These are powerful principles when used in the correct way, namely in the context of the finished work of the cross. But the way that it has been turned into a tactic to try and twist God’s arm to do things for us, it is actually doing more damage to the body of Christ than those who propagate it can imagine.
Fasting and intercession is often a “whip” that is abused by people for the following four main reasons:
1) It is used by legalists who try to beat the church back into obeying the Old Testament law
2) To make believers beg and cry out to God to give them things that they already have
3) To appeal to God to do things which He’s already done
4) To plead with God to do things which He commanded us to do
Praying for God to “Heal the Land”
Recently a well known entertainer in South Africa sent out a request through his website to thousands of his fans to join him in a day of fasting, during which prayers and intercessions would be made for their country in the hope that God would “heal the land” like He promised in the Old Testament:
…if My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14 MKJV)
This verse has been used wildly out of context. Note that it doesn’t start with a capital letter, which means it most likely forms part of the previous verse. Let’s read it in context with verse 13:
If I shut up the heavens, and there is no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send a plague among My people; if My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:13-14 MKJV)
Aha… Since God doesn’t kill people or destroy their countries anymore under the New Covenant, it’s clear that these verses do not apply to us! God will not honor a day where people fast and beg Him “to heal the land” since we are asking Him to do something which He commanded us to do. God gave us the Holy Spirit in order for us to be His hands and feet here in the earth. He commanded us to go out to all the nations and make them His disciples (Matt 28:19). He commanded us to heal the sick and raise the dead (Matt 10:8) and take care of widows and orphans (Jam 1:27). So why are we asking God to do all this stuff?
After the cross, Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father, continually interceding for the saints:
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Rom 8:33-34 ESV)
So why does Jesus need to intercede for us with the Father? Is the Father against us? Are they at odds in their feelings for us? Of course not! Jesus is our advocate (1 John 2:1) who continually pleads our case with the Father whenever the accuser (the devil) tries to condemn us, as the apostle John wrote in Revelations:
For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. (Rev 12:10b GNB)
Jesus’ atoning blood continually cleanses us so that the case of the accuser repeatedly gets thrown out of the court. All the evidence against us has been removed – he has nothing to prove his case with anymore!
So since it’s Jesus’ role to intercede for the saints, we actually seem to believe that He isn’t doing a good enough job if we try to assume that position – we are acting in an Anti-Christ manner if we think we have more compassion for other people than God. Jesus is the only person who was ever appointed to act as a mediator between God and man:
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… (1 Tim 2:5 ESV)
Often this type of prayer is also called “standing in the gap”, which implies the supposed “gap” between God and man. This gap is of course completely bridged when someone becomes born-again and their spirit is “fused” with the Holy Spirit:
But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Cor 6:17 ESV)
Do we really think we love other people more than God? Whenever we pray for God to have mercy or to divert His wrath and not punish someone, we act as though we are more merciful than God. How do we think that makes God look in the eyes of the world? Mostly if we intercede for other people (or for a country) it stems out of a belief that we can “change God’s mind” – as though He doesn’t really want to do anything about the problem in the first case – and that our praying will change His mind to make Him step in and finally do something. Do we really believe that we love other people or our country more than God does?
One of the very few scriptures in the Bible which tell us to intercede for people is this one:
First of all, then, I exhort that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Tim 2:1-2 MKJV)
God has no problem with us asking for wisdom for ourselves or for other people:
But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all. (Jam 1:5 GNB)
The principle of intercession has become an abused, ugly, trash word in lots of Christian circles. No wonder people (including pastors) burn out! They walk around with the weight of the world on their shoulders, when Jesus promised His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
The correct way to intercede would be to acknowledge the finished work of the cross and pray from a place of victory, not for victory. Most often this involves commanding life, favor, deliverance, healing and restoration into a situation and destroying the works of the devil!
In part 2 of this series we will take a look at Fasting – it might just take some more of the burden off your shoulders!