Eight Priorities

of Intercessory Prayer

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A Prayer Manual For
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Some of the most important passages in the Bible are the most frequently overlooked. The result is that Christians often don't know things they should know to be effective as Christians. This is particularly true of knowing how to pray, particularly in knowing what the Scriptures tell us to pray for when praying for ourselves and others.

I John 5:14 & 15 tells us one of the most critical guidelines for getting our prayers answered. We must pray according to God's Will. It follows logically that if we pray for things that are taught or shown by example in the Scriptures, especially in the teachings of Jesus, we are going to pray effectively.

In I Timothy 2:1-5, Paul makes it clear that we are to make a priority of praying for others. But what should we pray for when we do?

The following Priorities of Prayer are all clearly shown in the New Testament. With the exception of #2, they are not part of the mainstream of Christian prayer, at least not in most churches. But they are things we should make a regular discipline of praying for, for ourselves and others. Again, pray them for yourselves, and for others, individually and as a group.

1. Pray for the Forgiving of Sin.

It is notable that in the Lord's Prayer, the only petition that has a qualification attached to it, and the only one that Jesus comments on at the end, is the prayer for forgiveness of sin. This tells us that this is very important. The clear implication of what Jesus said is that we won't get our prayers answered unless we forgive those who wrong us. This, again, is one of the most important forms of obedience, and one of the most significant manifestations of Christian love. But there is a greater dimension to this than just our forgiving those who wrong us. And it is at the very foundation of Biblical intercession.

In John 20:23, Jesus made a statement to the Apostles that has enormous significance, but, as stated above, it has often been overlooked

"Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them;
and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."

Jesus was telling them that they had the power to forgive sins! This is the basis for the Catholic idea that the priests have the power to forgive sins. The difference is that in Christ, all true Christians are priests. But how do we do the forgiving of other people's sins?

One of the main functions of an Old Testament priest was offering sacrifices for the forgiving of other people's sins. We as priests can do the same thing, but we do it through intercessory prayer. This is illustrated directly I John 5:16, where we are told to pray for anyone whom we see committing a sin "not unto death". It is a matter of debate just what the phrase "sin unto death" means. It may apply to any sin that constitutes a capital offence under the Law of Moses. Or it may mean any sin that has directly fatal consequences, like suicide. It follows that we should pray for the forgiving of any sin that does not meet these criteria. In fact, since we don't know exactly what the "sin unto death" is, it is likely that we can pray effectively for the forgiving of any sin but suicide.

This type of intercession, in the case of the unsaved, does not guarantee salvation to the person prayed for, but it removes the obstacle of guilt from between the sinner and God, and opens the sinner up to the working of the Spirit.

This idea of praying for the forgiving of the sins of others among Christians is also mentioned in James 5:15 where it is linked to the ministry of healing. Here, we have the idea of healing the spirit before the healing of the body, as in Matthew 9:2-7.

Prayer for the forgiving of sin is the very foundation of intercessory prayer. Pray this for every person you pray for.

2. Pray for Healing and Deliverance

This, as stated is the one thing that many Christians do pray for. It is a fact that we have a Scriptural obligation to pray for the healing of the sick. But there are errors made in this way. Contrary to what has been taught, it is not necessarily God's will to heal in the case of every sickness. God sometimes uses sickness as a form of discipline among Christians. Paul testifies to this in II Corinthians 12:7-10. This writer knows that this is true from personal experiences. Telling someone that it is absolutely God's will to heal them of whatever may be putting a snare in front of them that could destroy their faith. Pray for the sick, but don't tell them they will absolutely be healed. Let them tell you when they have been healed.

On the other hand, healing can be the Lord Jesus' "calling card"; that is, it is His way of getting people's attention and letting them know He's there. This writer knows of cases, one dramatic one in particular, of people who got spontaneously healed through the power of Christ, and yet no one was apparently even directly praying for them. There have been cases wherein such healings started people who were rebellious or indifferent to the Gospel on their way to salvation.

We should also pray for deliverance, and this does mean freedom from bondage to demonic forces. There are over thirty references to demon possession in the New Testament, and casting out demons was a major part of Jesus' supernatural ministry. This can mean only two things: either demon possession and oppression was far more common in Jesus' day than it is now, or it is much more common today than we realize. The latter possibility is the likely truth.  If a person has what we would call an "emotional disturbance" or is "mentally ill", this writer has substantial experience to show that the problem in many cases is demons, coupled with the person's sin.   Don't be led astray by false teaching that denies the reality of demonic forces. If we pray, as above, for healing and the forgiveness of sin, we should also pray, especially in such cases, for deliverance.

Finally, don't be dissuaded from praying for the sick, and this includes the "mentally ill", by apostate teaching that either says outright that God no longer heals, or gives lip service to the idea that He does while telling you not to expect it. God promises it, howbeit with conditions. So do be diligent in praying for healing and deliverance.

3. Pray for Protection from the Evil One

Jesus ended the Lord's prayer with the petition that we would not be led into temptation, but delivered from "the evil one" - what the original Greek really says. He prays the same basic thing in His Pastoral Prayer for his disciples in John 17:15. But beyond reciting the Lord's Prayer, how often do Christians pray for this, either for themselves or for others? RARELY!  Jesus teaching and example show that this is something that should be a regular part of our prayer lives. This writer does it daily, again, for himself and others, and is of the opinion that it has brought him much concrete blessing.

The Bible tells us that the devil "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8). We are told to "resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 47). How do we resist him? One way is the use of the Scriptural rebuttal, "The Lord Jesus Christ rebuke you, Satan!" (Jude 19) It may sound nutty to some readers, but it works! Another way is simply to pray for protection. There are several Scriptural prayer - related verbal images of divine protection, angels encamping around whomever, a hedge being built, shielding, or simply "keeping", which is in the sense of watching over whomever for purposes of protection. Regardless of the verbal imagery used, prayer for divine protection is answered with divine protection. Pray for it, again, for yourself and for others. Do it daily. The devil doesn't take vacations.

4. Pray for Sanctification

There are a number of Scriptural synonyms for the sanctified state: holy, righteous, Christ-like, godly, etc. Whatever term your use, this is something that God wants to be true of us. Sanctification is the process of becomingly increasingly sinless and righteous in our thinking and our behavior. It may come suddenly, in a crisis experience, through infilling of the Holy Spirit, or gradually by spiritual growth from study of the Word, prayer, and experience in Christian living, or both. Either way, it must happen if we are to become what God wants us to be. And either way, it requires our cooperation.

There is a subtle but serious error that has been frequently taught in some churches relevant to sanctification It is the idea that says that "holiness is not so much the absence of sin as it is the presence of the Holy Spirit". The problem with this is that it allows for the continued presence of sin in a person seeking sanctification. But since when did the Holy Spirit keep company with habitual, willful sin? NO! Holiness is both the absence of sin and the presence of the Holy Spirit. You can't, in the long run, at least, have both sin and the Spirit.

So we must pray for true repentance, and the true anointing of the Spirit for any and all Christians that we pray for. Including, of course, ourselves. Pray that every Christian will be given the discernment to know what sin he has in his life that he needs to repent of, and the grace to do it. Pray that every Christian will have a desire to be holy. Pray that every Christian will want to be truly filled with the Holy Spirit and really be like Jesus.

5. Pray for Unity among the Saints.

We are commanded, as in Ephesians 4:2, to be constantly working toward unity. In John 17:21, Jesus prayed for unity among Christians, for the purpose of convincing the world of the truth of the Gospel. Yet this is one of the New Testament teachings most flagrantly violated in contemporary Christianity. Increasingly so!!! According to the Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia, there are over 25,000 different Christian sects and denominations in the world. Compare this to Islam, our most dangerous enemy, spiritually, and the source of much present persecution, and more than that, terrorism. There are only six forms of Islam of any importance. That is because of a doctrine of Islam that says, "There is no disagreement in Allah". Biblically, there should be no disagreement in Christ, but at the intellectual level, the Christian world is dominated by disagreement. This happens to be a pervasive sin condition which is one of the reason why most Christians will not be ready for the Second Coming.

If Christians had the kind of unity that Muslims have, we could take over the world spiritually, culturally and politically in a generation, without a shot being fired. We could, in theory, bring about a Millennium without there having to be a Great Tribulation first. But because of our failures generally, and the lack of unity in particular, we won't. The Tribulation will happen.

We should be constantly praying for unity among Christians. We should pray that all Christians would put the love for one another that we are commanded to practice (John 13:34 & 35) above their doctrinal differences and agree in Christ. We should also be praying that Christians who are offended in any way by their brothers and sisters would practice the kind of from-the-heart forgiveness that we are told to practice (Matthew 18:33-36) and seek reconciliation. Above all, pray that all Christians would really unite in prayer.

Uniting Christians in prayer, by the way, is one of the main purposes of this Ministry.

6. Pray for Preservation.

It is debatable whether or not a Christian can lose his salvation. But one thing the Bible makes very clear is that there are rewards that go to some Christians and not to others. It seems obvious that many Christians will wind up in heaven "scorched and smelling of smoke", which is to say, "saved so as through fire" (I Corinthians 3:11-15). Again, the Bible tells us that the our enemy, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion seeking those whom he may devour. It is, again, debatable whether he can cause a Christian to lose his or her salvation, but he can certainly chew up a Christian's life, to the point of turning it into a living hell, and making a Christian totally ineffective, or worse, in his or her witness. And of course, to the point of causing the Christian to totally turn his or her back on the Lord. He has done it to many.

If every person, in the United States, at least, who has ever said the "Sinner's Prayer", or otherwise sought to become a Christian, were now living a victorious Christian life, the Christian Faith would dominate the U.S. in the ways mentioned above, rather than being increasingly scorned and persecuted. The situation is probably the same in many other ostensibly Christian nations. The sad truth is that there are many, too many, people who having once come to Christ, have at some point later, for whatever reason, fallen away. Either they have turned their backs on the Lord completely, or, while continuing to profess faith in Christ, are living lives that are a testimony against, rather than for Him. Sometimes this begins with a Christian yielding to the most simple and seemingly innocent of temptations. The fact that this is happening stresses the need for prayer for preservation. Pray that all Christians will be "preserved blameless" (I Thessalonians 5:23) in their walk, to the point that they will be with Jesus where He is in eternity (John 17:24).

7. Pray for Justice.

All of us are aware of situations involving injustice. Justice in many places is lacking toward Christians. Anything unjust in the way of human actions is an abomination to God. Permitting ongoing injustice within a state (politically speaking) is one of the practices most likely to bring God's wrath. God is a God of justice. Prayer for justice is one of the types of petition frequently demonstrated in the Book of Psalms.

In any situation where you know that injustice is being done, especially in the case of the persecution of Christians, pray for justice to be done, tempered, of course, by God's mercy. Justice can be prayed for in any situation where injustice is happening. It is one of the kind of prayers that the Bible promises will be answered quickly (Luke 18:1-8).

In this context, remember that in terms of interceding for our fellow Christians, there are no greater needs for justice than those who are being persecuted. Remember also that the good we pray for others will come back to us. If we don't want to feel the fire of persecution, then we should be diligently praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters. For protection, preservation and justice, in particular.

8. Pray For Spiritual Enlightenment

First, understand that this is not about enlightenment in the New Age/Eastern Religion sense. That kind of enlightenment is a deception. There is, however, a kind of enlightenment that all Christians need. More than that, this kind of enlightenment needs constant renewal. Paul mentions praying for this enlightenment in Ephesians 1:18:

"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".

This prayer is for an opening of one's awareness by the working of the Holy Spirit. This awareness includes realizing who and what we are in Christ. It is becoming conscious of the power that is available to us. It means being aware of the presence of Christ in our lives, and the truth of His promises. Beyond that, it is knowing what God expects of us as Christians and how we should go about fulfilling His expectations.

This also includes being aware of all that God has done for us. It is all too easy for Christians, even ones who have been close to God, to forget or never even realize all that God has done for them.

The reason that some Christians fail is because they have never acquired this kind of enlightenment. Or maybe they lost it as a result of habitually yielding to certain temptations. Again, it is something that every Christian needs. It is something that we should pray that God would give to every Christian, and in an ongoing, ever increasing way at that.

Finally, we should never make the mistake of assuming that we are personally so enlightened. Rather, we should always view this enlightenment as something we need. It is something in which we must grow, and, again, it must be continually renewed.

A final note on this: The Pastoral Prayer of Jesus for His Disciples in John 17 gives us an example of a final priority in our prayers. Jesus did pray for Himself in the Prayer. In fact, He did it first, in verses 1- 5. Then He spent the next 21 verses praying for His Disciples. This tells us that it is right to pray for ourselves, and it is alright to pray for ourselves first. But we should devote the majority of our prayer time to praying for others. And since we are not Jesus, when we pray these prayers for our fellow Christians, it is a good idea to pray for ourselves and others simultaneously. In other words, as Jesus showed us in the Lord's Prayer, substitute "us" for "me" and "them". We should all be intercessors. This is not something we should wait for the Lord to "lead us" to do. He does not have to "lead us" to do it. He has commanded us to do it.


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Contact Author, William D. Brehm