Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Intercessory Prayer

Sometimes, it seems that things are out of our hands.  We have a kind of fatalistic attitude about things, don’t we?  Tell me if you’ve ever heard this, “Well it’s up to God, now.”  As if we can’t change anything.  As if the circumstances we live in are unaltered through any action of our own.  Often, when people come to me as their pastor, with some issue that requires a move of God, my advice is always to pray.

But sometimes, I wonder if people hear me on that or if they think, “Well he’s the pastor that’s what he’s supposed to say.”  I wonder sometimes how many do pray. Do you pray on your own or just when you’re at church?

Prayer can be effective.  Prayer works.  In our services we take prayer requests, so that people can pray for the needs of others.  I wonder though how many when they leave church remember and pray for the needs that were spoken in the prayer requests.  Do you intercede for those needs at other times?  We need to be intercessors for the needs of other people, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.   Your prayer can affect the lives of other people. 

There are a number of instances in the Bible where the prayer of one person, for another, was answered by God and the outcome was changed.  Today, I want to write about intercession.
James 5:16-18 (NKJV)
5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

Genesis 19:27-29 (NKJV)
19:27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt.

Determining the Direction of God

This story of Abraham is a familiar story for most of us.  The Angel of the Lord appears to Abraham and let’s Abraham know that they are on the way to destroy Sodom.  Abraham begins to question Him. 

“If there are fifty righteous men will you destroy the city?”
“If there are forty righteous will you destroy it?”
“What about thirty, or twenty, or ten,” and so on.

And God tells him that He won’t destroy the city if ten righteous men are found there.  There are a couple of things Abraham is doing, here.  The first thing he’s trying to do is to understand God’s intentions.  What is God trying to do?  He’s trying to determine what God’s plan is with respect to the people of Sodom.  He knows that God is going to overthrow the city, but he’s trying to understand what it means and what God is intending to by that action. 

I think this is the first step whenever we pray about a problem in life.  God what are you trying to do with this action, or this trial, or this tribulation.  What is your intention with it?  It’s important to know God’s plan to understand what you are praying for. 

Think about it like this:  What if God is trying to teach us something, or trying to help us learn a truth about life, or show us something about the way we’re living and the consequences of that lifestyle.  In other words, what if God is trying to help us.  Then we don’t want to pray, “Oh God, make it stop” because then all we’re doing is short-circuiting what God is trying to do.  If you’re praying like that and not understanding God’s purpose, you might even be making it worse, at the very least, you’re not hearing what God is trying to speak into your life.   It’s important to try and figure out God’s intentions.

In our text Abraham has heard what God is going to do but he’s trying to understand what God’s intention is.

“Are you going to destroy everyone?  What about those who are faithful, are you going to destroy them, too? Is there any room for change here God?  Are you trying to educate them or are you judging them?”

When you ask me to pray, I don’t always pray for what they think they asked me to pray.  Somebody asked me to pray for her recently for wisdom to make good decisions.  But I didn’t see that person’s problem as a lack of wisdom.  I know that person is pretty smart.  They were smart enough to realize that God could help them.  That’s wisdom, right?  So they don’t need more wisdom, what they need is confidence and a feeling of security, so that’s what I pray for them.

I don’t pray for God to make someone more faithful.  I pray that God will help them to make a decision to be more faithful. I don’t pray, “Oh God make this man more faithful.”  I pray, “Oh God, help this man to make the decision to be a faithful man.”

That’s interceding based on knowledge of God’s intentions.  In the first example the person might not be struggling, because they’re not smart enough.  They might be struggling because God is trying to get them to trust their decisions and do something and do something rather than hesitating or being afraid to ask for advice and help.  I’m looking for God’s intentions and trying to help with that by interceding for God’s real purpose for their lives. 

I have a friend that’s always praying that God will take him from the earth.  He claims that he wants to die because he’s tired of struggling, but I refuse to pray that.  I will rpay that God will open his understanding to God’s purpose for him:  That he will see God’s purpose in his struggles and change in the way that God is trying to change him; that’s something worth praying.   When we intercede for someone we want to pray for what is really in his or her best interest not just for what they want.

Sometimes people will pray for something and the thing they’re praying for is in opposition to God’s will. I want you to know that God isn’t going to go against His own will just to give it to us, we’re just going to keep struggling and hurting until we begin to pray for God’s will and not our own. 


So, what is intercession; what does it mean to intercede? 

Petitions, entreaties and thanksgivings made on behalf of another. Intercession also involves the act of standing between the object of prayer and spiritual forces. In the case of God, the positioning is taken in order to submit requests; in the case of the devil, it is to deflect his attacks.” –George Otis, Jr.  Twilight Labyrinth, 1995, Revell

In other words it means to come to God with a request for someone else.  When I pray for people’s needs I am coming to God on their behalf.  In addition, it means to get between the person and the spiritual fore that are acting on them.  Confusing? 

In our text Abraham has placed himself between God and the righteous men of Sodom.  He’s saying, “Wait God are you going to kill these that don’t deserve judgment along with the those that do?”  He’s standing between them.  He’s looking for God to answer that question.  He’s the thing between God and those righteous men; that’s intercession.  “You’re righteous and you can’t kill the blameless for the sins of others.  It isn’t right.”

In the book of Esther, we see another intercession of this type.  Haman, the king’s right hand man, has decided that because he hates Mordecai that he’s going to have all the Jews in the kingdom killed. The queen, Esther, is a Jew and her uncle, Mordecai, comes to her and says, “Go to the king and stop him.”  This is difficult for Esther, because going to the king without being called is a death sentence.  The king, on a whim, can have you killed just for showing up uninvited.  So Esther hesitates and then makes a decision to go to the king.  Look at her thinking:

Esther 4:16 (NKJV)
4:16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"
She intercedes for the Jews.  She cries out to God for help and courage and then she goes and places herself between the king and the Jews saying, “If I perish, I perish.” This is intercession the Jews will be killed if she does nothing. 

I want you to know that as Christians we face that for people.  People who are unsaved, who are living in their sin are perishing, just as surely as the Jews would have died, if not for Esther.  If we look around our city, how many people are Christians?  How many are living the will of God.  What will happen to those who die, without Jesus?

You know the answer to that question.  So what do we do?  Do we do nothing?  Do we pray to God and hope that God answers?  That’s a start, we need God to move supernaturally, and intervene with them.  We also need to take action, though, because we may be the devices of God’s intervention.  Look a this advice that Mordecai gave Esther:

Esther 4:14 (NKJV)
4:14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

He tells her if she does nothing that God will still bring deliverance for the Jews but she will perish.  That’s a pretty stern warning…if we do nothing we will be judged.  God says this in another lace in the Bible, as well. 

Ezekiel 3:18 (NKJV)
3:18 When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.

God is warning Ezekiel, If I give you a warning and you do nothing, then it’s on your head.  You will be held responsible.  I don’t know about you, but to me that’s a pretty heavy responsibility.  Intercession isn’t always easy.  It isn’t always prayer.  It’s putting yourself between people and judgment. Not everyone is eager to hear about their sin.  Not everyone is looking for you to warn them of their impending judgment.  Sometimes people will get angry when you tell them about God; sometimes they get offended.  But it is a measure of your love and concern for them that you are willing to intercede and step between them and hell.

We’re often the last roadblock between them and hell.  Sometimes we have to look at it like Esther, “If I perish, I perish.”  I have to tell you that some people have rejected my friendship because of this.  Some people have cast me out of their presence because of this.  It’s a risk we take. 

Let me ask you a question if you drive past someone’s house late at night and it’s on fire, and you that they are in there sleeping.  This is someone you know and care about, a close friend or a family member.  What will you do?  Will you start pounding on their door trying to wake them up?  Will you try to warn them about the fire?  What kind of a person would just let them die?  We know people who are in a house ablaze.  Are you willing to intercede?

When the World Trade Center was attacked, firemen rushed into the building to rescue people.  343 firemen gave their lives for strangers that day.  Those firemen rescued many people that day, because of their intercession.

God’s Response

In Abraham’s intercession for Sodom look at God’s response:

Abraham is asking God, “What about fifty righteous?”  “What about forty?”  Each time God says, “If there are fifty righteous, I won’t do it.”  “If there are forty righteous…all the way down to ten.”

When they get to Sodom they find only righteous Lot.  So what did God do?  He took Lot out and saved him, and then He destroyed the city. 

God had a purpose for the destruction of Sodom and He didn’t swerve from that purpose but the text says that God remembered Abraham.  He remembered Abraham’s intercession for the righteous and He pulled out the righteous one. 
 2 Peter 2:6-7 (NKJV)
2:6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked

God may not change his purpose in a person’s life but He will remember our intercession on their behalf and act accordingly. 

I think a lot of what we perceive as God not answering our prayer is thatwe don’t understand God’s purpose. 

James 4:3 (NKJV)
4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

We’re praying, we’re interceding but we’re asking for the wrong things.  God is a God who answers prayer.  “Ask and you shall receive,” that’s a promise.  God answered Abraham’s prayer on behalf of the righteous of Sodom.  God answered Esther’s prayer on behalf of the Jews.  God will answer your prayers on behalf of others if you pray and intercede for them. 

Have you ever heard the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”?  One of the meanings behind that is that many times we have a good intention, we don’t want to see our families and friends spend an eternity in hell.  But we just don’t take the step to intervene for them.  We don’t risk their anger to warn them.  We don’t get on our knees and pray for intervention in their lives.  We have a good intention but they just march forward into hell because we don’t act.  That’s what it means.

We can intercede on behalf of family and friends who remain unsaved.  Our actions will result in God bringing people to a place of decision.  If we act they may make a decision to respond to the call of God.  They may choose not to, we can’t control whether or not they will, but our prayers and God’s response may be the catalyst to their salvation.


  1. Hi Chris,
    Good discussion about prayer and intercession. God is on my case about this currently, keeps bringing the topic to my attention and causing me to realize how shallow my prayers often are. I am realizing that by asking God in prayer we can even get Him to 'change His mind' about things such as illness and struggles people are facing.

  2. Hi Mike, It's always good to hear from you. I know that from my perspective, I'm glad that people have interceded for me over the years. For some reason blogger dropped some of the post but I fixed it so it may not have been complete when you saw it. Thanks for commenting.