We think Jesus came to the earth to preach, to teach, to heal and minister, and to die for our sins. Actually, he came to the earth to pray. He came to die praying for all of mankind, for their reconciliation and forgiveness. It was not simply the death of Christ that saved us, but his intercession! Isaiah 59:16 declares,
Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
This is the background for Paul’s discussion on prayer and spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6. “God wondered that there was ‘no intercessor’!”
The middle connection between God and mankind, including the earth itself, had been severed by Adam’s fall. The rapid descent into degenerate living was so quick and so severe that it resulted in global judgment. The details of that era are cloudy. Peter calls it the “old” or “ancient” world distancing it as if it were somehow another race of mankind (2 Peter 2:5). Indeed, Jesus, in a mysterious act about which we can only speculate, preached to those held in death’s prison who had lived and died in that pre-flood era (2 Peter 3:18-20). Adam’s fall had created a moral and spiritual vacuum that rapidly plunged the earth beneath the waters of judgment.
In Isaiah 59, the impact due to the absence of an intermediary, an intercessor, is also stunning. The result was no justice. We rarely connect either the presence or absence of prayer with the state of justice in our community. With the middle abandoned, there was no justice and no salvation – no redemptive activity, no consistent representation of God in the earth or of man from the earth to God. Prayer is the precondition for salvation-action. Redemption begins in prayer. Salvation processes are rooted in prayer. Without an intercessor, Israel was scattered and dominated by Babylon. What a picture. “Therefore His own arm brought salvation.” He chose to come to earth, through the incarnation, in order to heal the gap that had occurred by the fall of man, the gap in the middle, and from that middle to intercede for mankind from the earth. Jesus came to the earth – to pray. Man had been created for communion with God, for unbroken fellowship with the Divine. And on the basis and strength of that inherent and spiritual bond, he was given a representative role and empowered with dominion. Created in the very image of God, he was designed for the role in the middle. But the communion and the communication between heaven and earth, through the kingly and priestly Adam, was irrevocably shattered by sin.
Jesus, the last Adam – not the second or third, for there could never be another, since he was mankind’s only hope – came to restore that communion. He came to reinstate dominion, first, at the spiritual and moral levels. He came to the earth to pray – as a man. He began his ministry in prayer (Matthew 4:1-3). He ended his earthly ministry in prayer (Matthew 26:36-45). Jesus withdrew from his disciples and the crowds to be alone to pray. He often went up on a mountainside or to a solitary or lonely place to pray. When the disciples arose in the morning, at times, he had already gone out to find a place of prayer (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, 6:46, Luke 5:16). He spent the whole night in prayer before he chose the twelve (Luke 6:12). At the tomb of Lazarus, he thanked the Father for hearing him. He prayed – and Lazarus was raised from the dead (John 11:41-43). Before he fed the thousands, Jesus gave thanks, looking up to heaven (Matthew 14:19, 15:36, Mark 6:41, 8:6, Luke 9:16, John 6:11). The writer of Hebrews offers a powerful descriptive of his prayer life,
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission (Hebrews 5:7, NIV).
His life was a life of prayer. He moved from one place of prayer to another, and then to another, and still to yet another, with the power and wisdom of God flowing out of him in-between. He came to the earth to pray.
This blog is an excerpt from a re-release of a popular title, Intercession: The Uncomfortable, Strategic Middle.
P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.