As our focus this month is on prayer, it seemed appropriate to pull an old illustration out from my personal archives to help with a specific form of prayer: intercession. I call it the Hourglass illustration. May it encourage you to add more requests to your prayer journal for the important people in your life!
The Intercessors HourglassBy Dan Vis
March 03, 2024
The Bible refers to many different kinds of prayer ranging from praise and thanksgiving to confession and supplication. And most believers are familiar with these, and engage in them with some level of frequency. But there's a specific form of prayer that's much less common among believers called intercession.
This form of prayer focuses in on praying through the process of salvation in the lives of specific people around us. And it's been under utilized for a long time. In Isaiah's day the Bible tells us: "the LORD saw it . . . that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor" (Isaiah 59:15-1615 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. 16 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.). Unfortunately, the situation has changed much today!
How to IntercedeIf you want to engage in more focused intercessory prayer, imagine an hourglass divided into seven levels, three on top, three on the bottom, and one at the neck in the middle of the two halves. These seven levels represent steps in the journey of an individual as they climb in their walk with God.
One way to intercede for an individual, is simply to identify which stage they are at, and begin praying that God would work in that person's life to move them to the next level--making yourself available to support that growth as God directs. This keeps our prayer focused on their specific need at that stage. And often helps us to identify ways we can assist them.
Here are the seven steps.:
If you don't have a significant list of people to intercede for, add a request to your prayer journal for God to expand your circle of contacts. Ask God to show you ways you can work to find and develop redemptive relationships with the people around you. And pray for God to give you discernment when He brings someone into your life that he wants you to pray for.
Once God impresses you to begin interceding for a specific person, the next step is to begin praying God will help you to develop a stronger connection, or relationship with that person. Ask God to give you ideas every day for how you can build new levels of trust and friendship. This process may takes weeks, months, or years. But it is through these relationships that salvation typically spreads.
Once you sense a relationship has formed, it is time to start praying specifically that God would open doors for you to communicate spiritual truth with that person. This sharing may take place in the form of a personal testimony, tracts, books, or dvds, or perhaps personal Bible studies. The key is to pray daily for God to prepare their hearts for the reception of truth, that He would orchestrate the right opportunity to share, and impress you with the right words and/or resources to give them.
When your relationship has shifted to the point you are beginning to share spiritual truth with your friend, it is time to shift your prayers for their conversion. Pray God will lead that person to commit their life to Christ. The more information they have, the more important it is for them to act. Intensify your prayers even more as you see them transition into the valley of decision. If God impresses you to make a Gospel appeal, do so.
Seeing someone come to Christ is exciting, but it's hardly the end of their need for intercession. We must go on to pray for the conservation of their new found faith. Ask God to use you, and/or others, to nurture the new Christian in the assurance of salvation, regular church attendance, a good grounding in the basic teachings of the Bible, and their first steps in discipleship. Pray daily for God to show you how to assist and support them in their spiritual growth.
As they become more established, your prayers will be able to focus more on their maturity and spiritual growth. You can pray specifically for God to develop in them a life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, a life of purpose and meaning, and a life of practical, personal discipleship. Again, intercession not only asks God to work in their life, but asks for direction from heaven in how we can help support and encourage the growth of our friend.
Last but not least, we will want to intercede with God on their behalf, that they would willingly give themselves more fully to the great commission. That they would recognize the call of God on their life, and live a life marked by consistent witnessing, the nurture of new believers, and the training of other disciples. The process of intercession is not complete until they take up the mantle of interceding and working for others! And even then, we can keep them uplifted in prayer as co-laborers together with God.
Not sure where to start? Take some time to prayerfully identify one person at each of these stages and add a prayer request to your prayer journal that God would help that person specifically to move up to the next level in the hourglass. Pray for these seven individuals, asking God regularly to show you ways you can help each one take their next step. It is not only likely to change their life, but yours!
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