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!