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The Model of Intercession

Ephesians 1:15-23

One of the great frustrations of the average Christian is intercession. We read in the Bible of those whose faith allowed them to intercede powerfully with God, and wonder why we don't have the same power. In this little passage this morning Paul lays out for us, by example, a method of intercession which may serve as a model for us.

(Eph 1:15-23 NIV) For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, {16} I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. {17} I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. {18} I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, {19} and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, {20} which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, {21} far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. {22} And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, {23} which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.


Note please that Paul begins with thanksgiving. We don't often associate thanksgiving with intercession; we usually begin immediately with out requests.

Thanks for the person

When you pray, do you begin by giving thanks for the person for whom you are interceding? Do you realize what privileges you have?

·         First, there is the privilege of intercession itself. You are privileged to go before the throne of God Almighty and speak before the King of Kings. Most of us would consider it a privilege to be allowed to speak to the President or the Congress; how much more a privilege to speak to God?

·         Next you have the privilege of sharing in the work of God. He allows you this so that you might draw closer to him, but it is still a great privilege.

·         Beyond that, you have been entrusted with someone who is, or could be, a child of God. Does not God expect you to pray for him?

Had this person not existed, nor had such trouble, you would not have such a privilege. You would be reduced to begging for yourself, with no work for God and no responsibility from him. Give thanks, then, for how God has placed such a work in your hands.

Thanks for their faith

It is so much easier to pray for a Christian, isn't it? First, you know that their ultimate security is perfect, as is your own. Nothing can separate them from God, and he will prevail. Even if the one you are praying for dies, they are with the Lord when absent from the body. How difficult it is to pray for one who is not a Christian, for there is always the fear that they may die before they accept Christ.

Further, one in the faith is more like us. It is easier to "put ourselves in their shoes," as it were, for we know what it is to be a Christian.

Thanks for their love

Love can be seen in action, and Paul here commends those actions towards other saints. This provides us motive for intercession:

·         There is a sense that we are "returning the favor." They have done good for the body of Christ, and we are trying to do good in return by interceding for them.

·         It is not a case of saying, "He is worthy." None of us is worthy before God. We are saying, "He is worthy before us."

·         In a sense, we are praying for a "friend of a friend." These are the ones who are the friends of Jesus Christ, and he is a friend of mine.

For What Shall I Pray?

Paul divides his "what" into two pieces: what they should receive (or, perhaps, where they are going) and how they should receive it (or how to get there).

How they should receive

Note, first, that Paul invokes all three persons of the Trinity. There is no special formula here, but Paul is anxious for us not to divide the Trinity into three gods. So he tells us about the Father, through the Son, by the gift of the Spirit.

Indeed, there is the "how" - by the gift of the Spirit. Note first that it is a gift. None of us can do anything which can by any means obligate God towards us. But any of us can do things which please God and cause him to reward us. Paul then divides this gift into two aspects:

·         First is wisdom, which we may call the "natural" aspect. It is that part which we must use ourselves, our reasoning and meditation. We are to love the Lord with all our minds, if you recall.

·         But then there is revelation, which God completes for us. It is now complete, until He comes again. By implication, of course, this would be the Scriptures. Note this is "revelation" not "news." God decided upon this course before the world began; it's just that he took his time about telling us.

The purpose of all this "how" is that we might know him better. So when we intercede, we can ask the Spirit to give wisdom and revelation for the purpose of knowing God better - for in knowing God is eternal life.[1]

What they should receive

Most of us, when we intercede, are quite prone to giving advice to God about what should be done. Commonly, this is healing. But Paul shows us a more excellent way:

·         Hope. Hope is the pleasant anticipation of what is to come. When we intercede, should we not ask God to give the person hope? For what is life without hope? And note that God called us to this hope; we did not demand it of him. He tells us to hope, and hope we should.

·         Riches of his inheritance. Inheritance happens to the heirs - for example, the sons. We are the sons of God and therefore he will give this to us. So all that God is, is available for us. No wonder we should hope! And what riches! He is the God of all things, and therefore all things are possible in prayer.

·         Incomparably great power. We tend to limit God; we ask him to find us a smarter doctor. This is the God who performed the Resurrection of our Lord from the grave. This is the God who spoke and the worlds began. This is the God who is coming again, bringing a new heaven and a new earth. Perhaps our results are so small because we refuse to recognize how great he is!

All these things are available to us through Christ, to whom you pray, to whom you belong. To see the power in our intercession, we must see the stature of the one who intercedes for us and with us.

The Stature of Christ

Christ, Paul tells us, was raised from death to the right hand of God. We still use the phrase, "right hand man," to describe someone who is next to the ultimate authority. This is the position of Christ; we are joint heirs with Him; He intercedes with us. Upon his authority we intercede.

Far above all powers…

Do you really accept that? Do you really believe that Jesus is far above all powers and principalities, or do you think he needs to get a permit from the city to say so? If you do, there are two consequences:

·         First, you will fear God. No other authority can truly touch you when you are under the authority of Christ. Persecution and desperate times may come your way, but ultimately all they can do is kill you. Even then, you will follow him if you truly fear him above all else.

·         Then, as the Royal Navy used to say, "Fear God and Dread Naught." Once you fear him, of whom else can you be afraid? And if you fear nothing else, then what is there for which you cannot ask? And indeed receive?

Now and in the age to come

Most of us have no good conception of the age to come; we're stuck in the here and now. For that reason we assign dominion of the age to come to Christ - and dominion here to whomever seems to have it. It is not so.

·         "All things work together for the good of them that love him." Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it is not so.

·         The time will come when you will see it, face to face. That time will be when He comes again.

·         And if your request is not granted now, do remember that he has all eternity to deal with it. He comes, and his reward is with him.

All things under his feet

The song says, "Things over my head are under his feet." Often I cannot understand how God could possibly retrieve a situation; I cannot understand why he let something happen; I cannot understand any number of things. I do not need to understand why or how. I need to understand Him. I need to understand that all things are under his feet, and if I will but trust him I will be a part of that working for good. The issue is not his intentions - but my doubt.

If you genuinely believe that all things are under his feet, then tell me: why do you doubt? And if you doubt, do you genuinely believe that he is lord of all?

Head of the church

Paul crowns this passage with the thought that Christ is the head of the church. We need to understand that this is the crown of the passage, for it is God's choice that the church now becomes the body of Christ on earth:

·         We are the ones called out. "Church" means the assembly, the ones called together. Separated out, we are like him: anointed to a purpose.

·         We are his body in the more literal sense: we are his hands and feet. If physical work on his behalf is to be done, we must do it.

·         If you intercede for someone before the throne of grace, how can you possibly refuse to be those hands and feet for that person?

We are filled with the fullness of him who fills everything. Think of it this way:

·         If someone crowned you a king, would you not work hard to be worthy of the title? Even if you didn't deserve it? So it is with us. We are the church, the body of Christ, and we don't deserve it. But we can work hard to try to be worthy of the title. We can intercede for others, in prayer and in work, daily.

·         The bridegroom is incomplete without a bride. We are the bride of Christ. Christ is complete; therefore Christ must be in us, filling us. Is this not the gift of the Holy Spirit?

·         Even to the world this is so. You are the only Jesus some will ever see; you are literally his body. Do what Christ would have done: intercede on behalf of the lost, the sick, the dying. Bring Christ to this world.

[1] John 17:3

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