When we intercede evangelistically, we are calling on God to act in the life of another person. There are several facets to this calling. First, because Christian prayer is conscious communication with God, we are sharing our deepest needs. Mystery pervades this process as we struggle to share our needs and then leave it to God’s wisdom to decide what to do about those needs.
And yet, leaving it to God does not mean we are passive. Believing God knows best and is ordering all things for the best does not mean we stop working for the best God has for us. It is the same with prayer. Our waiting is not passive, but active. We may believe God knows best and is ordering what is best for our loved one, but that does not mean we stop working and praying for our loved one.
Secondly, we pray that we will be sensitive to the urgent needs of those around us. When we combine the urgent need of others with the willing love that grounds evangelistic intercession, we begin to grasp the dynamic of this essential value. Jesus’ story about the man who went to his friend’s house at midnight to ask for bread illustrates this dynamic. The man asks for bread, not for himself, but for the guests who have arrived unexpectedly at his house. Their need, coupled with his willing love to meet that need, send him banging at his neighbor’s door in the middle of the night.
As we pray that we will be sensitive to the needs of those around us, we are praying not just about the need to be in relationship with God. We must love enough to desire what is best in the whole of a person’s life, not just in this one area. That is what brings integrity to our praying and to our evangelism, love that shows itself in the care for body, mind and spirit.
A third facet of evangelistic intercession is our helplessness. The man in Jesus’ story was willing to give his guests bread, but he did not have any. It was his inability to provide what his guests needed that sent him begging to his friend.
Our helplessness leads to supplication. Supplication is our feeling for, or wrestling with, that leads us to allow the Holy Spirit to pray for us. Supplication occurs when we come to a place of utter faith in God to do what we cannot do. Paul describes it in Romans when he says, “the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.” For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (8:26-17, NLT)
Persistence is the third feature of evangelistic intercession. In Jesus’ story the man gets the bread because of his persistence. He keeps on asking. We press, urge and beg with troublesome persistence. We pray again and again and again. We persist, not because we do not trust God. Nor do we keep asking because God needs us to do ask repeatedly. We persist because there is a cumulative effect of repetition in prayer. Praying, again and again, allows us to see new facets of need or new facets of our own experience that we might otherwise miss if we had not persevered in our praying.
The final two attributes of our calling on God are unselfishness and confidence. We are not praying for what we want but for what God knows is best for the other person. Our unselfishness is measured by our willingness to extend ourselves in love, at whatever cost, that our prayers may be answered. It is also measured by how we guard ourselves from unconsciously designing an answer for our prayers. We may pray that another would claim faith in Jesus Christ, but we cannot know exactly what that will to look like in the life of the other person. Unselfishness calls for a willingness to let go of our predetermined expectations of an answer and a willingness to accept the answer that comes, acknowledging that we are not in control.
This leads to the last attribute, confidence. Though we are not in control of how God is shaping the life of another, we can be confident that God is indeed at work, because we trust God’s nature. We can be confident that God will respond and that confidence is rooted in our faith in God’s power, God’s love, and God’s willingness to do what we can’t do.