Editor’s note: In recent years, China Partnership has dedicated itself to intentional prayer for the church in China. As CP increasingly emphasizes prayer as part of our calling, we have worked with John Smed of Prayer Current to hone our prayer muscles. He shared this urgent call to prayer with Chinese leaders and pastors at a recent gathering. The following has been edited from transcriptions of the original talk.
Because Jesus has ascended, we ourselves can ascend to the throne room. We also share the power of Christ, and Christ himself prays with us. Now, we become intercessors like Jesus. Ascension prayer is intercessory prayer. Jesus is our ascended intercessor because he is the royal priest. He brings us to God, and he brings our prayers to God. Guess what? 1 Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” God shares his power, his authority, and his priesthood with us.
Revelation 1: 5-6 says, “To him who loved us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.” The more you intercede for others, the more you pray for sinners, the more you are like the ascended Jesus as he is now. He ever lives to intercede! If you want to be like Jesus, intercede like Jesus.
Who do we pray for in intercessory prayer? The Lord’s Prayer is an intercessory prayer. That is why the pronouns are plural: it is not about my kingdom, but about his kingdom coming. It is not about myself, but about increasing my capacity for God. It is not about God relieving my struggles, but about his will being done. It is not about me, worrying about my possessions and property; it is about being content with daily bread and generous to others. The world is crying and dying, needing intercessors. God himself says in Isaiah 59, “I have looked everywhere, and I could find no one to intercede.” Sometimes there is a great deal of prayer, but very little intercession for the lost world.
Here are four things to pray for when you intercede.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
First, pray for the church in her glory and her shame. Don’t judge the church. That’s Jesus’ job, not your job. Instead, pray for the church, like Moses did in Exodus 32. He said, “God, bless your people, or block me out of your book.” Much of your prayer should be for the church of Jesus Christ all over the world.
Second, pray for your friends, your family, and your neighbors. If they don’t know God, they are not praying; you pray on their behalf. Job 42 says the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends. God was angry with Job’s friends, but he said, “Job, if you pray for them, I will forgive them.” If you begin to pray for your friends and your neighbors, you will love them more than ever.
Third, pray for your enemies. Jesus says simply that we should pray for our enemies and bless those that have persecuted us. Pray for your city. How amazing that Abraham prayed for the wicked city of Sodom. If Abraham could pray for Sodom, you can pray for Shanghai, for Beijing, for any city in which you live. God will be pleased with your prayer. In Isaiah 53, Isaiah interceded for the transgressor: you should intercede for your transgressors.
Fourth, pray for rulers and powers. 1 Timothy 2: 1-4 says, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life… This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
You especially must pray for your nation. The hope of your nation rests on your prayers. That’s what we read in 2 Chronicles 7:14, which says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The healing of your nation begins with you, the people of God. We don’t wait for the world to get better, because the world will never get better. We pray, like salt and leaven, for God to bless our world so the gospel can go forth.
Pray for your friends. Pray for your enemies. Pray for your cities. Pray for your rulers. Pray for your nation. Not polite and weak prayers, but bold and confident prayers in the throne room of the king of kings.
I want you to pray for one more thing: pray for our ministry of prayer. The opposition of Satan is very intense to this ministry. We have experienced the fiery darts of the evil one.
There are many important things we could do. Acts 6:4 says the apostles decided their call was to “devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” If you want to be like Jesus, if you want to live like the apostles, you must become a man or a woman of prayer. Jesus teaches us to pray, and to teach others to pray. Don’t just teach them the Bible, but teach them how to use the Bible through prayer. Learn to minister in prayer.
In his letters, Paul had 64 prayers. Ask any pastor or leader and they will tell you: their best ministry happens in prayer.