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Has prayer failed us?


I once read a quote by Rees Howell that I found mysterious: “Prayer has failed us; intercession alone will bring us through.”

"Prayer has failed us." Isn’t that an interesting statement? Some days it does appear that the prayers for our nation are going unanswered, even with hundreds of thousands praying daily. Since 2016, there has been a growing passion to pray for America, and IFA now has prayer groups in every state and in some territories of the United States. And yet, we still see a rapidly increasing LGBT population among America's youth; decreasing numbers of church attenders; a rise in drug use and addiction; throngs illegally crossing our border; lawfare being waged against political candidates, and more. Could it be that we need to move from a place of prayer to a deep place of intercession?

Do you realize there is a profound difference between prayer and intercession? It’s true.

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The Old Testament talks about both prayer and intercession. Prayer is presented as a means for the common man to bring requests before God. But intercession in the Old Testament was completely different. Intercession was a means of interacting with God, one reserved for a select few entrusted with the critical task of standing between God and His divine purposes for a person or nation. These intercessors knew God’s heart and man’s need.

Let's look at one of the most treasured verses in the Bible with a view to understanding the difference between prayer and intercession:

“Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

This verse explains that the Holy Spirit provides the opportunity for us to be involved in intercession. Intercession is now for the common man. This was a mind-blowing concept to the religious class of Paul’s day. The religious leaders of that day were supposed to be the only ones who could stand between God and the people. This fact gave them job security, authority, and a sense of worth. But in Romans, Paul's theological treatise, he blows away this exclusivity when he says that the Spirit makes intercession with us as we “groan.” The root word for intercession literally means to “hit the mark.”

Putting all this together helps us understand intercession as a consultation process in order to hit the markof what God desires for a person, a situation, a nation.

To correctly understand the Greek word for intercession — entugchano — is to understand it as a consultation process, a process in which two parties cooperate with each other. In intercession, one party comes looking for advice, and the other party gives it. We don't so much intercede as enter into an intercession process.

There are specific differences between prayer and intercession.

  • Prayer relates to God’s permissive will. Intercession relates to God’s perfect will.
  • Prayer deals with circumstances. Intercession deals with divine purposes.
  • Prayer involves a list. Intercession involves listening.

As president of Intercessors for America, I'm often told by praying Christians: "I am not an intercessor." There seems to be some sense of mystery or of special calling associated with the term — but actually, anyone can be an intercessor! Here's what it means to be an intercessor:

  • Seek first to understand the heart of God in a matter.
  • Prioritize listening to the Holy Spirit before speaking.
  • See yourself as a vital instrument cooperating with God to release His perfect will.
  • Humbly come before God desiring to "hit the mark" by cooperating with Him.
  • Ask the Lord this question: "What are Your divine purposes for this person, for this nation?"
  • Sit at the intersection between God’s divine will and the needs of men, crying out for His will to be done.

Now we can understand why Rees Howell would say, “Prayer has failed us; intercession alone will bring us through.”

Does God have a good future for our nation? Yes, absolutely!

God has a plan for our nation — a future that is good. That plan includes our intercession. Our part is to seek God, lay hold of His plan, and then intercede until we see that plan unfold and come to fruition. Prayer is good and needful, but there are times when intercession is required. This is such a time. May God lead us into a place of deep intercession, a place of travail, where we lay hold of His plan and His purpose for our nation.

David Kubal is President/CEO of Intercessors for America (IFA), which serves over one million praying Christians every month. David serves on the National Faith Advisory Board and the National Day of Prayer Task Force and is also frequently featured in national news outlets such as Victory Channel, CBN, and Fox News.

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