Effective Intercession: Compassion Motivated – Faith Delivered
In this bible study, we examine examples of successful intercession to understand their common characteristics. We relate the characteristics to the principles of living in the image of God and, thus, reach an understanding of the kinds of intercession that have been effective. Several of the examples are drawn from events that occurred during Christ’s ministry. In such cases, intercession consisted of people going to Jesus directly on behalf of other people. Other examples occurred before Christ or after he had left human form. In such cases, intercession consisted of going to God in prayer on behalf of another.
In all cases, we find that successful intercessions were motivated by compassion and were persistent (ceaseless), selfless, and delivered by faith. Motivation by compassion is important for an intercession because such intercession is consistent with God’s purpose of creating every person to be a channel for his compassion. Christ describes this purpose through the 4th Beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled;” and the 5th, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” [Matthew 5:6–7].
Intercession for Paralyzed Man
In this example [Mark 2:1–12], Jesus had returned to Capernaum and a large crowd gathered to hear him, filling every available space inside and outside the house. A group of men brought a paralyzed man, carried on a mat by four of them. They could not get into where Jesus was because there were too many people. They lifted the man to the roof and lowered him to Jesus on his mat through a hole that they made in the roof. Jesus forgave and healed the paralyzed man because of the faith of the men that brought him.
INTERCESSION Taking the paralyzed man to Jesus as the men did was effective. They took him to Jesus physically because he was with them in human form at that time. The same could be done today, not by taking him to Jesus physically but spiritually by prayer. We can take any case to God in prayer the same way that the men took the paralyzed man to God, then in human form as Jesus. Therefore, what the men did for the paralyzed man is a good example of intercession, i.e., taking another person’s case to God in prayer. We examine the interactions in more detail to emphasize several aspects of intercession that are illustrated through what the men did and how God responded to them.
COMPASSION The men’s compassion for the paralyzed man was not discussed explicitly in the account, but we can surmise that they recognized what the man needed and committed to doing what they could to provide for the needs. They would have healed him by themselves if they could. Therefore, when they heard that Jesus was in the area and healed every kind of sickness, they decided to take him to Jesus. Compassion is recognizing another person’s need and committing to doing what you can to provide for it. As we discussed in several previous bible studies (e.g., at This_Link), God creates every person to be a channel for his compassion. Each of us is his provider assistant and is called to perform the role when he places a need in one’s path. He expects the person to recognize the need and do what he/she can to provide for it.
Therefore, the men were responding to a call from God when they committed to doing what they could to help the paralyzed man. God granted their “prayer” because he placed the need in their path. We can see from this that God will respond favorably to intercession that is driven by compassion. That is, if you recognize another’s need, commit to doing what you can to provide for it, and go to God in prayer as part of your commitment, then God will grant your prayer.
PERSISTENCE The men’s persistence underscored their commitment to getting the paralyzed man to Jesus. They got him to Jesus against great difficulty. They carried him to the site and did not give up when they found they couldn’t get to Jesus the normal way. They climbed to the roof and made a hole wide enough, raised him to the roof, and lowered him to where Jesus was in the house. Every one of these steps must have involved significant effort and could not have been easy for them. But they persisted and got the paralyzed man to Jesus.
FAITH Jesus forgave the paralyzed man his sins and healed him because he “saw their faith” [Mark 2:5]. The account did not say anything about faith of the paralyzed man. Rather, the account emphasizes that Jesus forgave and healed the man because of the faith of the interceding persons.
When Jesus saw their faith means when he saw the men believed that the paralyzed man will be healed if only they can get him to Jesus and they persisted until they found a way. When he saw their faith, he addressed the paralyzed man and announced his forgiveness and healing. This interaction shows the faith of the interceding person is important to the effectiveness of intercession. The men delivered their intercession with faith, and God granted their prayer.
Additional Examples of Taking Other Person’s Case to Jesus
There were several other examples of people bringing the case of others to Jesus.
There was the case of the Centurion that brought to Jesus a plea regarding his servant that “lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly” [Matthew 8:5]. He asked Jesus to not bother coming to his house but “just say the word, and my servant will be healed” [Matthew 8:8]. Jesus healed his servant, declaring the man’s faith greater than that of anyone in Israel. The Centurion’s appeal to Jesus was motivated by his compassion for his servant and was delivered with faith.
Also, there was the case of the synagogue ruler named Jairus that appealed to Jesus to come and lay hand on his dying daughter “so that she will be healed and live” [Mark 5:23]. Even after people came and informed him his daughter had died, he still believed that Jesus will revive her. He did.
Then, there was the case of a Greek woman (born in Syrian Phoenicia) that pleaded with Jesus to cast out a demon that possessed her daughter [Mark 7:24–30]. The daughter was not there with them, but Jesus healed her because of her mother’s faith.
Intercession for Peter
As we discussed in a previous bible study at This_Link, King Herod arrested Peter and held him in prison to await trial and possible execution [Acts 12:1–19]. He did not want to handle the matter during the Passover festival. He had killed James (brother of John) and felt the killing pleased the Jews.
Therefore, Peter’s church family was concerned that Peter was facing a similar fate. They prayed for him ceaselessly at the house of Mary, the mother of Mark (same Mark that authored our lead story for this bible study). An angel released Peter from prison on the night before he was to be put on trial. We believe intercession by the church family featured prominently in the account of this event because it contributed to God sending an angel to release Peter. The intercession was driven by compassion: the church family recognized the dangerous threat to Peter and committed to doing what they could to rescue him from the threat. There was nothing human they could do so they prayed ceaselessly until God answered them.
Moses Intercedes for Israelites
This incident occurred following the return of twelve men that Moses sent as an advance party to explore the land of Canaan. He sent them to “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country” to see “…what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many…” among several other items [Numbers 13:17–20].
REBELLION After the party returned, Joshua and Caleb sought to encourage the Israelites to proceed with taking the land: “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us” [Numbers 14:8]. However, the other ten spread fear that the inhabitants of the land were too powerful and would destroy and plunder the Israelites. The Israelite community rebelled against their leader Moses and his assistant Aaron, rebelled against God, and sought to select someone to lead them back to Egypt.
GOD’S ANGER God spoke to Moses and announced a promise to punish the Israelites: “I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they” [Numbers 14:12].
SELFLESS INTERCESSION Moses pleaded with God to have mercy on the Israelites [Numbers 14:13–19]. As part of his announcement to punish the Israelites, God offered to make Moses into “a nation greater and stronger than they” after striking down the Israelites with a plague. In a clearly selfless spirit, Moses ignored the offer and focused on pleading for the plight of the Israelites. This behavior of Moses emphasizes another feature of effective intercession. In addition to being driven by compassion and delivered with faith, intercession should be focused on the other person’s or other people’s need, i.e., intercession should be selfless.
SUCCESSFUL INTERCESSION God granted mercy to the Israelites and reduced their punishment. Instead of killing all of them with plague, the people that rebelled against him, those 20 years of age and older (except a few that he identified specifically), would die in the desert but their children will prosper and possess the land that they explored [Numbers 14:26–35]. Moses’ intercession was successful because it resulted in God saving future generations of the Israelites.
Intercession is going to God on behalf of another person or persons.
- Intercession will be successful
- If it is selfless
- Motivated by compassion
- And delivered with faith