That Jesus was destined for the cross is rarely disputed by Bible believing Christians. He was ‘the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’ He came to the earth to gather up our sins and take them to the grave, so that death, by sin, could not lay a charge against us.
But Jesus’ role on the cross was not simply to die – but to die by praying, to die in prayer. To intercede for mankind while mankind was executing him. Extraordinary. On the cross, he split humanity down the middle with belief on one side and unbelief on the other. He carried his own cross to Golgotha to pray from Calvary, to pray at the place where so many lives were ended in hopeless despair. His whole life moved toward this crowning moment of prayer. This is why he came to the earth – to pray!
Intercession is often pressed into crucible-like moments. Simultaneously, it unites and divides. It tastes death and gives birth to life. It cries in the midst of the darkness and the shaking and remains simultaneously unmoved by either. It gathers us up and draws a protective line against the enemy. It makes peace and war at the same time. It is priestly and prophetic. It satisfies the past and finishes our unfinished business with God, then opens to a certain future. Intercession is made for the cross. It is costly. It is sometimes bloody. It is often painful. Its power is limited only by human openness or the hardness of hearts – but it opens to all a means of grace, a kind of highway to heaven’s throne. It is the essential act of pre-salvation. I am increasingly convinced that no one is saved unless someone is praying for them – and of course, the ultimate intercessor is Christ himself. My call, and yours, is to join him as intercessor for those we love, intercession at the cross, intercession that draws others to the same timeless cross.
In the middle of violence and rejection, intercession is to be offered. Prayer is not only for cathedrals packed with believers. It is for gamblers and thieves, mockers and dissidents, for the disruptive and slow to believe, for the never to believe. In the middle of divisive acts and ridicule, intercession is to be offered. Intercession steps into a war zone fraught with blindness and reaction, a bloody place in which innocent people are sacrificed – and it forgives, pleads for heaven’s forgiveness, and calls for a truce. It offers the ground of reconciliation in a hostile war zone. It offers the gift of forgiveness in the face of angry vengeance.
Intercession is not to be positioned sweetly in a chapel or used as a prayer aid only for brothers and sisters under fire. Intercession is also to be taken to the streets, offered in the face of demons, like a torch of light in the darkness. It is offered to those who decline the offer. It is peace standing in the middle of the battle, acting and not reacting. It is grace with open arms to its enemies. It is empathy and compassion given to the one engaged in hatred.
Jesus came to the earth to pray. He went to the cross to pray. We are not merely saved by the dying of Jesus. We are saved by the fact that he died praying, “Father, forgive them … they do not know what they are doing!” O, to be able to pray like Jesus.