Intercede by Abidan Shah, PhD

INTERCEDE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  When you go to a ball game, what do you expect? You expect to see athletes compete in a sport, play according to the rules, and win. When you go to a hospital, what do you expect? You expect to see doctors and nurses, patients, medical instruments, medicines, treatments, and hopefully some cures. When you go to a grocery store, what do you expect? You expect to see some produce, meats, vegetables, fruits, canned goods, snacks, candy, some household supplies, and check-out lines where you can pay for them. When you go to a restaurant, what do you expect? Food. When you go to a college/university, what do you expect? Education. When you go to a courthouse, what do you expect? Justice. I can go on and on. What do you expect when you go to a church? Preaching, Worship, Fellowship, Ministries to various age-groups, but there is one thing that often gets neglected, or if it’s done, it is done quite flippantly and halfheartedly. It is often treated as an extra add on, non-essential, window dressing, more like opening and closing remarks. I am referring to prayer. No wonder we are struggling. For the next couple of weeks, we will be focusing on prayer in the church, especially by men. Today’s message is called “INTERCEDE.” Main point: Prayer is vital to the life of the church, especially a growing and vibrant church. Although all are called upon to pray, men are strongly urged to pray. This kind of prayer cannot be some flippant, half-hearted, window-dressing, opening or closing remarks kind of prayer. It must be prayers with uplifted holy hands with no place for anger or faithlessness.

1 Timothy 2:8 “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

Context: The city of Ephesus was the fourth largest city of the Roman Empire. The population was somewhere about a quarter of a million people, more than likely half a million or more. One of the guides mentioned to me that only a tenth of the city is actually exposed and the remaining is still under the ground. If they were to start excavating today, it would take about 600 years to completely excavate ancient Ephesus! It was a major port city on the Aegean. It had plenty of business and wealth, people from all over came to Ephesus. It was a neokoros (temple keeper) of the goddess Artemis. Thousands came every year for the annual Artemisia festival. The Temple of Artemis (called Diana in Acts 19) was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It also had a temple to the goddess Roma, which was the Roman state personified, along with a temple to Julius Caesar. The city also had a big business in the magical practices. It also had a massive theater which was being built at the time Paul was in Ephesus. It could seat about 24,000 people! I can go on and on.

Imagine how intimidating it must’ve been to be the first pastor of the first church in Ephesus. Timothy was the first pastor of the first church in Ephesus. On the surface, it may seem like a great opportunity, but imagine the stress:

  • You and your people are responsible for shutting down the worship of Artemis (Diana). This caused a big riot, as I mentioned few moments ago, in Acts 19   28 “Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’ 29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions.”
  • Romans demanded loyalty, but here was a “new religion” that swore loyalty only to Jesus the Messiah. The authorities don’t trust you.
  • Add to this, the opposition from the Jewish people who had rejected Jesus. They were like Paul before he got saved. They wanted to kill those who were leaving the “old faith.”
  • Add to this, all the demonic powers that were stirred up against the church.
  • Also, false doctrines and heresies were already coming into the church.

As the pastor of the first church in Ephesus, Timothy is struggling. Hence Paul wrote his first letter to him. 1 Timothy 1        1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, 2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 3As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus…”

Timothy is done, and can you blame him?

Principle: Ministry is not easy, especially when it is growing and vibrant. 

Application: Do you understand the perils of ministry? Are you aware of all the forces of opposition against the work of the church?

So, how does Paul encourage and guide young Timothy not to give up? 1 Timothy 1       3 “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. 5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” In other words, Paul is charging Timothy to keep to the truth and don’t allow false doctrine in the church.

1 Timothy 1       18 “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” In other words, Paul is telling Timothy not to mourn over Hymenaeus and Alexander. Their faith is shipwrecked, and Satan is working on them!

Here comes the exhortation to pray: 1 Timothy 2        1 “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” In other words, don’t worry about the government, policies, anti-Christian agenda, just pray. Also, don’t lose heart over the economy and financial trends, just pray. 3 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” In other words, focus on sharing the gospel and winning the lost.

Here’s comes the passage that is our focus. 1 Timothy 2:8 “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

Desire: “boulomai” is different than “thelo.” When Paul wants to focus on desire or wish, he uses “thelo.” When he uses “Boulomai,” it is more set and expected.

Lifting up holy hands: This is in line with the Old Testament and the New Testament.

  • Leviticus 9:22   Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings.
  • Nehemiah 8:6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
  • Psalm 28:2   Hear the voice of my supplications When I cry to You, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.
  • Psalm 63:4 Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
  • Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
  • Luke 24:50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them

Without anger: orge

Or doubting: dialogismos, some have dispute. That is true and it can also mean dispute of the heart.

In other words, don’t be angry or faithless when you pray. 

People like to say to me: “I live in the real world.” My answer: “I believe in a real God.”

The missing element of Clearview Church is men praying with uplifted holy hands without anger and faithlessness.

We are working on a lay led initiative to meet for prayer every week. It will be at 6:30 in the morning and you are on our way out by 7am. This is once a week (probably Tuesday morning). We come, hear a challenge or encouragement from God’s Word and dive into a time of prayer. We will be praying for each other, our lives, our loves, our church, our community, our nation, our world.

Prayer Revival of 1857: The year was 1857. The United States was in a grave mess politically, economically, and spiritually. The banks had failed, factories were shutting down, and railroads had gone bankrupt. Unemployment had risen and many had turned to suicide. But on September 23, 1857, a man named Jeremiah Lamphier decided to hold a prayer meeting on the third floor of the North Dutch Reformed Church. The first half hour no one came. Then at 12:30pm, one person came and knelt, then another, and then another. Six had come the first week. The next week, there were 20. The following week, there were 40. Over the next six months, 10,000 were gathering in New York City. It spread from there to Chicago, Louisville, Cleveland, St. Louis. The YMCA was involved. The newspapers started covering the prayer meetings. The Third Great Awakening was born. Hundreds were saved and followed through with baptism. According to some reports a million got saved. The population of America at the time was 28 million, that would be 4% of the population. Out of those prayer meetings came a man named D. L. Moody who touched so many with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Invitation: Where are you men? Are you ready to intercede for your marriages, families, church, and community? Are you saved?

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