Commentary on "Confidence"
Day 4: Tuesday, September 1, 2009
The scripture passage for this day is 1 John 5:14-17. There are two distinct topics contained in these verses. The first assures the reader that whatever a believer asks, according to the will of God, will be given. The author discusses disappointments when the things we ask for in prayer are not given, such as healing from illness. He also emphasizes that prayer for forgiveness is always answered affirmatively.
The second subject contained in this passage deals with what Paul describes as sin that either leads to death or does not. Mueller concedes that the meaning is unclear to him but concludes, "…that all sin is unrighteousness and cannot be justified or tolerated."
In the teacher's notes under the section, "Bible Commentary," the author points to situations "in which Ellen G. White could not pray for healing for others." He selected a particular situation in which a man was "earnestly seeking prayer" for himself and his family. White says that she presented the man's case to God and "in the night" God told her not to pray for the man because he was practicing "self-abuse" (a Victorian-era euphemism for masturbation). She came to the conclusion that "there was so much iniquity" (namely masturbation) in the lives of these "professed Sabbath-keepers" that she was not at liberty to pray for them. The author then summarizes this story by advising "caution" when engaging in intercessory prayer.
Commentary on the Lesson
The subject of why prayers are sometimes not answered in the affirmative is a puzzling subject at best. There are so many factors to consider and so many human limitations of understanding to recognize. Humanity has been asking God, "Why?" since the beginning of time. Sometimes we get insight into why not and sometimes we don't. It all comes down to building a relationship with a Friend that revolves around trust. Philip Yancey has asked the hard questions over and over in his books, "Disappointment with God," "The Jesus I Never Knew," and "Where Is God When It Hurts?" The essence of his discoveries could be summed up in the word Emmanuel. Just as God sent His Son into the world to be with us, so Jesus sends us. Though He asked to be spared the agony He was facing, He surrendered to it for our sakes. If we can walk in the suffering and pain of this world still glorifying God it brings hope and faith to others who are suffering themselves. I would highly recommend Yancey's books if you would like to explore this subject in greater depth.
The discussion regarding sins that lead to death raises the question as to whether or not one should pray for a person caught in certain sins (sexual sin is specifically pointed out). It was the conclusion of Ellen White that, since a professed Sabbath-keeper was masturbating, she should not pray for him. She states that it was God who told her not to pray for the man or his family. The author then states that the story he has selected to include in his lesson on confidence should not "discourage us from intercessory prayer, but" it should result in caution.
The Power of Intercession
Those words reveal a wasteland of experience and information about the role of the Holy Spirit in the area of human strongholds. The example given could be multiplied by millions to include all of mankind that has been caught in the traps of Satan in one way or another. Do we pull our robes around us and thank God that we are not like them, or do we acknowledge that we need just as much grace as the next person and move into the authority we have been given to work with Christ in destroying the works of the devil? It is for these very reasons that we have been given the Holy Spirit along with all of the manifestations of His gifts including discernment. We don't have to rely on "caution" to know how to pray for another; we ask Him, expecting that He will guide us in delivering those who need His power and forgiveness. The author mentions intercessory prayer by way of caution instead of inspiring a pro-active stance on behalf of the One who has overcome the devil.
The biblical principles of intercessory prayer are rarely, if ever, taught in the Adventist Church, nor is the role of the Holy Spirit clearly modeled. Intercession in the Spirit is a powerful weapon against the enemy and its' neglect leaves many in bondage who could otherwise be free. Too often we have thought of ourselves as pleading and begging God to notice us in our struggles or needs. But He says to us "you are seated with Me in heavenly places. You are my child, the heir of the kingdom, my spouse, my friend." Ask whatever you like and "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32 (NIV) God wants us to enter in with Him in bringing the kingdom to each situation we encounter. With us goes His presence because His Spirit dwells within us.
Partnering with God
We have viewed the world around us, including intercession and prophecy, with a passive wait and watch attitude. But Daniel knew better. "In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes" Dan 9:2-3 (NIV). In Daniel 10 we find that it took Michael 21 days to come with the answer because he was battling the forces of evil. The prophecy was not fulfilled outside the instrument of intercession. A man was called on to enforce God's will on Earth through prayer.
Another striking example of God's need for our agreement and intercessory prayer is given in Ezekiel. "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD" Ezek 22:30-31 (NIV). This is amazing!
What Is Intercession?
So what are we talking about when we use the word intercession? When we hire a lawyer to intercede for us she or he is representing us, re-presenting our side in court. Adam and Eve were intended to represent God on Earth (managing, governing, and ruling for Him). They were go-betweens, mediators, and intercessors for God. Sadly, they failed in this role. So God sent another human being to take up the work of representing God on Earth and humanity in Heaven. Christ now became the attorney for both sides. In 1 Tim 2:5 it says, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." One intercessor. His presence in Heaven presents us to the Father as righteous and redeemed. This is not a prayer to clear us of charges. That's already been done.
Jesus isn't praying for us; He is interceding for us so we can pray. This means that our prayers of intercession are always an extension of Christ's work of intercession. When we understand this concept correctly it brings enormous power to the task of intercessory prayer. We don't have to produce anything. We don't deliver, defeat the enemy, or reconcile anyone. Deliverance, victory and salvation are already complete in Jesus. Our work of intercession extends the work of Christ by distributing, applying and releasing His completed work. The Father needed a representative on Earth, Christ. Christ's representative on Earth is us. "As the Father has sent me, I also send you." (John 20:21). So, as His ambassadors, we come in His authority to enforce His victory. We don't win the victory, we apply it. We don't heal; we believe in the Healer and release His healing into the lives of people. We can bring people with us before the throne and create a meeting between them and God.
God put humanity in charge on Earth from the beginning. "The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to man" Psalms 115:16 (NIV). When Adam and Eve handed over control of the earth to Satan, God sent another in the full authority of humanity to redeem it back. When He cried out, "It is finished" the words "paid in full" were stamped on our invoices and Christ voided the contract man had made with Satan - breaking forever his dominion over us. We have the privilege of representing Him in that victory and enforcing it in situations where Satan has taken illegitimate authority. Christ inaugurated the New Covenant with His blood (Heb 12:24); we represent His completed work to the world (II Cor 3:6).
Crushing Satan's Head
Joshua's defeat of the Gibeonites is a prophetic illustration of what we have been discussing. When the victory was complete Joshua had the defeated kings lie down on the ground and had soldiers place a foot on each of their necks. In the same way, Christ defeated the enemy and calls His army to Him and says, "You put your feet on the necks of these enemies. What I have done, you must enforce. I have put them under My feet legally but you must exercise that authority in individual situations, causing the literal fulfillment of it. "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." Romans 16:20 (NIV) "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." Luke 10:19
Prayer in the Spirit
The critical element of intercessory prayer is the Holy Spirit. It is He Who informs us what work it is that Christ has, is and will accomplish. Without His work in us we cannot know what it is that the Father wants for us to pray. We see that during Christ's life on Earth He only did and said what He saw and heard the Father doing. It is the Spirit Who reveals that to us. It is also He Who reveals to us the plans of the enemy so that we can agree with Him on Earth in order to enforce the victory over those plans already won by Christ. We do not have authority to pray into place simply the good intentions of our own hearts, nor do we want to establish our own kingdoms. Our only desire and safety is to come into alignment with God's heart, word, plans and kingdom.
So, when Ellen White claimed that God told her not to pray for the man earnestly asking for prayer because he was also practicing masturbation, it is not consistent with all we are told in scripture. It is always His intention to bring deliverance to any kind of darkness. This man obviously felt the need of God in his life and was reaching out for it. He may not have even understood what his true needs were, but he knew he needed prayer. If he needed deliverance it is within the grasp of Christ's followers to bring that kind of relief to others. The next time, we may be the one in need. Our weapons are not caution and fear, but mighty to bring deliverance.
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" 2 Cor 10:4-5 (NIV). We can, by standing in the gap, push back the darkness from around those who are struggling so that the Holy Spirit can shine the light of truth into their lives. Then they have the freedom to make decisions away from the bully spirits who hold them prisoner. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" Eph. 6:12 (NIV). In the power of the Spirit we are equipped for this battle to free the prisoners of war from the enemy.
If I Am Lifted Up
As Christ is enthroned in worship, Satan is dethroned in spiritual realms. As we lift up the Son, we pull down the serpent. We must remember that we are not trying to defeat the devil. That's already been done. We are not trying to re-defeat but re-present the victory of the Cross. We do not need to go into situations that are contrary to the will of Christ and beg Him to stop it. We know His will in cases of evil. We need to bind it and declare His will and Word into these situations. Our intercession becomes an extension of Christ's intercession, based on the Cross.
We are called to enforce and make effective the freedom Christ has procured. So here are some practical suggestions to use in praying for a particular person or situation. We can pray:
We are called to re-present all that Christ has died to gain. The victory is won. All too often we behave like servants and become discouraged, passive and judgmental in the face of evil. Rather than tsk tsking about the sin we see, we have the spiritual authority to pull it down in the power of Jesus' name. We sometimes run to another person, asking them to pray about the situation, not realizing how powerful the Holy Spirit is in us. He is a sword with supernatural power to overcome the kingdom of darkness when we release it with confidence. Jesus is not a victim and neither are we. We do not have to stand idly by while the enemy is proactive in his agenda of destruction. We know what God's will is with respect to evil. He died to destroy the works of the devil and He has overcome the world. He has asked us to rise up and enforce the victory of the cross over Satan where we've been planted.
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