3-3 Prayer For Others
The above analysis reveals that David's requests in areas apart from forgiveness and salvation largely centred around his desire for God to grant spiritual help to others. There are many examples of praying for God to help others spiritually: 2 Kings 19:4; 2 Chron. 30:18; Job 42:10; Rom. 10:1; 2 Cor. 13:7; Phil. 1:9,19; Col. 1:9; 1 Thess. 3:10; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Jn. 5:16. Surely this was also the spirit behind Abraham's intercession for Lot to be saved out of Sodom. Granted a certain modicum of spirituality in those being prayed for, Noah, Daniel and Job all delivered the souls of others by their prayerful righteousness (Ez. 14:14). When we pray for others, God sees it as them praying (if they have a modicum of spirituality), in the same way as when the Lord Jesus prays for us, He interprets what He knows to be our spirit to God, recognizing that we don't know how to pray in words as we should (Jer. 11:14). The Lord Jesus prayed for us concerning spiritual issues which at the time we did not understand (Lk. 22:32; Jn. 17:9,15,20), and Paul especially seems to have grasped this example. Likewise Moses prayed for Israel's forgiveness and salvation, even offering his own place in the Kingdom to try to obtain this, and they never knew (until Ex. 32 came into circulation) what intense prayerful struggle Moses had gone through for them. If prayer for others really can help them towards the Kingdom, how much of it we should be doing! We need to pause for a moment and consider this question: Do I really believe that my prayers for others can influence their spiritual strength? The answer of all the Biblical evidence above is that this is indeed the case. Realizing this places a serious responsibility upon us to get on and do this, with all our heart and soul- not in a formal, duty-bound sense. There is further discussion of this in Christians Unlimited. Prayer for others and observing the answers actually seems to have a far more powerful effect on us than seeing prayers for ourselves being answered. Note too how many times Paul gives thanks for the spiritual progress he sees in others, even though we can be sure he saw clearly enough the spiritual immaturity which there still must have been in his converts. So many times he thanks God in his prayers for what he has seen in others (Rom. 1:8-10; 1 Cor. 1:4-9; 2 Cor. 1:3-7; 9:12-15; Eph. 1:3-23; Phil. 1:3-6; Col. 1:3-14; 1 Thess. 1:2,3; 2:13-16; 3:9; 2 Thess. 1:3-10; 2 Tim. 1:3-7; Philemon 4-7). Now it follows that if we are to pray like Paul, we must have the heart of love for people that was in him. So often we dwell upon the negative, the scandals, the failures of others. And we can't thank God for those things. Paul's pattern of prayer was of positive praise. And we can only share that if we have a mind that is positively perceptive of signs of response to grace in others.
God is so so sensitive to prayerfulness. He condemns the leaders of Israel: " You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel [an idiom for interceding with God in behalf of Israel- Ez. 2:30,31] so that it will stand firm" (Ez. 13:5). If only there had been a prayerful minority, God would have changed the whole course of His dealings with Israel. But petty materialism and self-mindedness was what stopped those leaders from doing their job. God repeatedly stated that He would not spare /pity Israel in judging them (Ez. 5:11; 7:4,9; 8:18; 9:5 etc.). But Joel 2:17 exhorts the priests to beg God in prayer to “spare” [s.w.] His people during the invasion Ezekiel had prophesied. God is so sensitive to prayer that He will even change His stated purpose.
Some of the assurances that prayer will surely be answered are in the context of praying for others. " If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them" is in the context of concerned brethren trying to win back a weak brother (Mt. 18:19). Likewise " If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us...if any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death" (1 Jn. 5:14-16). Again in a forgiveness context, Solomon asked that God would hear Israel " in all that they call unto thee for" (1 Kings 8:52). " I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go forth and bring forth fruit...that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you" (Jn. 15:16) is full of connection with the world-wide preaching commission; and in this context, whatever we ask to this end will be given. A wondrous assurance, which the present writer can surely testify to. Lk. 11:5,6 presents a telling parable. A man finds a friend comes to him at midnight, wanting food. So he goes to his friend, notwithstanding the inconvenient hour, and asks for some loaves, but actually he's given whatever he wants. His want, his will, was to find sustenance for his friend / brother. And therefore his friend gives abundantly above all he asks or thinks, indeed, whatever he wants is provided. The promise of boundless response to prayer is therefore true, in the context of seeking to help others. This parable comes straight after 'the Lord's prayer'. In the parallel record, the prayer is followed by a reminder that we must forgive our brother, if we are to be forgiven (Mt. 6:14,15). So perhaps the friend coming to the man at midnight starving hungry, represents a brother sinning against us. Our response must be to go to the Father in prayer and seek forgiveness / spiritual food for our brother. And in that context, we will be given whatever we desire. Note that banging on the shut door is elsewhere a symbol of asking for forgiveness (Lk. 13:24,25; Mt. 25:10).
Those “indebted” to us [Lk. 11:4] are those who have a debt to us. But Biblically, who are those who are ‘indebted’? The same Greek word occurs often in the New Testament. Mt. 18:30 explains that there is a debt to us if we have been sinned against and it’s not been reconciled. The debt our brethren have to us, and we to them, is to love one another, to lay our lives down for each other, to entertain and receive each other at home (s.w. 3 Jn. 8; 1 Jn. 3:16; 4:11). A wife has her husband in her debt if he doesn’t love her with the love of Christ (Eph. 5:28); our brethren are in debt to us if they don’t give us material help when we truly need it (Rom. 15:27); or if they don’t wash our feet (Jn. 13:14). A debt implies that it’s not been paid; and so I come to the conclusion that the forgiveness of our debtors is forgiving our brethren when they don’t love us as they should, don’t care for us… and never apologize or rectify it. The debt is outstanding; they’ve not cleared it. But we are to forgive it; we are to forgive unconditionally, without demanding restoration or grovelling repentance before us. This is the challenge of that phrase in the Lord’s prayer. For we ask for “our sins” in general to be likewise forgiven; and they surely include many ‘secret sins’ which we don’t even perceive or haven’t repented of. And further. “As we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (Lk. 11:4) can actually be read as a word of command, a statement that is actually a request. The request is that the sins of those who’ve sinned against us be forgiven- in this sense, “whosesoever sins ye remit [s.w. forgive] they are remitted unto them” (Jn. 20:23). That’s another challenging thought. If they’re impenitent, how can they be forgiven? But if we forgive them, perhaps we are to understand that God is happy to forgive them. If we feel, as I do, that we’ve been sinned against so much… then we have a wonderful opportunity to gain our own forgiveness and even that of those people… by forgiving them. The more I hurt at how others have treated me, the more I realize my own desperate need for forgiveness. The two things, as the Lord foresaw in His model prayer, dovetail seamlessly together.
One practical caveat needs to be mentioned in the context of praying for others. It is all too easy to slip into the habit (and slipping into bad prayer habits surely dogs every prayerful man) of reeling off a list of names each night, something like " Dear Father, be with David, and please be with the children, and with Sister Smith, and with Karen, and with...." . There's nothing in itself wrong with this. But over time, it can become a kind of incantation, with us fearful that this evening we let one of those names slip. Paul writes often that he " makes mention" or 'remembers' his brethren in regular prayer (Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 1:2; Philemon 4). The Greek mneia is the word used in the LXX for the " memorial" of the incense or the meal offering (Lev. 2:2,16; 6:15; 24:7), or the constant fire on the altar (Lev. 6:12,13). That fire, that flour, that incense, had to be carefully and consciously prepared; it had to be the result of man's labour. And likewise, Paul seems to be saying, he first of all thought through the cases which he then presented to the Father. This is a high standard to keep up.
The Lord assumed that whenever we pray, we will include a request for forgiveness. Not only is this one of the few requests in His model prayer, but Mk. 11:25 reflects the same assumption: " Whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any one; that your Father…may forgive you" (RV). Whenever we pray we should be seeking forgiveness. And the Lord also implies that whenever we pray, we will almost always have something against someone else. For He knew well that human society is inevitably filled with misunderstandings and bad feelings against each other.
In the parable, the friend comes to his friend. The second friend knocks on the door of his friend, in order to get something with which to help his friend. The knocking on the door is specifically a symbol of prayer. If we see our brothers need, even if we can do nothing physically to help (and so often, we cant); we will pray earnestly for them. If we truly feel for them, we will pray for them. The friend troubles his friend for help (Lk. 18:7), just as in another parable about prayer the desperate widow " troubles" the judge for a response (Lk. 18:5). " From within" (11:7) is always used in the Bible about the inner man, rather than meaning indoors. The Greek word occurs twice in the same context: " your inward part…that which is within" (11:39,40). Inside himself, he spoke to his friend: " Trouble me not" . Yet that satan within him, that desire to be selfish, was overcome by his realization of his friends need, and why it had arisen. And if we have this same emboldened conscience to overcome our innate selfishness and ask of our Father for the sake of others, then we will s the work of the ministry will be provided by Him- that is His sober promise.
To be blotted out of the book God had written may have been understood by Moses as asking for him to be excluded from an inheritance in the promised land; for later, a 'book' was written describing the various portions (Josh. 18:9). The connection is made explicit in Ez. 13:9: " …neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel" . To be blotted out of the book meant to not enter the land (surely Ezekiel is alluding to Moses' experience). If Israel were to be blotted out there and then in the wilderness, then Moses wanted to share this experience. God had just spoken of 'blotting out' Israel from before Him (Dt. 9:14), and making a nation of Moses; but now Moses is asking to share in their condemnation rather than experience salvation without them. This was the extent of his devotion. On the last day of his life, Moses reeled off the great speech of Deuteronomy, knowing full well that he was to die without entering the land. In Dt. 9:18 he says that his prayer of Ex. 32:32 was heard- in that he was not going to enter the land, but they would. Hence his urging of them to go ahead and enter the land- to experience what his self-sacrifice had enabled. In this we see the economy of God, and how He works even through sin. On account of Moses' temporary rashness of speech, he was excluded- and yet by this, his prayer was heard. He was temporarily blotted out of the book, so that they might enter. Moses' fleeting requests to enter the land must be read as a flagging from the height of devotion he reached, rather like the Lord's request to escape the cross in Gethsemane. But ultimately he did what he intended- he gave his place in the Kingdom / land so that they might enter [although of course he will be in the future Kingdom]. This is why Moses stresses on the last day of his life that he wouldn't enter the land for Israel's sake (Dt. 1:37; 3:26; 4:21). He saw that his sin had been worked through, and the essential reason for him not entering was because of the offer he had made. It " went ill with him for their sakes" (Ps. 106:32).
In all this, Moses was typifying the death of the Lord. Is. 53:8 describes His cross as being " cut off [Strong: 'excluded'] from the land of the living" (s.w. 'the congregation'- of Israel), for the transgrssion of His people. This is undoubtedly reference to the self-sacrificial exclusion of Moses from the land, that Israel might enter. The Lord died the death of a sinner, He chose like Moses to suffer affliction with us, that we might be saved. The intense prayer of Moses for Israel's salvation inspired David in prayer (Ps. 25:11 = Ex. 32:30,31). And Paul makes a series of allusions to Moses, which climax in an invitation to pray like Moses for the salvation of others:
|2 Tim. 2:24,25
|" the servant of the Lord
||A very common title of Moses
|must not strive
||As Israel did with him (Num. 26:9)
|but be gentle unto all
||The spirit of Moses
|apt to teach
||As was Moses (Ex. 18:20; 24:12; Dt. 4:1,5,14; 6:1; 31:22)
||As was Moses
||Moses was the meekest man (Num. 12:3)
instructing those that oppose themselves
|at the time of Aaron and Miriam's self-opposing rebellion
| if God peradventure will give them repentance [i.e.
||" Peradventure I shall make an atonement for
your sin" (Ex. 32:30)- and he prayed 40 days and nights
||= Num. 16:5,26
||= Num. 12:7
||= Num. 16:37
= Num. 12:2; 16:3
||= Num. 16:33
This is quite something. The height of Moses' devotion for His
people, the passion of his praying, shadowing as it did the matchless
intercession and self-giving of the Lord, really is our example.
It isn't just a height to be admired. It means that we will not
half heartedly ask our God to 'be with' brother x and sister y and
the brethren in country z, as we lie half asleep in bed. This is
a call to sustained, on our knees prayer and devotion to the salvation
of others. But consider the motivation of Moses in all
this; God's anger had been kindled against him (Ex. 4:14),
and so when God's anger was kindled against Israel (Ex.
32:10 etc.), Moses was motivated by his own experience of failure
and God's grace to pray for that anger to be turned away. And it
should be the same with us. Insofar as we reflect upon God's gracious
response to us, so we will be motivated to pray earnestly that yet
others may experience that same grace.
The model prayer begins with the words " Our Father" . Straight away we are bidden remember that no man is an island; the Lord intended us to be aware of the entire community of believers in our private prayers. " Give us this day our daily bread" may appear hard for comfortably off Christians to pray- until they grasp that they are praying for " our" daily bread, not " my" daily bread. There are so many in the brotherhood for whom having daily bread is indeed a constantly uncertain question. We should be aware of the whole brotherhood; and pray that " we" will be given our bread for today.