Sermons. Intercessory Prayer

If we are not strong in prayer, if we are sleepy when we pray for our unsaved ones, we will not have God’s answer. Not because God does not want to give it, but because we will not be able to receive it.



Pavel Zhelnovakov

Today I’d like to share something that the Holy Spirit was showing to me recently. When I started to meditate over the words of the Spirit, my interest to them began to grow more and more. Evangelical churches today often preach that all that we have in God is free. This is true, indeed. It is free for us, but for Him it is not! We often say that we get everything for free that we receive it by grace, by faith – and this, too, is true.

Yet either we do not say everything or we do not understand something. So we end up with the truth, but not the full truth. So, we see all of a sudden that what we have freely received is not working in our lives. It seems that we have done everything right: we have believed in God, we thanked God, we have experienced what we expected… But in real life, something is not working! Even when it does, then it takes enormous efforts. So we ask ourselves, “Why is it so?” We have missed something very important, and this is why we do not have a wonderful Christian life. Now what have we missed? This is what I would like to talk with you about.

There are certain truths which are very important for our Christian growth.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever " (John 14:15-16).

"I will ask the Father." I want you to pay close attention to this verse. Jesus is asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit to the world. Don’t you think this is strange? Almost contradictory? How come? Didn’t Jesus tell His disciples,

" And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised " (Luke 24:49; Acts.1:4).

Joel 2 says that it is the will of God to pour out of His Spirit to all flesh.

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38).

This is also about the Holy Spirit.

So, we see that God desires to give us the Holy Spirit. Moreover, He promised to do it! God gives what He has promised - this is what the Bible says. Even to Abraham God swore by Himself that He always fulfills His promises. And now we see this amazing combination I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper.

If God has promised to send us His Holy Spirit, then this promise belongs to us. Why, then ask Him again?

Let’s say, you need something. I promised you to give it to you. You came to get it, but I pay no attention to you…You ask and ask and ask, but I refuse to listen. You are begging me. And finally, I say, “Oh yes, didn’t I tell you I would give it to you? Here it is!”

Is that the case with the Heavenly Father? Or can it be something else?

And we see another thing: God’s Son, who Himself is God, had to ask God the Father.

But we cannot neglect what the Bible says.

We also need to note a similar word when Jesus is talking to His disciples:

"And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. " (Luke 10:2).

That is another interesting combination. The Lord is sending His disciples where He wants to go Himself. And He tells them, “Beseech…”

Again, “beseech.” Has God changed His will regarding salvation of people? Did Jesus not come to accomplish this purpose of God? Doesn’t the word of God tell us, “It is God’s will for all people to be saved and know the truth”?

And again we come to a difficult passage, “beseech the Lord of the harvest.”

It is God’s will for people to be saved. This is what He wants. But there is one condition, “beseech Me.” “Beseech” is an unusual word for our day. It is close in meaning to “beg.”

It is a strange combination: God’s will is clearly expressed in the Bible. The Father wants to save people. The Son wants it, too. Therefore, beseech!

It blows my mind away: why would I beseech, if everyone wants it?

We are so used to having everything from God for free, that all depends on God. It is true. But there is another side of this truth that we are going to talk about.

One time Jesus said to people, “the Kingdom of heaven is taken by force.”

Some New Testament commentators teach that because Jesus said these words before the Cross, they are no longer valid. They say that after Jesus rose from the dead, these words have no more force. Now we receive everything by grace and faith.

But we can discard no word from the Bible. Nor can we add to it. Both are very dangerous.

Let us come back to what we just read in the Bible. On the one hand, we have it for free, by grace. On the other hand, it is taken by force. It means, that those who do not apply force, will not have it.

We need to think of the Lord’s words to the people of Israel,

"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD." (Jer.29:13-14).

Again, if the Lord said that He lives among His people, why would they seek Him?

Whatever we think about it, we have to take the Bible seriously:

Whatever we think of that: we can not escape that which is written: "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart ."

Let us see what other Scriptures say.

"Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt.26:53).

Gethsemane was hard on Jesus. And Peter decided to come to His rescue. He cut the ear of a high priest servant. Of course, his attack was worthless. The Lord told Peter to put his sword back and then He said the words that I just quoted.

12 legions is about 60,000 angels! They could turn the earth upside down! But we are not talking about it now.

"Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father..." I cannot understand this!

Let’s say I have a son. And he is in danger. I told him many times, “If something happens, call me, and I will come to your rescue.” Do you think I will have my son beg me, beseech me, appeal to me about it? A father comes to the first call of a son.

What, then, is behind Jesus words, “do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father”? I cannot believe that the Father does not want to protect His Son. Why, then, are we talking about beseeching?

Let us consider some other Biblical texts.

"In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. " (Heb. 5:7).

Would Jesus’ crying be less forceful, had he not offered prayers and supplications? What would have happened then? We can only speculate about it.

Again, we see how intense Jesus’ prayer to the Father was. It seems strange: their relationship is so deep and loving. We cannot completely imagine them. But now we see “loud crying,” “tears,” “supplications.” And all of it was done to receive the answer!

If we come back to the beginning of the sermon, you might ask me, “We don’t understand. Where is grace?” One thing I can say, it is where it is supposed to be.

How can we put together the gift of love and grace, the gift of faith and eternal salvation on the one hand and loud crying, tears, prayers and supplications on the other?

Before we answer these questions, let us see what other Scriptures say.

I think you remember Peter’s words that we have been given all that we need for life and righteousness. The same epistle has the following words, "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge..." (2 Peter.1:5).

Therefore, to climb the ladder of spiritual perfection, we need to apply all diligence. What if we don’t? What if we apply just a little? What then? Well, we will not reach spiritual perfection with little effort.

The Holy Spirit through John calls Christ’s “our Intercessor.” Everything is said and done, Jesus has had victory, He entered the Heavenlies – this is true. But what kind of ministry does He have in heaven? He is INTERCEDING for us! It sounds so strange, but even now He asks the Father on our behalf.

What kind of relationship do they have over there? It is for us that Jesus is interceding, praying, asking. And all of this is in view of the Father’s love! It sounds incredible!

But Jesus is not our only Intercessor. The Spirit also intercedes for us.

He prays for us according to the will of God. Please, note how: with "groanings too deep for words" (Rom.8:26).

If the Spirit is interceding according to the Father’s will, why are these "groanings too deep for words"? Why such intensity?

Questions, questions, questions.

On the one hand, we have grace, salvation, faith, God’s love, mercy – all of them for free. On the other hand we see amazing intensity to the point of tears, crying, praying, groaning.

So far we’ve been talking about God and His actions. Let us think of people now. How about Jeremiah who always cried before the Lord, beseeching Him about the people of Israel. As a result, he is called “the weeping prophet.”

Let’s think of how Abraham asked God not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Bible speaks a lot about God’s people beseeching God about something, and this is when we see the intensity of intercession.

How do we apply this? How do we understand it and experience it in our lives?

Many of us pray for God’s grace to shower upon us. We are praying for our country, which is perishing in sin. We pray for our family and friends. But sometimes we lack something in our prayer lives. Something is missing from our intercessory prayer.

Think of David who did not eat or drink for 7 days as he was praying for his sick child. Yet the child died. When he prayed, David refused everything, he put all things aside. Apart from prayer, nothing mattered to David in these days.

There should be some intensity in prayer. This intensity suggests God’s work in our lives.

Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you.” We do not know how he was asking the Father. But we know that the Holy Spirit has come to the church!

We also read how He was praying in Gethsemane, to the point of blood – and He was heard for His piety.

We know about many people who diligently prayed – and were heard.

Before the revival in Scotland, the revival leader John Knox prayed a powerful prayer, “Lord, give me Scotland, or else I will die.” These were not just nice words, for you cannot deceive God.

One time Moses prayed the same kind of prayer. When the Israelites provoked God to anger by idolatry, He decided to destroy them and bring up a people from Moses. Then Moses interceded for the people, identifying with them. He said, “If so, then scratch me out of Your book of life.” Can you feel the intensity?

I doubt that any of us would say such words in this situation.

Dear Friends, what kind of intensity is this? It is for a reason that we have these words, “I will ask the Father.”

Think of Jesus’ parable about a man who owed his master 10,000 talents of gold. He pleaded with his master. This was intense asking. And the master forgave him his debt.

Again, we see the intensity of prayer. Why did God give us all these examples? Can it be a door to God’s great blessings?

There is a popular teaching now: “Believe and you will have!” I read some of those books. I believed them and did what they said. For a while I would be successful, but then difficulties would come and I saw that I could not move on. I saw a promising preacher, who seemed so successful who fell down on his knees one day and cried. “Lord, I am bankrupt! I cannot live like that any more! Take my life! I can deceive others, but I cannot deceive You!”

I was shocked! And his life changed after this intensive prayer. I could not understand why the changes came then.

James tells us, “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

Why not just any prayer?

My friends, all of us will have seasons in life when faith alone will not suffice. Did Jesus not believe? Did He not have tremendously close relationship with the Father? The relationship so beautiful and deep that we can only hope for? But for some reason, He had to ask His Father with loud crying, much prayer and supplications. And He was heard because of His piety.

My friends, everyone will have periods in lives, when you don't have just enough faith.

Brothers and sisters, I understand that this sermon goes against many things that you learned from charismatic books which suggest “a leap of faith.”

But to have this “leap of faith,” we need to have some basis. We cannot leap far, if we stand on cotton. There should be a basis of dedication. Then we can “leap in faith.” If not, it will be “spiritual aerobics” in the air!

What kind of state is that? Why does the Bible teach us to seek God with all our hearts, to love Him with all our heart, soul, and might? Why so? What is behind all this?

I Corinthians 12 talks about spiritual gifts. It says that God distributes them as He desires.

And then, in chapter 14 we see the greatest intensity of our spirit " Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy ."

Desire earnestly is similar to pray, ask, beg, and beseech.

Lord, if You distribute according to Your will, why would I desire earnestly?

And now I want to answer all these whys.

What God gives us freely (grace, salvation, blessings, gifts) WE RECEIVE IN THE MOMENTS OF DEEP SPIRITUAL INTENSITY.

To receive God’s serious answer, which God gives freely, by grace; to experience God’s protection and much more, we need all the intensity of our spirit, our strength.

Jesus gave Himself to prayer. He asked the Father not because the Father did not want to give! When Jesus asked, that was the expression of Himself in that prayer.

It was not a confrontation between the Father and the Son. The Son did not talk the Father into something.

Asking means that Jesus poured His heart into this prayer. His heart, His pain, His joy, all that He had!

It was not a prayer “as you go.” It was the state of deep humility, the understanding of His dependence on God, and , of course, His thoughts of what was going on.

For example, I have two prayer requests: one is for a dying child somewhere in Australia. Surely, my heart can sympathy. I will pray for that child. But my prayer will be different if my own child were dying. Trust me, I will weep and cry to God as I never did.

And God will hear me. Not because He was against me before this prayer. Not because He wanted the child to die. No!

But my prayer created the moment of the spiritual intensity, the moment of seeking God: seek Me and you will find Me, if you seek Me with all your hearts.

I need to seek God not because God is hiding, but because without this seeking and strong inside feeling we will not see His answers. They will pass by us.

We know that God wants all people to be saved and know the truth. But the Bible also says, “Beseech the Lord of the harvest.” Why do we need to beseech? Doesn’t He want the salvation of our loved ones? What does He expect of us? He wants us to put all of our being, all of ourselves, all of our hearts into the prayer, because people are perishing. And then, seeing the great desire of our hearts, He will give the answer.

In the days of Elijah, Ahab was king over Israel. Taught by his wicked wife Jezebel, he committed a crime, when he killed someone to have his land. The Lord confronted Ahab through the prophet, and declared His judgment.

Then Ahab took off his royal robes, put on sackcloth, sat in dust and prayed to God. God heard his humble prayer and said to the prophet, "Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days.” (1Kgs.21:29).

Did Ahab HUMBLE HIMSELF before the Lord? And did God answer him? Yes! For “God opposes the proud, but to the humble He gives grace.”

Think of Nineveh. When its inhabitants believed Johna’s prophecy about God’s punishment over their city, they were humbled and God visited them with His answer.

The king of Nineveh commanded that no one would eat or drink, not even cattle and children! Everyone was to cry unto the Lord, hoping that He would hear and spare them.

And God spared that city! But the people needed to cry to Him intensely to receive His answer.

Dear Christians, why am I telling you all this? Enough of lukewarm life! The people around us are perishing! They are going to hell, and no one will help them there!

If we are not strong in prayer, if we are sleepy when we pray for our unsaved ones, we will not have God’s answer. Not because God does not want to give it, but because we will not be able to receive it.

If we want to receive His answers, we have to be intense. Without it we will have no answers. And while we are being slow, people continue on their road to hell!

My sermon today is a challenge to you all! Jesus set an example that we should follow in His footsteps. This was His prayer.

"Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, " (Heb.5:8-9).

Yes, dear Christians, when we ourselves are in pain, we are ready to weep and cry to God. But when we pray for others, we are not as fervent.

I know a father who prayed all night long for his dying daughter. In the morning she was healed.

Such intensity was needed on his part not because God was unwilling to heal the girl. You can say, that he just lacked faith. But I do not think so. He had faith. He is a strong Christian. But he needed this intensity to receive the answer.

When the apostles in Antioch were fasting, they heard God’s answer, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts.13:2).

For us to receive God’s answer, we need such inner intensity, humility, the intensity of deep compassion for people and God-seeking.

We need the intensity that Elisha had when he was following Elijah. Elijah asked Elisha to leave him, but Elisha replied, “As the Lord lives, I will not leave you.” And he received what he was looking for.

We need the zeal that was in Jesus’ heart as He was throwing money-changers out of the Temple.

We need the zeal of many holy men of God.

I believe that we love our family and friends. But I want to ask you and challenge you in the name of Jesus, “Do we believe them so much that we are ready to stand before the Lord for them? Will we ask God with loud crying and tears about their salvation?”

Not because God does not want to save them but because He wants it, and He wants us to receive His answer.

Before Jesus went back to heaven, He asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know that.” And you, dear Friend, do you love Christ? Do you express it so He can see it? You can express it in your intense prayer for the lost!

The world around us needs God. Who will pray for them, if we don’t?