Intercessory Worship Part 2

Having defined worship, what is intercessory worship? Well, to get there defining intercession is an important place to start. Since the adjective ‘intercessory’ is not actually used in scripture it is necessary to start with the noun. The scriptures use the noun intercession seven times and the verb intercessor on one occasion.

12  Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 (NKJV)

16  “Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you. Jeremiah 7:16 (NKJV)

18  But if they are prophets, and if the word of the LORD is with them, let them now make intercession to the LORD of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, do not go to Babylon.’ Jeremiah 27:18 (NKJV)

26  Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26 (NKJV)

27  Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:27 (NKJV)

34  Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Romans 8:34 (NKJV)

25  Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV)

16  He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him. Isaiah 59:16 (NKJV)

While the above verses provide all the examples in the scriptures the concept is throughout the scriptures. As well, in the verses above some of the examples point to prayer and some point to other actions. The best example is the first one, Isaiah 53:12. Isaiah 53 is the most famous prophetic passage in the OT pointing to Jesus redeeming sacrifice on our behalf because it describes in advance what happened on the cross. In this instance Jesus ‘intercession’ was the laying down of His life on our behalf. In broad terms this example gets at what intercession is truly all about, an intervention in a situation to change an outcome.

The most famous intercessory passage in the OT does not use the term intercession. It is Ezekiel’s ‘stand in the gap’ passage.

29  The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. 30  So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31  Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD. Ezekiel 22:29-31 (NKJV)

In this example a course of action was determined and Yahweh looked for someone to change the direction of what was happening. When no one did His wrath was poured out on the nation because there was no intercession. Let me illustrate further.

Have you ever planted a garden? If you planted vegetables and the plants never grew properly and you never received a meaningful harvest how would you respond? Would you simply continue planting and hoping or would you try to determine what the gap was between your expectation and results? Would you intervene to determine the problem? What kind of intervention would you do?

Let’s connect this to Isaiah and back to Ezekiel. In Isaiah we have the Middle Eastern image of a vineyard rather than a garden, with the same principles applying.

1  Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. 2  He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes. Isaiah 5:1-2 (NKJV) 

This passage is connected to the Ezekiel passage in that in both cases the issue was Israel not producing the harvest Yahweh both expected and deserved. The problem was that there was a gap between the expectations and the results. This gap is like the space between a stimulus and response. We tend to think of the two as inextricably linked yet they are not. In the garden and vineyard examples the stimulus is the planting and the response is the poor harvest. However, between the stimulus, the planting, and the poor harvest, the response, there is a gap; an opportunity, a place of possibility to intervene or intercede and see a different result!

Thus, intercession is standing in the gap between stimulus and response to change the course of a life, a community or a nation. So tying these concepts together, here is how I see intercession.

Intercession as an activity, generally prayer, which is intended to bring about change.

I see Intercessory Worship as a dynamic blend of worship and intercession that engages the heart in His strategic purposes and is led by the Holy Spirit. It may be either individual or corporate.

So based on this definition are we engaging in intercessory worship?

Intercessory Worship Part 1

In recent weeks I experienced what seemed like a small thing, but was for me a very meaningful encounter with the Holy Spirit. I was tired so I was laying on a couch in the afternoon and praying and half asleep. In this state I had a sense that the next major move of the Spirit would be birthed and sustained by intercessory worship. A great revelation right? After all IHOP has been in sustained 24/7 worship and intercession since September of 1999 and Houses of Prayer are being raised up in many places around the globe and I have been on the board of our local one for years. Yet this seemingly small thing is leading to other things.

After this happened I emailed a small number of friends and told them and one then shared she came across a book by Dick Eastman on Intercessory Worship. She was not aware of who he was and wondered if I was aware of him. I was aware of who Eastman was, but not of his book, so I downloaded it. I should note at this time that my sense of intercessory worship birthing and sustaining a move of the Holy Spirit was simultaneously something more and yet something less than the structure in most Houses of Prayer. I felt the Holy Spirit was/is going to breathe on something and impart and release Jesus life in a way that we are not currently experiencing it and that will at the same time be less structured.

In writing this I feel compelled to draw on Amos 7:14, I claim to be neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, simply someone who seeks to know and follow the One who is the author and finisher of my faith. I am also not claiming what I think the Holy Spirit is stirring is the only thing He is doing anymore then an ear is a whole body. I simply sense this is something that He will breathe upon.

As I move into this I will spend some time defining the subject – intercessory worship, beginning with worship and also look at how music, prayer, and silence all play integral roles. I will include how we need to learn to drink deeply of living water to see this realized. Some of what I share will be rather intangible as I start for the simple reason I am stepping out to walk down a road that is not fully clear to me. So if you would like to join me on this journey read on.

I have been deeply concerned for many years that much of what passes for worship in our day is soulish excitement rather than heart engagement. I encourage you to discern His wisdom in this matter. In my looking at worship I am focused on expressions in song, worshipful silence, and the like while at the same time recognizing that our very life is to be an expression of worship.

So, defining the terms. I will start with worship and later come to the word ‘intercessory’ and then tie to the two together before moving to the other pieces I have referenced above. In the New Testament worship is first raised in Matthew 2:2 when the wise men come to worship Jesus (likely when He was about 2 years old). The word used there and elsewhere in the NT describes what they did (see Matt. 2:11).

The Greek word is προσκυνέω proskuneō verb, Fall down and worship, bow down to, show reverence to, welcome respectfully. The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary

So worship is an action, act of reverence and respect, a recognition of Yahweh. Worship of Yahweh is essentially the response of our heart to His majesty. If our heart is not involved, what we are engaged in is not worship. Jesus had some thoughts on this point,

7  Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8  “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9  And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:7-9 (NKJV)

8  Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Matthew 5:8 (NKJV) 37  Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37 (NKJV)

In each of these passages Jesus pointed to the role of our heart. To be true worshippers our hearts must be engaged. When our hearts are engaged in worship our perspective shifts. I have heard a few sermons on Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah chapter 6 and they almost invariably focus on this as his prophetic call. In fact the title the translators have added to chapter 6 in my bible is ‘Isaiah’s Vision and Call’ and the notes talk about this being his prophetic call. The main problem with that view is that in 1:1 (see also 2 Chron. 26:16-23) as he introduces his writing Isaiah informs us that he prophesied during the reign of Uzziah and the subsequent three kings so it is at odds with him being called to be a prophet after Uzziah died.

What is more likely is Isaiah is describing is an encounter that shifted his focus and compelled his heart to renewed worship because he was unknowingly walking in pride. Uzziah was generally a good king but at one point tried to take on the role of priest and offer incense in the temple. For his pride Yahweh struck him with leprosy and he lived the rest of his life in isolation while his son Jotham reigned in his stead until his death, whereupon Jotham continued as king. What reinforces this view is lepers were considered unclean and needed to warn others of their unclean state if they came near. What did Isaiah say when he saw Yahweh on His throne? As a side note, in John 12:37-43 we learn that is was Jesus that Isaiah saw on the throne.

5  So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5 (NKJV)

Isaiah now saw in the light of Yahweh’s glory that while Uzziah may have been physically unclean, he and the nation were spiritually unclean! Isaiah had been prophesying woes on others prior to this encounter. He now says what, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” I haven’t had Isaiah’s experience but I have had His presence draw near where I feel like I am coming apart at every level – being undone. This leads to humility, a shift of the heart and a desire to worship!

True worship enlarges our heart, changes our perspective, and gets our focus on the King of glory – we see through new eyes. Holy Spirit open our eyes!

1 John Part 14

In the middle of his final rebuttal of Gnosticism John inserts a teaching on the conditions for answered prayer.

14  Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

This section, as a whole, verses 9-21, is John’s final rebuttal of this Gnostic heresy. However there is a need to spend some time dealing with what John has to teach about answered prayer in verses 14-15. I remember, about the late 1980’s, reading some comments on prayer by A. W. Tozer. I was reading a lot of Tozer at the time and was greatly affected by his writing. One comment he made was in regard to a common teaching on prayer, ‘God always answers prayer, either yes, no, or wait a while.’ In referring to this teaching Tozer said it was harder to find a neater way to explain away unanswered prayer, and Tozer strongly disagreed with the teaching, as do I. If it is true then we can simply pray with no need to exercise faith and trust the formula. This in fact is fatalism, not faith. So if the formula is wrong, what is right? How should we approach prayer?

John teaches that if we ask according to God’s will then He hears and our prayers are answered. Let me break this down in a bit more detail. To help with that I will look at some other scriptures as we need to view things in the broader context of all of scripture. Look below at what Peter wrote, particularly the section I have placed in bold.

9  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)

If we pair what Peter wrote with what John wrote, both inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we pray for someone to be saved and they are saved, after all it is God’s will. Yet we all know it is not that simple, so how do we reconcile these scriptures? I believe there are two factors, God’s general will and His specific will in a life, along with the matter of human will. Look at how John quotes Jesus about this matter.

18  “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John 3:18-21 (NKJV)

Jesus said that people don’t come to the light, salvation, because they prefer darkness. How then do we pray for the salvation of others? Paul has some answers for us.

3  But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4  whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5  For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (NKJV)

So, we can pray the eyes of the lost will be opened so they can see. They may still reject the light but we can pray in confidence that the Holy Spirit will bring them light and that the Holy Spirit will bring into their lives those who will speak truth. Thus I believe we can pray and know He hears and we receive what we have asked.

John now turns to the matter of sin. It has become popular in our church culture to say that ‘sin is sin and one is no worse than the other.’ In fact even a casual reading by any student of the scriptures refutes that position. A clear example is what John taught.

16  If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17  All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

So as we look at these two verses a couple of things are clear. There are in fact different degrees of sin and all unrighteous acts are in fact sin. Though John expected his first century readers to know, we do not know what he meant by the distinction between sins leading to death and those not leading to death. We do know from the use of his term ‘brother’ that he was referring to fellow believers. Wisdom would dictate in our day that we need to do two things, seek the leading of the Holy Spirit when interceding for repentance and forgiveness for the sins of fellow believers. The other is that we need to be ‘our brother’s keeper’ and embrace our responsibility to speak out when our fellow believers are walking in sin. Nowhere in scripture are we enjoined to passively stand by and tolerate sin in the lives of fellow Christians, quite the opposite, we are to care enough about them to speak to them and to intercede for them. A key to dealing with this issue is trusting that if we pursue intimacy with our Father then He will not allow us to intercede where we ought not and will quicken our spirits to intercede where we should. That is walking in love.

In a seemingly strange manner right after talking about the sin of other believers John tells us that if we are truly believers we will not sin.

18  We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19  We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 20  And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

18  We know [absolutely] that anyone born of God does not [deliberately and knowingly] practice committing sin, but the One Who was begotten of God carefully watches over and protects him [Christ’s divine presence within him preserves him against the evil], and the wicked one does not lay hold (get a grip) on him or touch [him]. 1 John 5:18 (AMP)

The solution to the seeming problem of believers sinning is brought out in the Amplified above. What John has introduced that is new is the idea of the world being under the influence of Satan. This is like the old analogy of D-Day and V-Day in WWII. The war was in effect over on D-Day, yet the fighting continued until V-Day. In the spiritual realm Jesus has secured the victory yet we are still in enemy territory and He has left us here to enforce His victory (see Matt. 28:18-20) yet the final victory will only be fully manifest when He returns. We live in the world but are not of it, our new nature is contrary to the nature of the world. In spite of Satan’s influence we know we belong to God and not the world.

John then closes his letter with a statement of encouragement.

21  Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. 1 John 5:14-21 (NKJV)

We will do well if we head this admonition and keep ourselves from idols – not the idols of wood and stone but the idols of our culture; fame, prestige, money, etc.

In wrapping up my commentary on 1 John I have some closing comments in terms of John’s teaching on ‘knowing.’

When John uses the word “know” in verses 13 right through to the first part of verse 20 he is referring not to intellectual knowing, something we can reason out, rather he is referring to heart and spirit knowing, the inward witness of the Holy Spirit that we have Jesus, and thus eternal life, abiding within us (Rom. 8:16). We know we have eternal life abiding in us because there is something within drawing us to truth. When John says in verse 19 that he has written so we will “know” he is not referring to reasoning out our salvation. He is nurturing the reality that when we live a life of love based on an internal witness, we know Him. Similarly we know He hears our prayers and answers them because we have an internal witness and relationship with Him. In verse 18 the truth is brought out that we intuitively know that someone who is born again is not someone who wants to sin. There is a witness within that this is wrong.

In verse 20 the second use of the word know is ginosko in Greek (see below) and refers to perceiving or being aware of someone or something. This is a relational word that refers to intimacy. It is the word Paul uses in Philippians 3:10 to speak of his pursuit of further intimacy with Jesus and is the word used to refer to sexual intimacy between a man and his wife (Matt. 1:25).

γινώσκω ginōskō verb Know, become aware, perceive, understand, be conscious of. Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The

What John is teaching is that by following the inward witness of the Holy Spirit we can have our understanding enlightened to come into intimacy with Jesus. (See also Eph. 1:17-23).

Ultimately it all comes down to the posture of our hearts. If we are pursuing Him and desiring to walk in love He is faithful to lead us, sustain us, comfort us, and deliver us. As the song says, “Our God is an awesome God.”

1 John Part 13

The final chapter of 1 John continues to deal with significant issues affecting our faith and continues to refute Gnosticism.

1  Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:1-3 (NKJV)

John here again establishes how we are born again. It is by believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One of God. What John is pointing to, and the readers of his day understood, was that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. The Greek word we translate as ‘Christ’ is the equivalent of the Hebrew word we translate as ‘Messiah.’ When we enter into this heart belief of Jesus as our Messiah, our Saviour, we can walk out our faith in love for those around us who are also born again, because we have the same Father. We can be assured we are His children when we keep His command to love. His commandments are not a burden because they are an exhortation to walk in who and what we truly are. An important point is that while John refers to the ‘children of God’ a number of times in his epistle he also is clear, as in 3:10, that those who do not know Jesus are children of the devil. This may offend some of our sensibilities but it is the truth of scripture.

John now moves into our basis for victory in our lives

4  For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. 5  Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (NKJV)

If we are born of God we have within us the capacity to overcome the values of the world that try to shape us into their mold. This happens just as surely as water flows downhill. The water does not work to flow downhill. It is natural for the water. So to it is natural for us to pursue and seek after Him if we are born again. Our applied faith in Him will consistently bring us through to victory. That is not to say it is always easy. I know in my own life the battles I have fought and continue to fight. I also know however that there is something within me that will not allow me to be anything but a believer. It is His nature, which has become my nature via the new birth. No matter how much my flesh may at times get the upper hand, and appear to be winning the battle, there is always something within that rises up and overcomes. That something is His nature within me that manifests as faith, a gift from Him! This happens because everything He is He imparted to me in seed form at my conversion. As I pursue a relationship with Him through prayer, fellowship, and the word He brings forth fruit from the seed of His nature that He planted within me.

John now turns to the inward witness we can possess. It is one thing to have someone tell us something, it is quite another to have an inner experience and awareness. I have been a few places in the backcountry in the mountains. It is one thing to have someone describe them or show me pictures, quite another to crest a mountain ridge and see a beautiful vista that someone had described. Reality far outweighs the description!

6  This is He who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7  For there are three that bear witness {in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8  And there are three that bear witness on earth}: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. 1 John 5:6-8 (NKJV)

A portion of this passage is has been disputed a great deal over the years and in most modern translations it is removed from midway through verse 7 to near the end of verse 8 (the text I italicized and placed in the fancy brackets above). Some believe the bracketed section was added to bolster the idea of the Trinity. I am not going to enter into some type of dispute, (though I do have some well thought out and researched reasons for my own position in terms of which New Testament manuscript stream is the most accurate). For those who are born again the issue need not be one of dispute. The Trinity is well established in other parts of scripture and this side of eternity we will never know conclusively whether the disputed words belong in the scriptures. Therefore the question we need to ask is what John was trying to communicate even without the disputed passage. His point is that the Spirit, water, and blood are in agreement. John is saying that in this agreement the Spirit bears witness. The word witness is a Greek word that means ‘to bear witness or testify’ (see below). What John is communicating is that if we are open to receive the Spirit’s witness and have a love for truth (2 Thess. 2:10) then the Spirit is ‘ready and able’ to testify within us to the reality of who Jesus is, the Son of God and Lord of glory.

μαρτυρω martureō verb – Bear witness, be a witness, testify.

Johannine Literature

John, in contrast to the Synoptics, made martureō a central term in his gospel. This term always has a legal meaning which carries over into his epistles as well. John considered his own role as that of “witness” to the wonderful story of Jesus (John 21:24; cf. 1 John 1:2; 4:14; 2 John 3; Revelation 1:2; 22:18). John the Baptist is portrayed as a “witness” to Jesus (John 1:7,8,15,32; 5:33), and Jesus himself “testified” to His identity by what He did (John 5:36; 10:25).

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Lambda-Omicron.

In the following verses John continues with his theme of the witness of God.

9  If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10  He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11  And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. 1 John 5:9-13 (NKJV)

This passage flows from and clarifies the preceding three verses. The issue is whether we are walking by the internal witness of God or the external witness of God. This takes us right back to the Gnostic issue John was addressing. No matter how much someone may try to convince us that the truth is a lie, that is a lie, and if we will look to the Lord in our spirit we can know the reality of the truth that we are children of God. We do not need to go through some special “enlightenment” experience because we have the true light living within! Anyone who claims that Jesus is not the Son is lying and anyone who has been born again has the Son living within and the Son will not bear witness to a lie. John is really reaffirming the truth that Jesus spoke when He said that if our heart desires are right we will know whether or not any teaching is from the Father (Jn. 7:17). This is basically a restating of the truth of Deuteronomy 4:29, that if we seek Him wholeheartedly we will find Him and this includes finding Him in any manifestation of truth.

Let us both seek and know Him with our whole heart!