My first point was “Understand the reality and certainty of trials, difficulties, and crises.” My second point was “Effectual prayer in extraordinary times of crises rounded upon disciplined prayer in ordinary times of peace.” My final point is: “We must cultivate and develop a ministry of private and corporate intercession.”
Thus far I have been talking about your own personal prayer as it relates to your own devotional life, and I have not been talking about intercession. But just briefly let me say this, if you want to develop a ministry of private intercession,
1. You Must Be Committed To A Lifetime Of Sacrificial Intercession.
Private intercession lies closest to the cross of Christ. By that I mean nobody sees you, nobody knows you, nobody hears you except the living God, no one is there to praise you, and no one is there to encourage you. Develop a ministry of sacrificial, self-denying private intercession separate from your devotional life. Don’t try to cram it all in there together.
When I was I pastor many years ago, I spent several hours in the morning by the grace of God seeking to worship God, cultivate my soul, confess my sins, ask for help, petition and supplicate for my needy weakness. And in the afternoon for several hours at least from three until five, I would give myself to intercession, and I would secure a time separate from my private devotions. And I would pray according to a plan. That is,
- I would pray for the general needs of the church, as Paul did in Ephesians 1 and 3. He prayed for the general needs of the church.
- I would pray for the specific needs of the individuals. Now as you read Paul in Romans 16, he knew a lot of people by name, and he loved them, and he prayed for them. Men, if you do not spend generally a comparable amount of time in private intercession for the people to whom you preach, as you do in preparation for what you are preaching, you may not know the blessing of God upon your ministry to the degree that you ought. I encourage you men to give yourselves to serious intercession. Some of you may have churches that are larger. Some of you may have a church of less than a hundred. I encourage you to pray for the people in your church, pray for the usefulness of the Word, pray for the influence of your preaching, pray for the problems in the church. Give yourself to private intercession. It is closest to the cross. Listen carefully. Let me say this in closing.
2. You Are Responsible For Developing A Ministry Of Corporate Intercession In Your Church.
You are responsible for developing a ministry of corporate intercession in the life of your church, especially during difficult times. What do I mean?
- Teach Your Church The Importance And Centrality Of Corporate Prayer. Study the book of Acts and the brethren praying together.
- Discipline And Exhort The Men To Lead In Prayer. Paul says, “I want the men to pray every place lifting up holy hands without wrath and dissension.”
- As Leaders, Schedule And Attend Yourself Corporate Prayer Meetings. A lot of preachers say, “We are going to have prayer meetings on Tuesday night at 8 o’clock,” but they never show up. The people will only do what you do. You must be there. You must lead in prayer. You must be the example
- Make Your Prayer Meeting Nothing But Prayer. If you want to have a Bible study, have a Bible study; if you want to have a time for fellowship, have a time of fellowship. But teach your people to come together to pray. And you lead the meeting yourself as one of the leaders. And you teach the people what it means to pray. Sometimes we come together Tuesday night or Wednesday night to review the sermon, ask questions, have another Bible study and tack on only five minutes of prayer. That’s not what we are talking about. We are talking about gathering together, you as leaders and elders leading the church in prayer and teaching them how to pray.
- Arrange Your Prayer Meetings According To A Plan. Back when I was pastor many years ago, we had prayer meetings, we would come together, and this is what we would do: we would sing a hymn, I would speak for three minutes—an exhortation from a verse on prayer, then we would go to prayer. And we would divide it up into three or four fifteen-minute segments. In the first segment, we would pray for ourselves, our lives, our family, our marriages and our children. In the second segment, we would pray for our church and all of its various ministries. In the third segment, we would pray for our country and our fellow churches in our country. In the fourth segment, we would pray for mission and evangelism and outreach. And what we would do is we would ask the men to lead out in prayer. We didn’t forbid the ladies to pray, but we asked the men to lead out in prayer. And we would always try to encourage the brethren to stay on point about what we are praying about. Men, if you do not have a serious, anointed, Spirit-empowered expression of corporate intercession of prayer in the life of your church, you’ve got a body without a heart. The heartbeat of your church is not just the pulpit; The heartbeat of your church is the place of prayer.
3. You Are to Teach Your People To be grounded in the Sovereignty of God.
Expect your men to grow in prayer. Ask the men to lead out in prayer. And when you gather together during difficult times, understand the purpose of the crisis is to test our faith, to purify our life, to produce godly character, to prepare us for ministry, and to fit us for heaven. That’s the purpose of trials and difficulty.
My wife has a ministry in a remote part of a country going through great turmoil. She has a ministry of benevolence and charity and evangelism and discipleship to poor children, orphans and needy women. She has a compound there with about a hundred and eighty children and about twenty to thirty workers. Recently, the army took over a duly elected Democracy and the country is in absolute chaos. And all the fighting and bombing surround that little compound all those orphans are. And the soldiers had come into the compound and they had taken away some of the children, and they shot one of the workers, and they had stolen some of the young men. By the grace of God, we got them back. Even today, there is a place where the battle rages high, and the army there is burning peoples’ homes, burning their shops, burning their churches. They are attacking pastors. Remember, we have been talking about the reality of crises. They are tying the pastors up to trees, they are beating them severely, then they are raping their wives and their daughters before their very eyes, then they take their young sons off to enlist them in the army, and if the boys are not willing to fight, they shoot them in the head, gut their bodies, take out their lungs, their liver, and their kidneys and sell it on the black market and send the boy’s body back to father gutted like a slaughtered animal.
Now if you were that pastor, you have been beaten, and your daughters and wives have been raped before your very eyes, and your son has been returned to you gutted like a slaughtered animal, with his kidneys, lungs, and his liver gone, what would you pray? That is a crisis. Now there is a crisis all over the world. But if we don’t have a sense and grip of the sovereignty of God: in some strange way he works all things according to the counsel of his own will, and as Paul said, “All things work together for good.” Now he did not say all things were good. He said, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” If you were that pastor, what would you pray? What would you preach to your people? We are to be rooted and grounded in the sovereignty of God, a loving wise all-powerful God who works all things according to his own will. Then they can say, as Joseph has told his brothers, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good;” they can say, like Peter on the day of Pentecost, “You crucified your own messiah, delivered him into the hands of sinful men. But this was according to the foreordained predetermined plan of God.”
Men, you have got to teach your people the sovereignty of God in the midst of every trial in life. Because some of you are going to get Cancer, some of your children are going to die, you already had friends and family members get COVID-19 and perhaps get sick and die, you live in a hostile religious climate, you live in an unstable political country, you live surrounded by poverty and demonic oppression. You are ministering in the midst of crises. And if you don’t live on your knees in the place of prayer with the confidence in the sovereignty of God, pleading his mercy, rooted in Scripture, confident that God knows what he is doing, you and your people will either lose their mind, or lose their faith, and thus lose their soul.
How do we pray in crises? We pray like we had prayed in peace—consistently, sacrificially, fervently, believingly, with discipline, with confidence, with the hope in the sovereignty of God and love of Christ, asking for the presence and power of the Spirit of God. That’s how you pray in crises.
Men, my prayer for you is that you would know the presence of God in secret. Have you known the presence of God? Have you felt the weight of the glory of God? Have you got a sense of the glory of Christ? Have you known the power of the Spirit of God? Have you been lifted up and carried, as it were, to the third heavens in the place of prayer?
Don’t give up! Don’t give up the secret place. Renew your effort. Now if you are married, does anyone have to encourage you to shut the door, take off all your clothes, and have a personal and intimate relationship with your wife? Does anyone have to force you to do that? No. The issue is not the duty, the issue is desire, the issue is affection. I encourage you to fall in love with the Saviour, to worship the living God, to ask for the power of the Spirit of God, and you pray this bold prayer, “God if you don’t anoint me anywhere else in my whole life, I want your presence in prayer.” That is my prayer for myself. You young men that are preparing for ministry, in all your preparation, give yourselves to prayer, to be devoted to it with an attitude of thanksgiving.
So, that’s all I want to say. Men, I am preaching to myself. I am speaking out of love. I encourage you to begin fresh tomorrow. Find a place, get on your knees, and ask God to come and help you, because things are probably not going to get better in this life. And if you are not living close to God, you will be confused, you will compromise, you will grow cold, and you will not be useful.
Is there anyone who has neglected the secret place? Is there anyone here that is left off getting on their knees in the presence of God? Is there anyone harbouring secret sin? Is there anyone here becoming lazy and undisciplined and sluggish in the ministry of prayer? I didn’t say we don’t struggle in prayer. I struggled in prayer this morning, but by the grace of God, I am not going to quit. I encourage you to join me in that place. Find it, stay there, live there for the rest of your life. Amen.
This article is the final part of the transcript of a talk by Brother Andy H. in June 2021 entitled ‘The Preacher’s Private Prayers and Ministry of Intercession.’