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The Mystery of Intercession

By The 700 Club -- At some point in our lives, we all face situations where we don't know how to pray. Recently, Gordon Robertson sat down and had a chance to interview Pastor Jack Hayford, founder of The King's College and Seminary, about the mystery of intercession. And he offers helpful insights that will empower your prayer life.

GORDON ROBERTSON: I want to relate a brief personal story. I was reading the New Testament one day, and the Holy Spirit just sort of whispered to me, `If you were with Jesus, if you were one of his disciples when he was on Earth, what would you ask him?' And, you know, I started to think, how do you do miracles and how did you walk on water and all those things. And then I was very gently reminded that his disciples, the one question they wanted was, `Teach us to pray. How do we pray?' I think that needs to be a question that every disciple of Christ asks. From your point of view, what is the best way to pray? What should we do?

JACK HAYFORD: I think there's two parts to it, Gordon. First, I think the Bible says that he that comes to God, believe that he is and that he's a rewarder of those that seek him. To believe the Lord wants to answer prayer. There is so much of a mind-set everywhere you go -- and amazingly, among hosts of believers -- that prayer is kind of like, `Well, God's going to do it anyway, but I'll kind of ask him to either hurry it up or maybe, you know, what difference do my prayers make?' I think a starting place is to recognize that if we don't pray, it's not going to happen. And it has nothing to do with God's heart or desire to act in our world. It's that he has made the terms. He said, `I'll act when you ask.' And it's not that he couldn't get along without us, but he's chosen to say, `You don't have the power. I've got the power, but you have the right to ask, so I'm telling you, ask.'

So the starting place is ask. And then in doing that, to draw on the energy and power of the Holy Spirit to do that asking because we need help to go beyond anything we can pray on our own.

GORDON ROBERTSON: It seems a great mystery to me that God seems to almost hold back until his children come to him and ask. It's sort of, you know, ask and you shall receive...


GORDON ROBERTSON: and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened. And it's not until we initiate the relationship that he comes through and responds.

JACK HAYFORD: Well, you know, he has taken the boldest and most grand initiative in sending Jesus, in providing salvation and saying, `Now that's there for you.' And once we enter a new life, he says, `I'd like to grow you up now. I want you to learn this is the way this works. You're the kid, I'm the dad, and you ask and we'll start to grow into partnership.' God and sons and daughters is the name of the company -- and he's wanting to grow us up in him.

GORDON ROBERTSON: You've gotten a revelation about Romans 8:28. I know that's been oft quoted and oft repeated. Tell us about that.

JACK HAYFORD: Well, it's one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible. The Scripture saying, `All things work together for good for them that love the Lord are called according to his purpose.' (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28, NIV)

The tragedy with Romans 8:28 is the number of people that take it as a philosophical statement and say, `Well, you know, all things work together for good.' And it was never meant as a stand-alone verse. I've said -- and people look at you like you denied the virgin birth or something -- that Romans 8:28 isn't true, unless you link it with the preceding two verses. And it's true of other portions of the Bible if you isolate it from its context.

Romans 8:26 and 27 says, `We don't know how to pray in circumstances that transcend us. But the Holy Spirit will help us with prayers, with groanings that transcend our capacity.' (In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26, NIV)

He'll come alongside. He will take hold together with, literally, the Greek verb says that full partnership where he bears the burden and energizes the prayer. (And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for these saints in accordance with God's will. Romans 8:27, NIV)

Oftentimes He gives direction and discernment as to how we ought to pray. And then, when we let the Holy Spirit help us in prayer, sometimes with the understanding, sometimes praying in the Spirit, that then, the Bible says, all things will work together for good. But they do not automatically just work out. That's another part of that thing. We want to escape responsibility. Say, `Well, you know, God will take care of it. I'll do my best and, you know, just cross my heart and hope to live.'

But the Lord says, `I want to you pray, and when it's beyond you, my Holy Spirit will help you.'

GORDON ROBERTSON: When I preach in front of audiences occasionally on intercessory prayer, I ask, `How many of you are intercessors?' And generally, I get a smattering of people to raise their hand. And then I say, `Well, Jesus was an intercessor -- is an intercessor, is our intercessor, and we're supposed to be like him.' So now how many of you want to be an intercessors? And then everybody says, `OK, now that I'm theologically educated, I can now properly respond.' But I don't think many people really understand those verses in Romans Chapter 8 from an experiential point of view, the groanings that cannot be uttered. How does one enter into that realm, where the Spirit comes alongside to help our inability to pray?

JACK HAYFORD: Gordon, it's just really a matter of passion. There is not some magic from heaven that you have to know how to do this and thereby, you become this awesome intercessor. In fact, the Bible using the word `groans that cannot be uttered.' Many of us believe, and I think it's true from passages in the Scripture, `I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding.' The Apostle Paul is inferring prayer in the Spirit there, but I believe it includes also just plain times that you are groaning out, and there's a cry from the inner person. And even when people just say, `Oh, my God,' and they're not just saying, `Oh, my God,' they're crying out that the heart of God reaches directly there, and the spirit of man, activated by the spirit of faith, the holy spirit of faith, touches the heart of God.

Now again, God is touched anyway, but he's confined himself to his own rules. And that's his right. He's said, `It's when you ask there will come answers.' And it is that responsibility to accept our place and to move in partnership. The Lord says, `Without me, you cannot. But without without you, I will not.' So he invites us and summons us to partnership in prayer, and then gives us the power to fulfill that by the help of the Spirit.

GORDON ROBERTSON: Is there another part of that "all things working together for good" where you can actually look at the hard times in your life as times where God is calling you into that kind of deep intercessory prayer to teach you the lesson that when the pressure comes and you groan in response to it -- that that is part of the working together for good?

JACK HAYFORD: It is. In fact, the ensuing verse, Romans 8:29, says, `It's by this means that we become conformed to the image of Jesus, that there is a process in the trial.' (For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29, NIV)

God didn't make the problem to say, `I'm going to beat up on you, so you have to pray and then I'll do a good thing.'


JACK HAYFORD: The problems come in the world. `Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward,' Job says. Jesus said, `In the world, you'll have tribulation.' Trouble comes. The Holy Spirit shows us how to pray. God calls us to pray. As we pray, the power of God enters the situation and begins to transform the situation. And in the middle of that, we are being transformed. So there's no question. That's why sometimes people say, `Well, God must have made the problem because I grew out of it.' But God didn't say, `I'll make problems to make you grow.' He says, `I'll show you the way you grow through learning the passion and the power and pathway of prayer.'

GORDON ROBERTSON: Amen. He's not the author of temptation, but he does see us through it and there's nothing that he's given us that we can't escape. Well, in addition to being an intercessor, you're also a tremendous worship leader. You write songs that really get you right into the presence of God. And you've come up with a new book, "Worship His Majesty." And I think in addition to the intercessory prayer movement, we're now going to see it linked up with a new movement in worship. Tell us about that. What do you see happening in that realm?

JACK HAYFORD: Gordon, the two are so immediately approximate, and as you mentioned at the onset of our talk, they said, `Lord, teach us to pray.' And he said, `You pray this way.' And what he says, `First, you worship God, our Father who art in heaven, holy be your name.' Worship lays the foundation to then, `thy kingdom come, thy will be done.' There's the introduction and the welcome of the kingdom power and working of God in our world situation. So worship is intended by Jesus' own directive to be linked to prayer. And my book "Worship His Majesty" is intended to focus on the tremendous joy of worship -- it is so clearly apparent where worship renewal is taking place. I would like people to not just get excited about worship, but to see how pivotally fundamental and foundational it is to the staging of the Lord's impacting every area of our life -- our congregation's life, our community life -- because we see the relationship between invoking the kingdom power through welcoming the presence of the king.

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