Many of us are enlisted, almost daily, to pray for some condition or ill. Pray for this. Pray for that. Pray for me while I'm going through this trial. And we naturally feel the need to respond to the requests. So, why don't we see more positive results? Have we misunderstood the importance of prayer? Does God really need our input?
"HE saw no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor;"[Isaiah 59:16]
"...and HE has given to us the ministry of reconciliation,..."[2 Cor. 5:18]
To claim to be a Son of GOD is to ascribe to yourself the most awesome responsibility that can be imagined. I think it would require volumes of paragraphs to minimally describe the immense weight of responsibility and opportunity that I believe goes with the territory called "Son of GOD". And yet, that is precisely what every professing believer is proclaiming to be.
The Body of Christ has lamented for twenty centuries about our inability to convince GOD to answer all of our 'prayers'. We ask for goodies and hand-outs with the greatest of casualness, and then require well thought out excuses as to why GOD did not see fit to respond to our requests and petitions. And all the while we are not getting the results we asked for, we are encouraging others to spend more time praying and asking GOD to fix the things that we think need fixing; as if having more people asking GOD to fix these things is more likely to get a favorable response than having only a few calling on HIM. It only stands to reason that if you can get many people calling on GOD for results, you are more likely to get HIM to respond to our plight. Right? Hmmm.
My purpose in sharing these words with you is to try to put into place the thoughts and insights that have been necessary to fix my own erroneous thinking. And if I am successful in accurately communicating what I believe OUR FATHER has shown me about my own misunderstandings, I believe you also will have a more productive communication with FATHER, in HIS House, which you are.
FATHER, may it be so! Amen!
We have made some very bold statements concerning prayer. We have even had some financially successful ministries built around the concept of "...praying prayers that get results". Who can put up argument against the apparent prosperity and achievements that some of our more visible 'ministries' have displayed in recent years? Some have even built elaborate telecommunication outreaches, and all of these attribute much of their success to an active prayer life. And all in the name of Jesus, of course. And did not our LORD HIMSELF make some provoking and very remarkable statements about prayer? Who among us wants to dispute Luke 18:1 where Jesus is quoted as saying "...men ought to always pray, and not lose heart..."? And it is evident what Paul the Apostle thought about prayer. He professed to remembering others when he prayed. In 1Thes. 5:17, Paul admonished the believers to "...pray without ceasing".
These, and other passages, are unmistakable testimonies that prayer should be an evident activity in Sons of GOD. And yet, for all the ways these admonitions of our elders have been translated, I can't help but believe that somehow we have missed what it is OUR FATHER would have us to know and do. How else do I explain away my inability to bring to pass Mark 11:24? Jesus said, "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them and you shall have them". Or at least that is the way most Bible transliterations quote Jesus. I think it would be more accurate to say, "For that reason, whatever you ask when you pray, believe and you will receive". Somehow, when you remove the 'things' and the 'them's that Our LORD did not include in HIS Words, HIS instructions to us take on a little different meaning. Maybe HE wasn't talking about asking for things after all. Hmmmmm!!
I am convicted,and convinced, that all things and ideas and concepts and Spiritual Insights should be balanced by first trying to understand what Our LORD believed about these things and ideas and concepts and Spiritual Insights. And Jesus spoke Hebrew. HE did not talk to HIS Jewish followers in Greek or Latin. So let us try to get a perspective of 'prayer' from the Hebrew language.
Prayer, and praying as an activity, does not get as much attention in the Hebrew Scriptures as I would have thought. For all the emphasis that the Body of Christ currently puts on 'prayer', I would have expected to find the writers of the Scriptures continuously leading us into prayer, in some form or another. But that is not what I learned. As I study some of these Hebrew words that are translated "pray" and "prayer", I get the sense that these Holy Writers were more concerned with the fact that men did not understand that praying was not an exercise of asking GOD to give or do something. Prayer should be more focused on the concept of seeking the FACE of GOD to become more like GOD! Consider this example from Exodus 4:15-17. GOD is explaining about Moses' relationship to Aaron when HE says, "Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth, and his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do. So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as GOD. And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do signs". And so you ask, "What does this have to do with 'prayer'? Hang on.
The emphasis here to Moses was to understand that he was to be GOD in these situations. FATHER was teaching Moses that when he acts on the behalf of GOD, doing what GOD does in any given situation, then Moses actually becomes GOD to that situation. Remember, only GOD can do what only GOD can do. I believe this to be truth as clearly as I know it. And in Ex. 7:1 we read; So the LORD said to Moses: "Behold, I have made you GOD to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet." Again, I believe Our FATHER would have us to know that HIS Words in our mouth makes us "...the prophet of GOD". And when the prophet of GOD speaks, GOD speaks. Granted, there have been many that proclaimed "Thus saith the LORD", and it wasn't GOD speaking at all. But that story is for another time.
The Hebrew word that has been most frequently translated 'pray' is the verb 'pah-lal'. It is #6419 in Strong's Concordance, and as I said, does not appear as often as I would have suspected. Pah-lal is defined by Strong's as "...to judge (officially or mentally); by extension, to intercede or to pray". Gesenius' Dictionary carries the thought a little further by adding the idea of executing judgement. These are acceptable definitions, I suppose, but I find them very lacking in conveying the idea behind this word, 'pah-lal'. I believe a more effective understanding can be had if we consider that the one who prays is in deed acting on the behalf of GOD. To 'pray', or to 'pah-lal', is to involve yourself in judgement and deliverance on the behalf of one(s) who need to be delivered. Please consider this: All 'judgement(s)' is for the purpose of 'deliverance'. If I have a critical lack, in any category, then I may request of you that you pray. If I have a need so severe that I ask you to pray for me, then I am assuming that you have the wisdom to know what to do about my critical lack or need. If I assume, or believe, that you have the wisdom and ability to pray for my deliverance, then I must be assuming that you have the Mind of Christ.
Let us refer back to our perfect example and model, Our LORD Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus expected HIS prayers to be answered completely and accurately. And I do believe that all of HIS prayers were answered, completely and accurately. In John's Gospel, Jesus makes some daringly bold statements concerning HIS relationship with GOD. In HIS confrontation with the leaders of the Jews, Jesus asserts that HE does only the will of HIS FATHER. HE actually declares, in chapter 14, that HE so precisely carries out the will of GOD, that if you have seen HIM, then you have also seen the FATHER. Jesus claims, in no uncertain terms, that HE does only what HE sees FATHER do; and HE says only what FATHER tells HIM to say; and goes only where FATHER tells HIM to go. This is, by any stretch of the imagination, perfect submission. Jesus is telling us that GOD the SON is in perfect submission to GOD the FATHER. If the SON is in perfect submission to the FATHER, then the SON asks only according to FATHER's will. It is Our FATHER's great pleasure to give to HIS SON the Kingdom, for the SON desires to do only the will of FATHER.
Prayer is not asking GOD to meet whatever you think your needs are. Your FATHER already knows what your needs are. Prayer is not asking GOD to do your will. Prayer is seeking FATHER so intimately and closely that you know what HIS will is. And when you know what HIS will is, then HE will speak to you and ask you to carry out HIS will. Those who worship HIM worship HIM in Spirit and in Truth. And those who worship HIM in Spirit and Truth get so close to HIM they know what FATHER wills for them to do. FATHER's will doesn't change from one day, or circumstance, to the next. "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever".[Heb.13:8] GOD is not a reactionary. HE doesn't change according to circumstances.
"He has shown you, o man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your GOD".[Micah 6:8]
'Pah-lal', or 'prayer', is rightly defined as "...judging; executing judgement". All judgement, as I can understand it, is for the purpose of delivering us from anything that prevents or hinders us from manifesting the Life Our FATHER has given to us. GOD has poured out HIS Spirit on all, and by so doing, provided that all can know HIS will. HIS will is for HIS SON to love as GOD loves HIS SON. And as you and I, as Sons of GOD, submit to FATHER's will, and love as HE loves us, HE will bring us into situations and encounters that provide opportunity for us to 'pray' for the deliverance of others. And GOD's words in our mouths and hearts will be GOD to those who are in need of GOD's presence. When we pray according to FATHER's will, then the SON is praying. The SON always prays in accordance to FATHER's will, and FATHER always answers the prayers of HIS SON. When we make petition and requests from our carnal reasonings, our 'prayers' cannot be answered. It is the Spirit which gives LIFE.
I have, for myself, described 'pah-lal', or 'prayer' as this: Prayer is invoking the Will of GOD; Prayer is invoking the Mercy of GOD; Prayer is invoking the Justice of GOD. Remember, this kind of Prayer is seeking the Face of GOD, and then setting out to do the Heart of GOD. In Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14 and 14:11, the prophet is warned by GOD not to pray for the deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem. This is very serious business; religious people beware.
There are several other Hebrew words that have been translated as 'pray'. These have some unique circumstances regarding their particular settings, and as usual, translating them as 'pray', or 'prayer' does not do a very good service to the reader. One of them, however, is so important I do not want to overlook it's impact on our Spiritual understanding. The Hebrew word 'pah-ga' has such a strong bearing on Spiritual Life that I believe no Son of GOD should be unaware of it's importance.
The word 'pah-ga' is in Strong's Concordance #6293. It is defined by Strong's as "...impinge, by accident or violence; come (betwixt), cause to intreat, fall (upon), make intercession, intreat, meet (together), pray, etc.". 'Pah-ga' has been translated as 'met', 'intreat', 'pray', 'intercession' , 'fell upon', 'came' and 'reached'. The word has been used to describe two territorial borders meeting together. It has been used to portray when two individuals meet in a particular fashion. To me, the word best demonstrates where two distinct experiences intersect to the extent that the two actually influence each other. Allow me to try to explain.
In 1Samuel 22:17-18, King Saul is furious with the priests for helping David. Saul told his servants who stood by to "...fall upon the priests of the LORD". The word translated 'fall upon' is the Hebrew word 'pah-ga'. And the impact of Saul's instructions to 'fall upon' the priests was that he wanted his servants to strike and kill the priests. You can read the full story for yourself to determine if this has been taken out of context.
Another curious use of this word occurs in Gen.32:1. "So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of GOD met him". Here the word 'pah-ga' is translated as 'met'. The word obviously has much more implication than just a casual encounter. And we won't try to plumb the depths of this mystery here, but I hope that you are getting a sense of the power of this word. It describes definite influence and interaction between differing parties. And now for what I believe is the importance of this whole study. The first passage I want to point out is Jer.27:18. Jeremiah is trying to convince the people of Judah not to heed the words of those that Jeremiah says are false prophets. The false prophets are prophesying peace and prosperity while Jeremiah is prophesying captivity, and slavery to Babylon. Verse 18: "But if they are prophets, and if the word of the LORD is with them, let them now "make intercession" to the LORD of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, do not go to Babylon". Jeremiah said that if the ones that he declared to be false prophets truly were prophets, let them 'pah-ga', or make intercession to the LORD. He was indicating that if these false prophets were true prophets, their 'pah-ga' would get results, and prevent the people going into slavery and captivity in Babylon. I believe 'true' Intercession is me entering into the Heart of GOD, and GOD's Heart entering into me, for the purpose of bringing to pass GOD's Will.
In Isaiah 53, the prophet is describing the "suffering servant". We now know that Isaiah was describing Jesus, for Jesus perfectly fulfilled all of the prophecies of Isaiah. In chapter 53, the prophet tells us of one who will be our sin-bearing redeemer, taking upon HIMSELF our iniquity. Hear verse 12: "Therefore I will divide to HIM a portion with the great, and HE shall divide the plunder with the strong, because HE poured out HIS soul unto death, and HE was numbered with the transgressors, and HE bore the sin of many, and made intercession (pah-ga) for the transgressors".
Isaiah describes for us in prophecy what we now refer to as the "Great Exchange". GOD enters into our humanity in such a way that HE becomes the SON that HE was looking for in us, takes upon HIMSELF our iniquity, and enters our experience to the extent that HE takes upon HIMSELF our nature, and HE gives to us HIS Nature. That, my brothers and sisters, is "Pah-Ga". HE provides the only way possible to take away our sin consciousness and give to us HIS SON Consciousness.
This is "intercession" at its finest. Intercession is not you asking GOD to bail me out of my financial distresses. Intercession, or "pah-ga", is you meeting me at the point of my need. Intercession is not me asking GOD to heal you of your infirmities. Intercession is me coming to you at your point of need, laying hands of compassion on you, and being your healing on your behalf. Intercession is not asking GOD to send laborers to the field for harvest. Intercession is when I see that there is a harvest field ready, I go to that harvest field, and I become GOD's reaper for HIS Harvest. I hope that you are now seeing that true intercession, or "pah-ga", is you involving yourself in my need, providing for me your provision, and taking to yourself my lack; whatever that lack may call for. By the way, in Isaiah 53:6; "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has "pah-ga" on HIM the iniquity of us all".
Now that, my beloved, is Intercession!
Believers, intercessory prayer is not just when we go to GOD on the behalf of the need of others. Intercessory prayer is when we go to others to meet their need as GOD in their behalf. And we cannot do that until we have met the necessary commitment to know FATHER's Heart on the matter. Then and only then are we, like Moses, prepared to be GOD for that need. This may not be a very popular position in these days, but it is what we have signed on for.
"Now all things are of GOD, who has reconciled us to HIMSELF through Jesus Christ, and has given to us this ministry of reconciliation; that, is that GOD was in Christ reconciling the world to HIMSELF, not imputing their (our) trespasses to them, and has now committed to us this Word of reconciliation". [2Cor.5:18-19] GOD was in Christ (Anointing), reconciling. GOD is still in HIS Body of Christ; and reconciling.
"...HE saw no man, and was astonished that there was none to 'pah-ga". [Is.59:16] HE saw that there was no one who would, or could, intercede (pah-ga) for us, so HE entered into our need and our humanity, and became our intercessor on our behalf.
May these words produce in you only Peace and Assurance that we are thoroughly equipped to be all that HE has said that we are.
Shalom and Shalom! Alan