When he died at the age of 120, the whole nation of Israel wept and mourned for Moses for thirty days. And we read this epitaph in Deuteronomy 34.
10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no-one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
We remember Moses for the burning bush and the confrontations with Pharoah. We remember Moses for parting the Red Sea and leading the Israelites through the wilderness. We think of Moses on Mount Sinai receiving the ten commandments. But there is one part of Moses’ life we often forget. Moses was a man of prayer. Moses the Intercessor. Not only was he a man of prayer, but God heard his prayer requests.
When Aaron and Miriam opposed Moses’ leadership and God struck Miriam, Moses’ sister with leprosy Moses prayed for he to be healed and the Lord healed her.
When the Israelites complained about the Manna that the Lord had given them the Lord sent fire that destroyed the outskirts of their camp, Moses prayed and the fire stopped.
When the Israelites asked the Lord for a leader to lead them back to Egypt the Lord got angry and was going to strike down the Israelites, Moses fell down before the Lord and prayed and God relented.
When the snakes were biting and killing the Israelites Moses prayed and the Lord made way for them to be healed.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai and the Israelites were worshipping a golden calf the Lord became angry and said he would start over with just Moses, Moses prayed and the Lord changed His mind.
When Moses prayed God listened.
There are many good reasons why God listened to Moses. The main reason why God answered his prayers was because their relationship was two sided. God listened to Moses because Moses first listened to God. Moses was an obedient man and he listened to God and obeyed Him. Secondly God answered his prayers because Moses was a humble man. The Bible tells us that Moses was the most humble man that ever lived. And then Moses had faith – faith enough to see the face of God!
Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. 29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
Moses had faith that God would answer his prayers. Obedience. Humility. Faith. The heart of Intercession.
But then there are specific lesssons we can learn about prayer from Deuteronomy 9
Moses the intercessor. God was all set to destroy Israel – but Moses prayed and interceded for them.
Deut 9:18 Then once again I fell prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the LORD’s sight and so provoking him to anger. 19 I feared the anger and wrath of the LORD, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the LORD listened to me. 20 And the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too.
Moses the Intercessor. Intercession simply means praying for other people. Praying about their needs. Often praying particularly that God will have mercy on people and pour out his forgiveness and his salvation and his healing on them.
We need to learn to pray for people – to intercede from them. What can we learn here from Moses the Intercessor about intercession?
Deut 9:18 Then once again I fell prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water,
Intercession takes time.
Intercession is hard work. Intercession takes time – in contrast to this age of Instant Everything
Until a few years ago we had a dining room table which had been passed down in Ruth’s family for generations. It was made by hand from a tree in Knowsley Forest which Ruth’s Great Grandfather chopped down himself. Contrast that with buying our new table – the most strenuous part of that process was typing our pin number into the machine.
When I visited Uganda a number of meals featured the local staple carbohydrate. It was called Kwen in Nebbi and Enya in Arua but it was the same porridge made out of cassava – the stuff tapioca or sago is made of. The missionaries fondly referred to it as purple playdough because that is what it looked like and tasted like. To make Kwen or Enya somebody first has to harvest the cassava roots, by hand. Then somebody has to peel and chop the cassava, and then leave the pieces out in the sun to dry. Then somebody has to grind the cassava by hand into flour and finally to boil the flour to make the porridge.
Kwen and enya are usually served with groundnut (that is peanut) sauce. First harvest the peanuts. Remove the nuts from their shells. Grind the nuts and season to make the sauce. It took the best part of a day’s work for the wife in the family to prepare their meal for that day. Every day.
Contrast that with the ease of buying food in supermarkets and cooking it, never mind buying ready meals and putting them in the microwave.
We live in a world of instant everything. But intercession is not like just putting your coin in the machine and out comes the answer to prayer! Intercession demands time and effort.
Intercession is costly – prayer with fasting.
We need to find out more about what fasting means. As he taught his disciples about fasting in the sermon on the mount, Jesus said “When you fast,” do this. Not if you fast but when you fast! For Christians as for the Jews before us even from the time of Moses, fasting is a way of showing God we mean business when we pray! We need to learn much more about the place of fasting in intercession.
Intercession takes time. Intercession is hard work. So what did intercession involve for Moses?
25 I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights because the LORD had said he would destroy you.
Intercession appeals to God’s character – declaring who God is
26 I prayed to the LORD and said, “O Sovereign LORD, do not destroy your people, your own inheritance that you redeemed by your great power and brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
Intercession appeals to God’s promises
27 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Overlook the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin.
Intercession appeals to God’s plans and purposes
28 Otherwise, the country from which you brought us will say, ‘Because the LORD was not able to take them into the land he had promised them, and because he hated them, he brought them out to put them to death in the desert.’ 29 But they are your people, your inheritance that you brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm.”
Intercession appeals to God’s character and to God’s promises and to God’s plans and purposes. And Moses prayed like this for forty days and forty nights!
We find it hard to keep on praying about the same topic for 40 minutes let alone 40 days and 40 nights! We run out of things to say. We get bored. We repeat ourselves. We lose concentration. Our minds wander or we even fall asleep. What was Moses actually doing when he was interceding for Israel for so long? He was reminding God of His diving character and claiming God’s promises. And Moses was finding out what God’s plans and purposes were so He could pray according to God’s will.
So often we find intercession difficult because we don’t know enough about what we are praying about. Usually we don’t know enough because we don’t really care enough about whatever it is we are praying . We need to learn how to intercede and we learn to intercede by practising!
There is a phrase I learned in our University Christian Union about intercession. It was “praying through” an issue or an event. Praying about every facet, every aspect. Bringing all the details before God, not just jumping to the punchline “God bless that event”
I first prayed like that in the prayer meetings on Crusader camps. On camps the leaders spent half an hour together every morning. After briefly going through the practicalities of the programme for that day the rest of the time would be spent in prayer, “praying through” the day.
The first list of verses I ever compiled was for crusader leaders and helpers to pray through on the camp on which I was speaker. Leading up to the camp I gave them a month of daily verses and topics for prayer. Not just the titles of the ten talks but also praying about the quiet times in the tents before bed time. Praying for the sports. Praying for the catering. Praying for the outings. Praying by name for all the leaders and helpers. Praying for health and strength and stamina. Praying for safety. Praying for unity and love amongst the leaders. Praying that the teenagers who weren’t Christians would become Christians. Praying that those teenagers who were already Christians would be built up in their faith. A month of prayers to ask, each one with a promise from Scripture to claim. And the first of those Scriptures was a challenge. The words of the prophet Samuel to the people of Israel in 1 Samuel 12:23
23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.
Intercession – praying through! So praying through our personal witness. Asking God who we can specifically pray about among our friends, neighbours and colleages. Praying for that person’s needs. Praying for an opportunity to talk to them about Jesus. Praying whether we should invite them to the International Evening, or to the film afternoon on Good Friday, or to the Tea Party celebrating the Queen’s Birthday, or perhaps to the Meet Jesus course starting after Easter. Praying that they will say yes to our invitation. Praying for all the practicalities of those events, for the publicity materials, for happy times and helpful conversations. Praying for our Easter leaflets as we prepare and deliver them and that somebody in each house will read the Easter message. Praying whether we should offer our friends a copy of our book of testimonies, The Difference Jesus Makes, or the DVD of Billy Graham’s message about the Cross. Praying they will accept the gift and actually read the book or watch the DVD. Praying that they will want to talk more about what they have read or watched, or about an event they have been to. We ask God to take away our fears so that we will be open to doing whatever it is God calls us to do. We thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit who enables us to be witnesses for Jesus and we pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
This is what we mean by “praying through” events or activities. In each aspect, we remind God of his character and his promises and his plans and purposes.
We know we need wisdom about who to invite so we claim God’s promise in James 1 that He will give wisdom to everybody who asks. We also know we should only talk to a person about God when we have first talked to God about the person. So we remind God that He loves all people and doesn’t want any of them to perish. We pray for God to move in our friends’ hearts and that they will begin to hear His voice.
In our intercession we remember that all witnessing and evangelism is spiritual warfare and the most important thing we can ever do is pray.
As 2 Corinthians 4:4 says The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Prayer is about an inexhaustible supply and an almost unlimited demand. The unlimited demand is the lost state of the world – their ignorance, their superstition, their sinfulness, the needs for their bodies, their minds, their souls. The inexhaustible supply is the grace of God to meet these needs. And the one simple thing which brings that supply to meet that demand is intercession – the persevering prayers of God’s people.