Perhaps the LORD your God will hear the words of the Rab-shakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to defy the living God, and He will rebuke him for the words that the LORD your God has heard. Therefore lift up a prayer for the remnant that still survives."
Jeremiah 15:1). Isaiah, in our text, was sought by Hezekiah in his trouble, because he was a prayer-leader, an intercessor. We note that the things about men which are really most important are not the things which most readily attract attention. We need to get the view of men which God takes, if we would get the true view. Some of the best gifts bestowed on the Christian Church are undervalued; the endowments which give men public prominence are thought much more of than those spiritual powers which are men's best possessions. To some men God gives, in unusual measure, the power of prayer. There is a remarkable difference between good men in this gift and power of prayer. We see the difference in our children. Some of them are able to move and persuade us so that we find it most difficult to refuse them anything. And men and women seem to have a like power in their relations with God - a most responsible power. Some of us can never rise above the orderly habit of prayer, and treat it as a matter of duty; but others have such praying frames of mind that, at any moment, they seem able to go in to God. There are men among us who are true prayer-leaders - whose utterance is full of petition, who are able to seize the souls of their fellow-worshippers, be their mouthpiece, and carry their desires within the veil; while other good men can only pray before us, and fail to awaken responsive prayer-feelings in our hearts.
I. THE GREATNESS OF PRAYER THAT RISES TO BE INTERCESSION. Man's power of prayer is a faculty full of high possibilities. It may rise even to this - it may go beyond all self-spheres, and become intercessory. While prayer keeps in the self-sphere there is a certain narrowness and even meanness about it. It is all concerned with what we want, and what we feel, and we are greatly comforted if we have any fervour of emotion in such prayer. But we feel that a course of daily prayer from which the interceding element is removed would be most injurious to the spiritual life. It lacks the generous, sympathetic, unselfish element, and it will very soon lack fervour and faith. No one can long keep up a prayerful life, and persist in praying altogether about himself. Power comes, love grows, when prayer includes intercession. Limitations of earnestness and importunity pass away; the soul is free to urge its pleas with persevering instancy; we can ask for another what we dare not fashion into a prayer for ourselves. The prayers of Scripture are, for the most part, intercessory. Illustrate - Abraham's for Sodom; Moses', Joshua's, Samuel's, for the people of Israel in their distresses. Daniel prays with his window open towards desolate Jerusalem, that he may be reminded of the captive people. Our last sight of Job finds him in the attitude of the mediator, praying for God's mercy on his mistaken and cruel friends. And the Apostle Paul writes again and again of the constancy of his intercessions. We may learn the secret of the poverty and formality of much Christian praying. It has so little intercession in it. When some beloved friend is smitten down with imperilling sickness, our prayer suddenly gains strength, and becomes a thing full of fervour and pathos. All our souls then go out in strong crying and tears. But this power might be in our praying always. We might be not only prayerful men, but also prayer-leaders, carrying the burdens of others to the throne of grace, and ourselves sanctified through the carrying.
II. THE POWER OF INTERCESSION THAT MAY BE IN A SINGLE INDIVIDUAL. Any one of us may have the gift of intercession. One man, one woman, even one child, may bring down the Divine benedictions as refreshing rains upon us. We may kneel for others before God. We may win the blessing, prevailing with God, for men. Illustrate from the life of Moses. Note three great interceding-times:
(1) at Rephidim;
(2) matter of golden calf;
(3) return of spies.
Or from the life of Samuel, who may be regarded as the most consistently beautiful character in the Bible. Note two cases:
(1) battle with Philistines;
(2) matter of asking for a king.
But what responsibilities rest on such men! On such men living amongst us now! Who can tell what the Church of God would become, if interceders would but intercede? Plead that, in these times, we need to be often recalled to the power of prayer. "We have not, because we ask not." The Prophet Isaiah has a wonderful conception. He represents God as looking out upon men in their sin and sorrow and shame, and saying, "I saw that there was no man, and I wondered that there was no intercessor." It may be so still God may look into our family lives, and wonder that there is no intercessor. He may look at our Churches, and wonder that there is no intercessor. Oh for a multiplying of men and women who say, "I can pray. I can intercede. I can plead for Jerusalem"! - R.T.
Lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.I. THE PERSON WHO WAS TO ENGAGE IN THE WORK OF INTERCESSION Was one of great eminence in the Church and commonwealth, a great and good man, a prophet of the Lord, and one who was indulged with peculiar nearness to Him. Persons of eminent piety will not be contented with ordinary applications to the throne of grace; they will seek till they find, and wrestle till they prevail. This was a day of trouble, as Hezekiah calls it; and. therefore, it ought to be a day of prayer. Intercession is the duty of all saints. But herein ministers should take the lead. They are the Church's watchmen, and God's remembrancers. Zedekiah, who at one time cast Jeremiah the prophet into a dungeon, at another time desired an interest in his supplications, and sent messengers to him, saying, "Pray now unto the Lord our God for us." And God often spares the wicked for the sake of the righteous, and in answer to their requests, even as the intercession of Abraham was accepted for the inhabitants of Sodom.
II. THOSE FOR WHOM THE PROPHET WAS REQUESTED TO PRAY were "the remnant that was left"; a certain number known unto God, and who remained after the rest were scattered or destroyed. This should teach us, that though in our prayers we should be forgetful of none, yet we are to be particularly mindful of our fellow-Christians, especially when in a state of adversity. It becomes us also to be attentive to public and national calamities, as well as to those which are personal and private, and to spread them before the Lord in prayer and supplication.
III. There is something observable as to THE MANNER IN WHICH THE PROPHET'S INTERCESSION IS REQUESTED. "Lift up thy prayer." This expressive form of speech may teach us to remember —
1. That the glorious object of prayer is infinitely exalted.
2. The low and mean condition of the worshipper.
3. The secrecy of prayer, according to our Lord's direction, "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet," &c. Lifting up a prayer may denote the same thing as David expresses by the lifting up of the soul to God, in mental and silent ejaculation.
4. The importunity and ardour of prayer. In lifting up our prayer to God, our affections should rise high, though our voice may be low and feeble.
5. The spirituality and heavenly-mindedness of the person engaged.
6. Boldness and confidence, accompanied with the hope of being heard and answered.
7. The proper end of prayer, which is not to draw the Divine Being near to us, but ourselves to Him.
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
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