prayers of intercession in scripture
Open Your Bible
Text: Exodus 32
On one hand, Exodus 32 is quite an uncomfortable chapter to read. Moses has gone to the Mount to commune with God on behalf of the people of Israel. As they wait for his return, they get increasingly restless. Then they begin to forget. They forget God and His works, they forget Whose they are. And so they make a new god, a calf of gold, and they worship it right there in the land God has given them.
I can almost hear the refrain, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. / Prone to leave the God I love.”*
Oftentimes the needs of others can overwhelm our hearts, much like the darkness in this scripture overwhelmed mine. But, Sisters, we must not despair. For God has cast an eternal light in the darkness and He invites us to make that light brighter through prayer.
Just when it seems the Israelites are once again beyond hope, when it seems they’ve gone so far and so quickly away from God they must deserve whatever comes to them, look at Moses. Watch as he pleads their case before the Lord they abandoned. Watch as he cries for mercy before the presence of God Himself, reminding Him of His promise and boldly asking Him to protect His own glory. And watch as God relents, granting Moses’ request.
Hold the phone. God changes His mind because of prayer? Yes and no. Fully sovereign though He is, the God of heaven invites us to participate in His Kingdom through prayer. He is a personal God, an interactive God, and when His children call He responds. D.A. Carson put it this way: “God has ordained the means as well as the ends, and the means include intercessory prayer – with tears, with persistent perseverance.”
God calls us to pray for one another. He calls us to “stand in the gap” for our Brothers and Sisters (Ezekiel 22:30-31, NIV). I wish I could explain exactly how the whole thing works, how prayer affects change. But as one who has been carried along on more than one occasion by the prayers of the Church, I can tell you that it does. It works. Because He has ordained it so.
Intercessory prayer is less about changing God’s mind and more about participating in His mercy.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about prayer this way, as becoming a vessel to pour out God’s goodness on those I love? That is not an opportunity I am willing to miss.
*Lyrics from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson, 1757.