Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message on Intercessory Prayer and Exodus; Date: 2 August 09

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Praying His Emotions

 

When Jesus came to Jerusalem, he – both – wept and became angry, and both emotions were the emotions of God. Both – compassion and anger – flowed from God to Jesus. We read in the Bible – Luke 19:41-44: “As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come … when your enemies … dash you to the ground ... because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.’” Jesus’ heart broke over a lost city – tears flooded his eyes – because the compassion of God for his people overwhelmed him. At the same time – as soon as he was finished weeping – Jesus entered the temple area in Jerusalem and – burning with anger now (cf. John 2:17) – with a whip in his hand – overturned tables and scattered the coins of the money changers (cf. John 2:15). Luke 19:45-48 – I read from the Bible: “ … [Jesus] began driving out those who were selling … ”

Both emotions – compassion and anger – were strong and of God. Jesus had become so much one with God – in worship and prayer – that he shared what God was feeling in his own heart. This was the secret of his leadership and it is the secret of ours.

Even before Jesus was born – the person of Moses (in the Bible book of Exodus) demonstrated the dynamics of leadership in God’s kingdom. It flows out of intimacy with God. At first Moses was not too impressed when God called him to be the spokesperson before the king of Egypt. He was afraid. He feared for his own life. He was a “nobody” – a refugee. He said to God – Exodus 3:11: “ … Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh … ” How could he possibly tell the monarch of a super-power that he must let his Hebrew slaves go free – for the worship of their God?

After Moses had made a first attempt of talking to Pharaoh, the situation did not improve and Moses was not keen to go before the king a second time, saying to God – Exodus 6:12: “ … Why should Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lipsHowever, Moses did go back to Pharaoh – more than once – and at the end of a lengthy process – after wrestling with Pharaoh for the duration of nine plagues of judgement on Egypt – Moses had completely overcome his former anxiety – any worrying thought about himself – and was now totally consumed with God and his intentions. He became bold – consumed with God’s own emotions – and therefore – the once timid man – dared to flare up against the tyrant of the most powerful nation on earth. I read from the Bible – Exodus 11:4-10 – “So Moses said [to Pharaoh]: ‘ … Every firstborn in Egypt will die … Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, Go, you and all the people who follow you! After that I will leave.’ Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh … ”

At that time Moses acted like he was the all-powerful God himself. In Pharaoh’s own palace he threatened him with the death of every firstborn in Egypt and then further confronted Pharaoh with the suggestion that the officials of Egypt – before long – would bow down before him – not before Pharaoh any more – and even overrule their master – letting the Hebrew slaves go. After that performance – boiling hot with anger – how could Moses think that he would leave the palace alive? Somehow God had taken total possession of Moses so that he – with authority – flared up with God’s own emotions of holy judgement on Egypt. Moses – in increasing measures – turned into God – according to God’s own design – Exodus 7:1 – I read from the Bible: “Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh … ’”

The same anger consumed Moses on another occasion. The people had sinned against God – built themselves an idol (a golden calf) – and therefore God had said to Moses – Exodus 32:7-10: “ … They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them … I have seen these people … and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them … ” Yet, Moses did not leave God alone and prayed for mercy and he prevailed against God [making a case for God – appealing to his faithfulness and what would bring greater glory to himself].

However, when he came down the mountain and saw the corruption of his people, it was Moses who was burning hot with anger – sharing at that time the intense emotions of God – the offense against his holiness – and therefore the Bible records – Exodus 32:19-20: “When Moses approached … he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink itThen he rallied those who were on the side of God and had them go through the camp slaying with the sword people on their right and on their left. For good measure the Lord also struck the people with a plague because of what they had done (Exodus 32:35).

This is how leadership works. God takes over our emotions and we execute what he places on our hearts. A modern-day example would be what happened at the local Christian Outreach church some time ago. Les Holmes was preaching, when a drunk came in and sat down on the last pew. He was highly intoxicated – smashed – out of it – and after a while Les felt holy anger rising up within him. How dare the devil to show up in this way when Christ was glorified? In the middle of the preaching he walked down the centre aisle, stood in front of the man and screamed: “Get outHe didn’t scream at the man but the demonic presence behind the addiction. In a moment the man was sober.

Les was bold and it was from God. However, I suspect that most of my anger is not holy anger but human anger – coming from wounded pride and my own issues. Therefore, I feel more comfortable with the other emotion of God, that is: being overcome with his compassion for the lost and hurting. And Moses demonstrated this emotion as well.

When God first appeared to Moses, he commissioned him to be the leader of his people, saying to him – Exodus 3:6: “ … I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of JacobExodus 3:7: “ … I have indeed seen the misery of my people … ” (cf. Exodus 3:10). However, Moses was stand-offish. He did not identify with the Israelites. He did not say “us”. For him the people were “them” – “them” over there. He argued with God – Exodus 3:13: “ … Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers [not our fathers but your fathers] has sent me to you … ’”

Even the first prayer of Moses on behalf of the Israelites remained a half-hearted affair. Exodus 5:22 – I read from the Bible: “Moses turned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? … Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.’” Moses said “this people” and “your people” but he did not yet say “my people”.

However – in time – this would change. Down the track – on more than once occasion – it was God who became so angry with the Israelites that he no longer called them “my people” but “these people” (something that Moses had done earlier) – Exodus 32:9: “I have seen these people … they are stiff-necked peopleAnd conversing with Moses, it was now God who called them “your people” – not “my people” – Exodus 32:7: “ … your people [Moses] … have become corrupt … ” What a turnaround! Moses was now in the place of God and from that place he was pleading God’s own compassion (for his people) back to God (cf. Exodus 32:32).

In the ultimate high drama Moses became so consumed with the nature of God that he preached God – the nature of God – back to God. Remember that Moses had this amazing experience where God answered his request – Exodus 33:18: “ … show me [more of] your glory … ” – and God caused all of his goodness to pass in front of him. I read the Bible account – Exodus 34:5-7: “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet, he does not leave the guilty unpunished … to the third and fourth generation

Now when God became – exceedingly – angry with his people, Moses preached this experience back to God, saying to him – Numbers 14:17-19: “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people … ”

This is leadership that is born from the presence of God in worship and that comes with real authority. Moses’ experience of God – the experience of having all of God’s goodness pass before him – consumed him with that very goodness – filled him with God’s abounding love – so that he would plead for God’s people with the goodness and love and compassion of God itself.

Does this sound complicated? It is not. This is simple. The deeper we go into God – the more we pray and worship – spend time in his presence – the more he rubs off on us – or better – the more he can take possession of us (consume us with his presence) and work through us.

Some stood with their eyes closed and hands raised. A few sat on metal chairs placed round the edge of the room. Others walked slowly up and down in the empty space in the centre, praying silently to themselves. About thirty people had gathered in the small meeting hall of a church (in Sydney) – late at night. Those praying were sensitive to each other – listening to each other and God. There was a strong atmosphere of faith and an expectation that God would do something.

And he did. Suddenly the prayer meeting took an unexpected turn. They began to pray for the country of Cambodia (before the atrocities in the 1970s). One young woman hardly knew the place but as the group continued to pray for this country, some saw visions of great clouds of darkness descending and others saw huge ravaging flames engulfing the country. Suddenly the young woman heard sobbing. She opened her eyes and saw to her surprise that one young man was lying flat out on the floor. His body was convulsing with deep agonizing sobs.

Then – as she watched him – a strange sensation came over her which she recognized as the Holy Spirit moving on her – putting a prayer burden on her for Cambodia. By that time several others had also caught something of that nature from the Holy Spirit. They were on the floor – on their faces – sobbing. The young woman’s heart began to beat faster. She didn’t know anyone in the grounp and didn’t want to draw attention to herself. Then she doubted the experience: “What if my feelings are not from God? I could be just making it upShe forced herself to concentrate on the prayers being spoken out for Cambodia, but she found it hard to concentrate because she was too conscious of her own growing “burden” for the nation. She could feel the gentle weight of the Spirit coming upon her, not a depressive weight, just an awareness that his hand was upon her.

Feeling a little self-conscious, she slipped to her knees and waited on God. She felt the touch of someone’s hand upon her shoulder. Then slowly the weight that she had been sensing in the pit of her stomach rose and she began to release it in quiet sobs. Immediately something broke from within. Her sobs grew heavier until, like the young man, they racked her whole body. There were no actual tears. It was more of a heavy sighing – a releasing of that inner constraint that she had been sensing. Then, without warning, the heaviness lifted and the prayer work was done. Around the room the sobbing faded and in its place waves of exuberant joy flooded the prayer group (June Coxhead: Tears Of Intercession, Chichester: Sovereign World 1990, p73-75).

What did happen in this prayer group? The young woman and the others experienced the same as Jesus who was weeping over Jerusalem and the same as Moses who was pleading for the Israelites with the compassion of God. As they drew near to God in worship, God took over their emotions and then they executed what God had placed on their hearts – powerful prayers for Cambodia – exercising leadership in the kingdom of God. The Bible explains that – Romans 8:26-27: “ … we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express … ” The Spirit of God within us takes over in intercession for ourselves and others (that is: praying for ourselves and others).

This is how God wants to operate in general. He has said in the Bible – Ezekiel 22:30: “I looked for a person 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 noneGod is always looking for someone who would pray on behalf of his people so that – as in this case and many other cases – judgement would not fall on the nation. Think back to Moses. His most powerful and most dramatic prayers were for mercy in the face of God’s wrath and God listened to him – changed his plans – relented – because Moses was praying his own compassion for his people back to him.

The clearest example of this principle is Jesus himself. He was so filled with the love of God – so filled with the Spirit of God – that he was not only sobbing for the people on earth. He was prepared to share far more of our pain – our struggles – even became one of us. The Bible teaches that Jesus – Philippians 2:6-8: “ … who, being in very nature God [in heaven], … made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness … he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross … ” The love of God made Jesus become one of us and then he was – Hebrews 4:15: “ … tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin … ” All of this means that Jesus can sympathize with us.

But more happened. The sobbing of intercessors allows the human intercessors to carry a small part of the burden and pain of the people for whom they pray. But Jesus took it all. He not only sobbed but suffered torture and death on behalf of those that he prayed for. Even on the cross itself he prayed for us, saying – Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them … ” Therefore, Jesus – executing the compassion of God – died for us the death that we should have died because all those that rebel against God and sin against God – that is: all of us – deserve the wrath of God – eternal punishment. Yet, Jesus prayed for us and died for us: The perfect person standing in the gap on behalf of the land.

Finally, after three days he rose from the grave to victory. The sacrifice had been made and now that he was raised with power, he continues to pray for us. I read from the Bible – Romans 8:34: “ … Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Hebrews 7:25: “ … Jesus lives forever … Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them

Does this make us happy? Even now Jesus is always interceding for us – praying for us. This is how much God loves you. Come to him.

At this point in today’s message are we beginning to make sense of prayer – the way leaders like Moses and Jesus prayed? I sum up what we have said so far: 1) As you draw near to God in worship, you allow him to take possession of you – fill you up with the Holy Spirit – so that you begin to feel his emotions – both (depending on the situation): anger and compassion. 2) The compassion of God makes you feel the same pain as the people for whom you are praying. As God himself is hurting with the hurt of every man, woman and child (because he loves them), he makes you share the hurt in prayer. 3) As you pray from this place of compassionate pain – sharing the hurting heart of God – identifying with the people – your prayers have immense power. You will prevail with God. 4) The compassionate pain that you suffer in prayer can set someone else free.

Just another illustration for this last point. Jesus’ compassion made him suffer on a real cross for us which in turn set us free – spared us from the same judgement. We are not in the same league as Jesus – he is the Saviour and he is our Lord – but in similar fashion we can also take on and suffer on other people’s behalf in prayer.

It was Valerie’s first time in a church. She had attempted suicide and had recently been released from a psychiatric hospital. She was not well. She had dark rings under her eyes and a pasty complexion. She was restless throughout the service. It was drawing to a close, when the song leader suddenly stopped, saying: “I believe the Lord is showing me there are at least two people here on drugs. If you will come forward, God will deliver youValerie was an addicted heroin user and at that very moment she had in her bag two bottles of mendrix. She gasped.

“My God, that’s meShe went straight forward and threw the tablets on the stage. Those from the prayer team joined her and gathered around her to pray. One of them said to another member of the team: “I’m feeling a burden of intercession coming on me for Valerie.” “All right, but this isn’t the place. Let’s go upstairsTwo of them retreated to an upstairs office. No sooner had they shut the door and went down on their knees that they both found themselves agonizing in deepest intercession. It was so intense that one of them started to feel panic. What was happening? They needed help and went off to find others. However, they were told: “Great news. Valerie’s been released from drugs, just like that. No withdrawal symptoms, nothing

The two were surprised. “Really? We are going through some of the heaviest intercession we’ve ever struck and were just going to get helpHow could Valerie experience such an immediate release when they were struggling so much in prayer. Then it dawned on them. What they were experiencing in prayer were the “withdrawal symptoms” which Valerie should have been going through right now. They were carrying them on her behalf (June Coxhead: Tears Of Intercession, Chichester: Sovereign World 1990, p111-112).

I repeat point 4 from before: The compassionate pain that you suffer in prayer can set someone else free. [Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12: “ … So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” Colossians 1:24: “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Galatians 6:17: “ … I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”] Are we ready for that kind of praying? This happens when we penetrate deep into the heart of God in worship. His emotions will take us over – direct us – and prayer becomes absolutely powerful.

Jesus prayed the ultimate price for that kind of praying but what joy has come to us. And once the compassion of God consumes us also, we are actually no longer aware of what this is costing us because love is prepared to give away everything. What would a lovesick man not do for the woman he loves? What would a caring mother not do for the child that she loves? But maybe – right now – precisely for that reason – we are afraid of that kind of love – God taking us over with this kind of reckless love. What will happen to us and this church?

God called a young man to pray for the homeless who were wandering from place to place – without a job. Together with some others they started a mission and were to give a chance to every homeless person that came to the mission. The Holy Spirit made it plain what they were to do: give everyone a new suit of clothes, find him lodgings and work, and pay his board until he drew his first pay. This young man had to learn a lot about loving beyond what came natural to him. Then God told him that he was not to eat any more than what the homeless would have themselves which was two meals a day of bread and cheese and soup. This is what the government provided for them.

His mum was not impressed but the young man had one meal at 6.30am in the morning and the other at 5.30pm in the evening – working in a mine during the day and working in the mission after dark. At first this new regime was hard but then God changed his appetite and kept him healthy. The young man lived like this for two and a half years – identifying with the homeless to that extent.

The organizers of the mission were running out of money but then found out what God could do, if they were to trust in him and he never failed them. The young man gave this testimony: “After many months in this school of faith, the Holy Spirit put such love in our hearts towards these people that we would rather be without ourselves, than allow them to be in want. We became fathers to them … ” (Norman Grubb: Rees Howells Intercessor, Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press 1952, p58-65).

This also belongs to intercession – belongs to the essential nature of intercession. The compassion of the prayer room flows over into practical compassion in real life – which was the same in the life of Jesus. He prayed by himself – with tears of compassion – but also – in practical ways – cared for the poor, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers and provided food for the hungry.

Are we ready for this kind of leadership? We can have it, if we want. Go deep into God – worship him – and then allow him to fill you up with his emotions – the love that suffers with the hurting – and then execute what he has placed on your heart: prevail in prayer and provide for the poor. Amen.