April 24, 2014

A channel, not a substitute

Intercession is being a prayer channel between God and people in need, often those who cannot or will not pray for themselves. While I’m praying, my imagination heightens the sense of intercession. That is, I think about the person in need and taking them by the hand to my heavenly Father, understanding their needs and wanting them to rely on the One who can help them,

But there is a caution to using our imagination in prayer. I’m not to go too far in identifying with the people I am praying for. Psychologists call this “introjection.” It means taking on the characteristics of another. When I pray, if I try to feel the pain of those prayed for, I am not praying rightly and even going into a dangerous place. In trying to substitute myself for a needy person, I might mean well, but am taking on a role that belongs to Jesus Christ alone. He is our substitute. He took our sins, pain and sorrow to the Father at the cross, bearing them on our behalf. I don’t do that and cannot do that.

There are many verses that describe the work of Christ in this role. One says, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God . . .” (1 Peter 3:15–18)

Another familiar passage is from the Old Testament describing the role of our Messiah . . .

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all . . . . Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:4-6, 12)

He suffered for our sins. He bore our sorrows. He took the punishment for our sins, making intercession for us. He also “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” (Galatians 3:13)

Jesus took our place as no other intercessor can. He was, “for a little while was made lower than the angels . . .  and then crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)

We can feel the pain of others and pray for them, but we cannot do what Jesus did. He “appeared in order to take away sins” and could do that because “in him there is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

Jesus could fully intercede and even die for us because He had no sin of His own, no need for someone to intercede for Him. I am not like that. I can be a channel, but never a substitute.

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