“‘Oh, that Ishmael may live before you!’ Abraham cried to God.” (Genesis 17:18) This cry has always moved my heart. I have always felt a deep connection with Ishmael; we are him. That cry from the heart of a loving father is God’s cry for you and me. This is intercessory prayer. In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote, “You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption.” We must believe that God is mighty enough and lovely enough to make things right and that God desires to make it so. Intercession then is locating a person or a situation into the lap of dear God, confident that God will make things right.
I was 24 years old, a freshly minted American resident when my six-month-old baby went into anaphylactic reaction. Out of my belly came the cry, “God, what’s going on? He’s yours; please heal him!” I had given him peanut butter, and apparently, his body did not like it. I watched all the swelling go down within a few minutes as I cried to God in dance. I never considered calling 911, not because I have something against it! In the moment, I simply did not think of it; I knew prayer and God’s reliability.
Another time in a conversation with a friend, she said, “I get migraines,” welcoming my prayer. I prayed immediately. A few days later, she called to say that she had not had pain since our prayer together. Her migraines are still gone. I can go on and on sharing situations in which God has intervened because of intercession. I keep a journal of people and things I bring before God daily. God is reliable.
Intercession is becoming love; it is becoming the heart of God for humanity. It is asking God to redeem, to make right according to his perfect love. We do not tell God what to do, but we allow the heart of God to flow through us for our friends, families, society, and even enemies. Enemies don’t stay enemies in prayer.
It’s 2021; we see enemies everywhere – strange ideologies, racism, bigotry and such in the world and in the church. We are wary of each other and perhaps weary of God. God is not answering fast enough for you, or maybe he allowed things you did not want. There’s a sense in which we wonder, “why pray, when God will do whatever he wants anyway?” But remember how Paul encouraged the Galatians: “Let us not became weary, [in interceding prayer] for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) We must believe God is mighty enough to save and lovely enough to want to save.
Surrender is the key to intercession. Without it, love cannot and will not flow. We cannot avoid surrender. Revival will not happen without it. The transformation we desire in the lives of those we bring before God will not happen unless we raise our flags in surrender. Healing will only come to our earth – your flesh, mine, and the world – when we are free of our preconceived ideas of how reality should be, and we yield to God.
Did God say, “If my people who are called by my name will get smarter in their arguments, independence, possessions, and politics, I will hear from heaven and answer; I will forgive their sins and heal their land”? There is so much to make the heart weary. The earth and people groan for the return of God. We cry revival with our lips, but our hearts are not humbled; we have not repented of our arrogance. God appeared to Solomon when he consecrated the temple. He said, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people,[you have to admit it has felt like this for the world] if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14, NIV)
Physical, emotional, spiritual, and societal healing all begins and ends in surrendered intercession. When you pray for me, and I pray for you, we manifest God’s love. We are family connected through the explosive love of God who created all things. Your healing is intertwined with mine and mine to yours. Let us pray for Ishmael. “Oh, that Ishmael may live before you!”
Featured image courtesy Henrique Jacob on Unsplash.