Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This tenth pillar emphasizes the importance of intercession in the mentoring relationship.
My mother’s intercession for me
Minneapolis was a great place to grow up. Its people gave me a positive spiritual heritage. My mother gave me to God as Hannah did with Samuel. She had lost her second child by miscarriage and then I entered this world. My mother never told me she had “lent me to God for His purposes” until I was 17. She only let me know when she knew that I had dedicated my life to Jesus as Lord and to ministry. I knew that my mother prayed for me often and that she enlisted others to pray for me.
God took her at her word, called me into ministry, shaped and transformed my life, and put key mentors in my life. All my life I have felt that I am reserved for God and His purposes only. Mother, now in the Lord’s presence, never knew the impact she had on my life by intercession. It was more important than anything else she ever did for me. The prayers she prayed for me extend on through my life and will influence my life forever. Thanks, Mom!
Chuck Swindoll has made a powerful statement:
There is no more significant involvement in another’s life than prevailing, consistent prayer. It is more helpful than the gift of money, more encouraging than a strong sermon, more effective than a compliment, more reassuring than a physical embrace.quoted in When Couples Pray by Cheri Fuller, p. 58.
We need to both intercede for those we mentor and teach them to intercede for others by our modeling. There is no greater calling in our mentoring.
Moses’ intercession for Joshua
As Israel wandered toward Canaan, the Amalekites strategically attacked its greatest weakness – the stragglers at the rear who were not keeping up the pace.1 The primary narrative is found in Exodus 17:8-16 with additional comments in Deut 25:17-18. Moses appointed Joshua to counterattack the Amalekites. This was Joshua’s first leadership act in battle and it would prepare him for future leadership. It was also Israel’s first engagement with an enemy following the Red Sea experience. Israel and Joshua both needed combat experience to prepare them for the intensive warfare to come on the other side of Jordan. Joshua also needed the experience in leading Israel.
Support through intercession
It was very important for Joshua to succeed in this first leadership act. Israel was watching Joshua to see if God was with him too, as he was with Moses.
So Joshua selected his first team of warriors and determined the best battle plan. For his part, Moses assured him that he would provide all the resources needed to achieve a victorious outcome. He was going to back him up with the most critical resource that he could muster – intercession.
Moses told Joshua that he, along with Hur and Aaron, would go to a hill overlooking the battle and focus their energies on intercession (Ex 17:9). Moses was intentionally building a prayer network around Joshua. He knew that they would not achieve victory in battle because of their past accomplishments, their knowledge of God’s past faithfulness, their giftedness and skill in battle, or their number of soldiers. He knew that Joshua had to learn a critical concept for his future leadership. Victory was God’s responsibility, and it was obtained by intercession. Joshua was about to experience not only the modeling of intercession by Moses but also seeing God achieve victory through a band of men waging war in offensive prayer.
Morning came, and the battle was intense. On top of the hill Moses, Hur and Aaron watched the progress. As the battle raged, a startling phenomenon took place before Joshua’s eyes for which he had no explanation. At times Israel was winning and at times they retreated in defeat. Only later would he learn what was happening.
Outcome determined by intercession
This war was a supernatural encounter, to be won only by supernatural means. It all hinged on Moses holding his hands up in prayer and lifting the staff of God to the “throne of God.”
In the course of hours of intercession, Moses lowered and raised his arms. When he lowered his arms, the enemy advanced, and when he raised his arms again, Israel would gain the upper hand. Moses and his men saw this same phenomenon happening that Joshua had seen noticed. But they knew the reason. At one point Moses got so tired and his legs so weary from standing, that Hur and Aaron leaned Moses against a rock and then jointly held his arms up.
A joint partnership
The outcome of the battle was determined by continuous intercession. Joshua’s victory was dependent on others’ praying for him.
As long as Moses, Hur and Aaron continued in intercession, Israel pushed the enemy back and finally defeated the Amalekites at sunset. It was a long tiring battle for Moses, Hur, Aaron, as well as the soldiers with Joshua. It was a joint partnership, with each having an important role. But the ultimate battle was not won on the field; it was won on the hill in prayer. God delivered Israel and they conquered the Amalekites.
After this encounter, God interpreted what had happened for Moses so that Joshua would fully understand what had happened.2 See Exodus 17:14-16. It was God who had won the victory. He deserved the ultimate credit. Moses was to make sure Joshua heard why he had experienced victory at one time, and defeat at another. Joshua’s life was marked and shaped by this incidence. His leadership was tested, and it was proven worthy. This in turn brought him credibility and spiritual authority with Israel. Moses’ interceding for him had given him this authority.
Jesus’ intercession for his disciples
Jesus told Peter that Satan wanted to test him and the rest of the disciples, and had demanded an opportunity to do so (Luke 22:31)
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.Luke 22:32
Jesus knew the battle raging in the lives of the disciples, and particularly in Peter. The enemy was working on the disciples, and Satan wanted their faith to fail. Young potential leaders are always high on Satan’s radar screen to knock them out of the race.
Jesus did give permission to Satan to allow Peter to fail, but not for his faith to fail. Jesus knew Peter would fail by denying Him three times. It was part of God’s plan, to bring a confident Peter to the end of himself. This test was tailored and designed by God in His love for Peter to shape him for future leadership. But Jesus would do the most important thing for Peter – praying defensively for him before it happened. Jesus told Peter of His prayer for him.
Knowing that his Master was praying for him must have greatly encouraged Peter. Jesus’ intercession gave Peter new power and a new perspective on his failure. So, he did not lose his faith and confidence in God. Jesus told him this would happen and told him that after he had turned back from this failure, he should go strengthen his brothers.
Christ’s life of intercession
Jesus’ life on earth is punctuated by His prayer life with the Father. The life of Christ on earth was a life of intercession. The Gospels mention forty-four prayer incidents of Jesus praying. In the midst of exhausting ministry demands, Jesus would often go to the mountains to spend time with the Father (Luke 5:15-16). Howard Hendricks has made the profound insight that Jesus’ highlights on earth were not in His encounters with people, but in His encounters with His Father. This has profound implications for us in our ministry priorities since Christ is our model.
Prayer pervaded His life on earth, from beginning to end. Jesus prayed in ordinary and extraordinary times, in common things and in crisis, in public and in private, on his feet and in extended times alone with the Father. He prayed about everything. Prayer was not a part of his life; it was his life. Prayer was not a priority of his life; it was the priority. Prayer was not a ritual that he performed, but a relationship he maintained.
Prayer was foundational to Jesus
Intercession was not an exercise or a spiritual discipline he did, but an attitude of utter dependence on His Father. Jesus said that he could do nothing apart from the Father. For him, prayer was not peripheral, but paramount. It was not supplemental, but foundational to his life. He told the disciples when they could not cast out the demon from a child but that this only comes through prayer.3 Mark 9:29.
His intercession varied but his disciples were central in His prayers. And he now continually intercedes for us in heaven in his role as our High Priest.4 Heb 7:25. Truly his encounters with the Father in intercession were the highlights of his life on earth and they continue in heaven.
Paul’s intercession for Timothy
As night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers…”2 Timothy 1:3
This is a profound insight into Paul’s love, and focus of intercession for one man, Timothy. Paul knew the power of intercession to transform Timothy’s life. Therefore, he encourages Timothy by saying that he prayed for him night and day and then emphasizes it again by using the word constantly, in his remembering Timothy in prayer.
Paul’s commitment to pray
Intercession is a true mark of genuine commitment to a person. As we remember them in prayer, they are on our hearts. Paul did not leave the responsibility to others to pray for Timothy. Paul’s prayers were not just once a day or once a week. They were constant. As a mentor and coach in Timothy’s life, he knew he had the primary responsibility to continually pray for this young emerging leader, who would dynamically affect the future generations of the Church. He knew that if Timothy was to be a spiritual, gifted leader, anointed by God, intercession was indispensable. If Timothy was to be a man of God thoroughly equipped, prepared, and useful to the Master for every good work (2 Tim 2:21), intercession had to be essential in his mentoring.5 See also a blog post on Paul’s prayers for the churches he planted. He also knew that real power in ministry comes from prayer.
Exhortation and prayer
Paul goes on in his letter to encourage Timothy with words of exhortation. I wonder if these came out of his time in listening to God in prayer for Timothy. These seem to be what he prayed for Timothy.
Principles for Intercession
Pray verses of Scripture and claim the promises of God in intercession. Since the Spirit reminds us of all things that he has said, he will prompt us to pray for people and how to pray for them. To pray Scripture is to pray the will of the Father (Is. 62:6-7). Through praying Scripture, we breathe truth and power into people’s lives.
Here are some great verses to pray for others:
- Is. 58:12 – That they might raise up the spiritual foundations for future generations and nations.
- Isa. 66:2 – For them to be dependent on God, broken and teachable in spirit, holding the Scriptures in high respect.
- 1 Chron. 4:10 – For God to bless, enlarge their influence on people, keep his hand on them, and keep them from evil and harm.
- Eph. 5:18 – That they might be controlled by the Spirit, fearlessly declaring the Gospel (Eph 6:19-20).
- Col. 1:9-10 – That God would fill them with knowledge of his will, making them fruitful, growing in the knowledge of God, and strengthened by his power.
- 2 Tim. 2:2 – That they would invest in others and that those they disciple and teach will also invest in others.
- Phil. 1:9-10 – That love would abound in them; that they would be able to discern what is best, filled with the fruit of righteousness.
- Jn. 15:5 – That they would continuously abide in Christ, and bear much fruit.
Prayer is more easily caught than taught. So, pray with those you mentor on a regular basis. Let them hear you pray and how you pray for others. Modeling intercession with those we mentor is crucial. D. L. Moody once stated, “I’d rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”
Build an intercession constellation around them
Enlist others to pray for those you mentor. There is power in two or three people agreeing together for a person in prayer. We should enlist people from the Body of Christ who are gifted in intercession and who make sure prayer envelops the life and ministry of those we mentor.
Help your mentees build around them an “intercession constellation”. This would include prayer warriors – a few people (2-5) who are committed to praying daily and weekly for them. These prayer warriors feel that it is their calling from God to pray. They are gifted and burdened for the ministry of prayer as their primary ministry.
The intercession constellation would also include a prayer team or prayer partners. This is a group of 25 to 50 people who pray for them on a regular basis. They are small groups or individuals who are close friends, partners in ministry, or financial donors. They have committed themselves to pray for your mentee.
Furthermore, the prayer constellation also includes a personal prayer partner. This would be someone who personally prays with them on a weekly basis about their life, family, and ministry.
The most important prayer requests
Pray that God would protect them from sin and temptation. We need to pray defensively for them. This provides a prayer shield, covering them and their family for protection from the enemy. Also, you should pray offensively for them. Pray for them to take ministry initiatives, to take strategic ground for the Kingdom from the enemy’s strongholds.
Pray that God would keep and strengthen their faith. Satan’s primary masterstrokes are discouragement and fear. Pray that they would be strong in courage, that God would give them an unshakable confidence in Himself. Ask God that they would know that he is God, and that they would have the assurance that he will fulfill every promise that he has ever made and that there is nothing too hard for him.
Pray that God would reveal and teach himself to them – that they might know him. Pray that the Lord would open their eyes to discern the Scriptures and his voice. Ask God that they would receive wisdom and insight to know God’s will and lead God’s people.
The apostles’ priority
…but we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.THE TWELVE APOSTLEs IN ACTS 6:4 (ESV)
The apostles made an intentional choice as a committed team to give their primary time to intercession. It was not secondary, not something they could delegate to someone else. They believed that one of their major roles as spiritual leaders was to pray for those people God had given them. It was non-negotiable and an intentional value and focus in their ongoing ministry.
Is it not foolhardy to think that we can just take people through some discipleship material and expect life transformation to occur without intercession being the indispensable priority?
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