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The Heart Of Intercession

This month, we are going to take a look at the prophet Ezra and his attitude toward intercessory prayer. When we hear about intercession, we often associate it with the word petition but what does petition look like?

 Let's use a real life example. I want you to imagine a child who has constantly been bullied and doesn't feel as if they have the strength to stand up for themselves. For years, they allow the bully to bully, until one day another child gets fed up of watching and decides to notify a teacher/ member of staff about what has transpired. This child stands up and intercedes for the other, by approaching their head and authority to intervene. As believers, this is what we are called to do when we intercede. 

 

The passage of scripture we will be focusing on is from Ezra 9:5-15:  

 

Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed:

 

“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.

“But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place[a] in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage.Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.

10 “But now, our God, what can we say after this? For we have forsaken the commands 11 you gave through your servants the prophets when you said: ‘The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its peoples. By their detestable practices they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other. 12 Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance.’

13 What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this. 14 Shall we then break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor? 15 Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.”

Firstly the NIV version mentions Ezra rose from self-abasement. Essentially, self-abasement reflects a sense of unworthiness, guilt, shame and inferiority. We then witness a man who falls to his knees and prays. A sense of desperation. Ezra, was very aware of the condition God's people and what their disobedience led to. He mentions that because of their sins, their kings, queens and priests have been subjected to the sword, captivity, to pillage and to humiliation at the hands of foreign kings.  It's very easy to read this in scripture and detach yourself from it, as if it were something in the past that has no relevance to us now but that could not be further from the truth. During this period in history, we witness the humiliation of God's people, who are given in to hands of foreign kings. Today, we constantly witness a humiliation of Christianity. Particularly in Western cultures. Mocked and not taken seriously. An easy cop out is to say it's people rejecting God. Honestly, sometimes it is people rejecting what we reflect of Him.  

Ezra does something else which is astonishing, he looks at the mess that is around him. He sees the captivity, he sees God's people plundered. Yet, he says God has been gracious. He acknowledges that despite all that is going on, God has left a remnant. A remnant which will rebuild the house of God and that provides him with comfort. So during this moment of intercession, he thanks God for the work He is doing though it is not complete. 

So what can we learn from Ezra?  We witness a man who spends time interceding on the behalf of others and who is aware of his condition and those surrounding him. A man who approaches God and says 'do you know what, we aren't worthy and we have disobeyed You, yet You have been gracious and because of our guilt none of us can stand before You'. His prayer, was a prayer of confession for the people. How often do we go before God in our private prayer time/corporate in humility and brokenness because of our sin as a body?  

 
Demonstrating Thankfulness
 

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Sunday, 25 February 2018

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