and more. And I have through the years felt that one of the dynamic reasons for the blessing of God upon this ministry has been the prayers of that little, poor, invalid woman; the power of it that is God in human heart and in human life.
Haddon Spurgeon—and I do it all the time; I don’t think anything that great preacher ever said was sweeter or more dear or precious than when he said to a friend, he said, “Dear friend, someday when you have the ear of the great King, would you call my name?” Nothing we could ever do for one another that means more than to praying, “God bless, and God remember, and God sanctify and hallow,” and then call your name. O Lord, what an infinite, sanctified, hallowed remembrance from heaven!
May I speak last of the appeal of intercessory prayer? It is to the sublimest unselfishness, to the purest devotion, to the most heavenly ethic that heart or mind could imagine; to pray for somebody else. The world blasphemes and imprecates, but the Christian prays. The world retaliates and in vengeance returns evil for evil. The Christian loves. The world is hardened by the experiences of life. The Christian intercedes. The world passes by the lost on the other side. The Christian stops to minister and to pray. Lord God, what a difference in the life of the child of the Lord, praying for these, interceding for these.
I do not think in all of God’s Holy Word there is a more beautiful or moving story than the intercessions of Moses who saved the whole nation, the people. You see, under Aaron, while Moses was on the mountaintop, the people made a golden calf [Exodus 32:1-4], such as they had worshiped in Egypt, and they made themselves naked and entered into one of those unspeakable orgies [Exodus 32:19-25]. And when Moses came down from the mountain with the two tables of stone, the Ten Commandments [Exodus 32:19], that’s what he saw. And after the confrontation between this great man of God and those orgiastic, idol worshipping people, Moses came back and stood before the Lord [Exodus 32:26-31].
And the Lord said to Moses, “Moses, you stand aside. You stand aside and let My wrath burn against this people, and I will destroy them from the face of the earth. And out of your loins I will raise Me up a nation that will love the Lord” [Exodus 32:10]. Then the Bible says, “And Moses stood yet before God [Exodus 32:31], and said, O Lord God, if Thou will forgive their sin”—[Exodus 32:32]; and in the Bible there’s a long dark line. He never finished the sentence. “O Lord, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—:” then added, “and if not, blot me, blot my name out of the book which Thou hast written” [Exodus 32:32]. “If they perish, let me perish. If they die, let me die. If they’re damned in hell, let me be damned in hell.” And for Moses’ sake God spared the people; God saved the people for Moses’ sake [Exodus 33:17, 34:9-10]. What a glorious, heavenly presentation in God’s Word of the power of intercessory prayer. Just to think of it and just to speak of it is an appeal for us to remember thus to pray.
Samuel said to his people, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” [1 Samuel 12:19, 23]. We can spend the day and the night and the week enumerating these things for which the Bible encourages us to pray. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem [Psalm 122:6]. Pray for that Jewish Arab confrontation in the Middle East; pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Praying for the lost: Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for my people is, that they might be saved.” Praying for the church; in the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians, Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, in that third chapter, he speaks of the church then, “For this cause I bow my knees before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” [Ephesians 3:14]. And thereafter follows one of the most marvelous prayers in this world [Ephesians 3:15-21]; intercessorially praying for us who belong to the people of God. O Lord, that we might be like that; a people of intercession!
Could I make an aside here? As I read the Bible, it is a remarkable thing to me, the revelations that come to those in their praying. In the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, while he is interceding for the captives that he’s seen carried away into Babylon, there is revealed to Jeremiah in his intercession, while he’s praying, that God has limited that captivity to seventy years. And after seventy years, God says, they will be back home [Jeremiah 29:10].
Do you remember in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel, while Daniel is reading that prophecy of Jeremiah, that after seventy years, his people can come back home [Daniel 9:2], then Daniel kneels before God. The seventy years is up, and he is praying for the captives in Babylon as they come back home [Daniel 9:3-19]. And in the midst of that intercession, in the midst of it, is revealed the greatest, most meaningful prophecy in the Old Testament; the revelation of the seventy weeks that will carry us to the consummation of the age, while he is interceding [Daniel 9:20-27].
In the first chapter of the Book of the Apocalypse, of the Revelation, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day,” while he is praying. “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” [Revelation 1:10], by himself an exile and a prisoner on the isle Patmos:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day—
on Sunday I was praying—
and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Saying. . .I am the First and the Last: and, What thou seest, write in the book, and send it to the seven churches of Asia. . .
And being turned to see the voice that spake unto me, I saw seven golden lampstands;
And in the midst of the lampstands, One like unto the Son of God . . .
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me.
How many times in the days of His flesh had the Lord done that; laid His right hand upon John?
He laid His right hand upon me and said, Fear not. Fear not; I am the First and the Last—I am the Alpha and the Omega.
I am He that was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore . . . and I, I have the keys of Hell and of Death.
What you see, write in the book, write in the book and send it to the churches.
[Revelation 1:17-18, 11]
O Lord, in our intercessions how many marvelous things does God reveal to His people? Let me close.
I copied out of the New Testament, I copied some of these exhortations to us in our praying.
- Matthew 5:44, “Bless them that curse you,” and, “pray for them who despitefully use you.”
- Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is, that they might be saved.”
- Ephesians 1:16, “I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.”
- Ephesians 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication.”
- Philippians 1:4, “For always in every prayer of mine for you all making request.”
- Colossians 1:9, “We do not cease to pray for you.”
- Colossians 4:12, “Always laboring fervently for you in prayer.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”
- 2 Thessalonians 1:11, “Wherefore also we always pray for you.”
- 1 Timothy 2:1, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, prayers and intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.”
- Hebrews 13:19, “Pray for us, that I may be restored to you.”
- James 5:14-15, “Is any sick among you?. . .Let him pray. . . and the prayer of faith shall save the sick.”
- Numbers 12, Moses prayed for his sister Miriam that she be healed from leprosy [Numbers 12:13].
- 2 Kings 4, Elisha prays for the son of the Shunammite woman [2 Kings 4:32-33].
- In Isaiah 38, Hezekiah, who was sick unto death; God sends to him Isaiah who says, “The Lord has seen your tears and heard your prayers” [Isaiah 38:5].
- Peter in Acts 9:34 heals Aeneas, and in Acts 9:40 heals Dorcas.
- In Revelation 8:2-4, “I saw the seven angels who stand before God.
And I saw another angel having a golden censer; there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of the saints upon the golden altar. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
Who has that golden censer? I think it’s the Lord Jesus, in heaven. And as that incense rises upward before the throne of grace, Jesus holds it in His hands [Revelation 8:3-4]. And God answers His intercessory prayers for us [Hebrews 7:25].
O God in heaven, what an assurance and what a security and what an encouragement to know that Jesus ever liveth to make intercession for us [Hebrews 7:25]. Bless His name and praise Him forever. May we pray?
Our Lord, what an encouragement and what an assurance that Jesus remembers us, calls us by name [John 10:3], knows all about us, and loving us, intercedes for us. Someday, O Christ, we will see Thee face to face [Revelation 22:3-4], and we will bow at Thy dear feet, and we will thank You, Lord, for remembering us, praying for us. And precious Savior, bless Thou this congregation this morning, both in the house of the Lord and those who have listened by radio and television. And for us all, Lord, making intercession fit for us just the blessings we so desperately need [Hebrews 7:25]. We are nothing without Thee. Even our life and breath come from Thy gracious hands. Lord, that there might be nothing of us and everything of Thee, that God might be glorified in our lives. Bless Thou the appeal we make for Thy name’s sake; give us a harvest, Savior, trophies of grace to lay at Thy precious feet, in Thy dear and saving name, amen.
In this moment when we pray, when we sing, when we make appeal, when we ask God’s blessings; a family you to come to the Lord and to us; a couple you; a somebody you, “The Lord has spoken to my heart, pastor, and here I stand.” On the first note of the first stanza, come. In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me. The Lord has spoken to me and I am answering with my life” [Romans 10:9-13]. Welcome, a thousand times welcome. Angels attend you in the way while you come, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Last night His earthly life He prayed this tender intercession
B. The praying ministry of our Savior (Mark 1:35)
C. In heaven He intercedes (Hebrews 7:25)
1. A wonderful assurance (Romans 5:10)
D. As a part of Him, we also are a praying, interceding people (John 15)II. The power of intercessory prayer (Luke 22:31-32)
A. How much the destiny, character of humanity itself influenced by prayer (Exodus 17:9-13, Acts 7:54-60, 9:5 1 Samuel 1:27)
B. For meIII. The appeal of intercessory prayer
A. Speaks to highest ethic, purest devotion
1. Intercessions of Moses (Exodus 32:32)
B. A responsibility to pray (1 Samuel 12:19, 23, Psalm 122:6, Romans 10:1, Ephesians 3:10, 14-21)IV. Remarkable revelations of God while in prayer
A. Jeremiah in the captivity (Jeremiah 29:7, 10)
B. Daniel reading the prophecy of Jeremiah (Daniel 9)
C. John on the isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:10-20)
V. Exhortations to us in our praying (Matthew 5:44, Romans 10:1, Ephesians 1:16, 6:18, Philippians 1, Colossians 1:9, 4:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 1 Timothy 2:1, Hebrews 13, James 5:14, Numbers 12:13, 2 Kings 4:33, Isaiah 38:1-5, Acts 9:33, 40, Revelation 8:2-4)