When we leave for the far country to wander about aimlessly in the desert, for all our years in the wilderness, others stand in the gap and pray for us. For all my lukewarm years, another stood before the Lord on my behalf. My friend Vanessa always prayed for me. My sister Terry prayed for me. My Papa interceded for all his children until heaven called. My mama prayed for me. I particularly remember my mum’s dismay at realizing just how little I still believed of God’s word. She was probably the only one with the authority to speak sternly to me about such matters. I remember laughing heartily and dismissing her concerns, assuring her my spiritual health was ‘just fine’, that was last year this very time.
‘I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one’ Ezekiel 22:30 [NIV]. Israel had sinned, there was widespread bloodshed and idolatry. God’s wrath was about to fall on the people; judgement for Jerusalem was imminent. Still, He stalled, calling for someone to activate His mercy, anyone to plead their case. ‘Present your case, says the Lord. Submit your arguments, says the King of Jacob’ (Isaiah 41:21). The Lord dares Israel to defend its sin of idolatry. Isaiah 43:26 ‘put me in remembrance of the past, let us argue the matter together. State your case for your innocence so that you may be acquitted’. God wants to save Israel, but there is no memory of them ever seeking a relationship with Him. With no one to plead their case, no one to intercede on their behalf, no one to stand in the gap and plead for God’s mercy on their behalf. So God’s wrath falls on Jerusalem. ‘Therefore, I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord GOD.’ Ezekiel 22:31.
When a physical wall is breached, the whole structure is weakened and becomes susceptible to attacks. One small crack left unattended and the whole building may tumble down as its structural integrity has been compromised. Spiritually, when the devil gets a foothold into our lives, we are open wide for more of his attacks until he completely takes over and overcomes us, fulfilling his only mission of killing, stealing and destroying (John 10:10). Just like the physical wall will need to be repaired and the gap sealed for it to be safe from external threats, the spiritual wall will also need to be repaired for fortification to hold up against the attack of the enemy. Yet since the enemy has already crept in there and is seated enthroned in the lives of those that have been overcome, others will need to stand in prayer on behalf of the captured souls until the captured are strong enough to join in the battle and fight their way out in the Spirit. When we do this as Christians, we are standing in the gap with the aim of stopping further damage and as a rescue mission to a wounded saint.
As soon as I went into crisis mode back in January, Vanessa fortified herself spiritually and drank from the well of life. She has since explained that she knew I would need spiritual feeding and she recognized she couldn’t do it in her own strength and would need fortification from God’s spirit herself. So she buckled down in prayer every morning so she could feed me throughout the day when I called on her in bewilderment. She rearranged her schedule to wake up early morning to pray and draw strength from up above so she could minister to me in my flailing state as I thrashed about in emotional agony. I can attest that I never got off the phone with Vanessa in the same state I got on the phone with her; this girl possesses the gift of encouragement. When I felt the heat, instead of taking the place of the Lord, or pointing to the Lord and leaving me to figure out the rest, she would kneel with me at the throne of grace and led me to the Lord in prayer. If I understand intercession today, it’s largely because of how she walked with me on my journey to restoration to my Heavenly Father.
And so I now stand in the gap for those I love, those whose lives have crossed mine at some point. With the exception of a few days of jetlag and time zones changes disrupting my circadian rhythm, My Father wakes me up naturally every morning anywhere between 3am and 5am to pray. I like to say He wakes me up because I don’t set an alarm, and because I prayed about it. “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14). ‘Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids’ (Proverbs 6:4). It now transpires that I wake up naturally and with joy in my heart, and more often than not, a song from the heavenly realm. My first thought every morning as soon as I open my eyes is my Father’s deep love for me. Often. I’ll jump out of bed like a little girl excited to spend time with her dotting father. If the mercies of God are new every morning, then early morning will I wake up to claim my portion. ‘O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee… and meditate on thee in the night watches’ (Psalm 63:1,6).
From the book of Daniel (chapters 10-12), we learn that God gives us a tremendous responsibility when it comes to praying for ourselves and others. It’s true that we are fighting wars that have already been won, yet our final victory depends on our engaging in battle to claim the victory that has already been wrought for us through Christ Jesus. It’s how we bring the manifestation of our answered prayers from the heavenly realm to our physical dimension. It’s how we go to the bowels of hell and pry open the devil’s claws to snatch back our loved ones held captive to do biding to the whiles of Satan. We fast on their behalf (for this kind does not come out except by fasting -Matt 17:21). We fast to humble and submit ourselves to God, permitting Him to move on our behalf. We plead to God for mercy on them and we contend for their salvation. Heaven fights on for us as we pray. Heaven slays the giants on our behalf as we praise. Heaven contends on our behalf as we raise up our banners representing our loved ones. When we pray, heaven moves. If we stop, heaven stops.
We must choose to see God’s work despite of (and through) other’s sin, we must choose to see God’s purpose in it. Even in evil, especially in evil, God is in control. Human frailty does not stymie God’s purposes; He takes these very acts and intentions of evil to bring about saving and good intentions, not just in spite of but precisely because of them. If we are sold for the Lord, if we care about the advancement of His kingdom, if we love our brother, our neighbor, like ourselves, if we are plugged in to the source of love, then we stand in the gap and intercede for those we have loved and lost, those that have wandered off, those that are blinded by rage, sadness or anger… those that question, those than contend with the faith. We never stop, for someone else pleaded for us when we were lost but now we’re found; when we were blind but now we see; when we were hurt but now we’re healed; when we were angry but now we’re gentle; when we were miserable but now have found joy; when we were spiteful but now loving; when we were contentious but now peaceful; when we were short-tempered but now patient; when we were unkind but now kind; when we were faithless but now faithful; when we were critical but now merciful; when we were acting out, but now we display self-control…
So much is lost when there is no one standing in the gap for us. Not that God is not able to save all by himself, He is for Christ is always interceding for us (Ephesians 7:25 ‘Jesus is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him, for He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.’) Still, we are called to pray one for another: ‘In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out’ Ephesians 6:18. It’s how we show we care, by praying for each other. We are urged to take no rest, to keep the prayers up until our petitions are answered. ‘O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the LORD. Give the LORD no rest until he completes his work, until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth’ (Isaiah 62:6-7).
Remember the story of the widow who petitioned the unjust judge until he yielded to her because she would give him no rest (Luke 18:5)? How much more will our God yield, loving and compassionate as He is? ‘The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him’ 2 Chron 16:9. These verses let us know that we have a God that is waiting to answer our prayers. ‘Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore, he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!’ Isaiah 30:18. God does not give up on us and should not give up on ourselves, and most certainly, we in turn do not give up on others.
2 peter 3:8-9 explains it this way: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Just as the Lord has been patient with us, so must we determine to be patient with others. Ephesians 5:8, NLT: “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” People of the light seek a similar light for others. ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he gained the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ Mark 8:36; Matthew 16:26. For a lover of Christ, the ministry of intercession is not optional. Getting bogged down in vengeance and taking offenses is not in the cards for redeemed ones, for there are weightier matters of the law to attend to in this walk of faith, and Matthew 23:23 spells these out as matters pertaining to justice, mercy and faith.
When there is an intercessor, and there is somebody standing and contending for others, someone that’s unrelenting and not willing to give up or let them go, it changes everything. Because the eyes of the lord roam to and fro across the earth to see somebody He can show himself mighty through is precisely why we can never give up. You cannot give up. You are the link between them and God. You are that intercessor, you’re that one that God is bringing his will from heaven through you into the earth to reach them. That’s why we can’t stop. Luke 10:2 lets us know that ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ When the Lord asks for someone to send, someone to stand in the gap, will you offer yourself up? ‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am. Send me!”’ (Isaiah 6:8).
We come to the Lord because people stand in the gap for us and intercede to God on our behalf. Someone pleads our case to the father. Someone bangs tirelessly on heaven’s door on our behalf with our name on their lips. For years, someone stood in the gap for me, tirelessly interceding for salvation for my life and redemption for my soul. If no one were praying for us, we would have been consumed by the Lord’s wrath as it were! ‘It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness’, Lamentations 3:22-23.
We are saved to turn around and stand in the gap for others. We are saved to reach out and hoist another up. No one has sinned beyond the point of not being worthy of salvation. No one is a write-off in God’s kingdom. ‘Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice… the Lord will contend with Israel’ Micah 6:1-8. Plead your case, speak to the mountains in your life, let the hills hear you pray to the living God who neither writes anyone off nor walks away from supposed sinners. We are called to be the same way, and so we don’t write people off, nor do we walk away from them and slam the door shut. It doesn’t mean we hound them, certainly not, but we never stop praying for them. As my sister Terry puts it, we don’t leave our wounded behind. We carry them along with us in our prayers until they come home, so they too can stand in the gap for others coming up behind us all.
And so today I stand in the gap for others coming up behind me, walking my same path or a different one. Whatever the vehicle that gets us off-course, whatever resulting crisis comes about from it, whatever issues bring us to this point, the end goal is always the same -restoration to God. I will bet my bottom dollar that every crisis we face in our life will always end up being a crisis of faith. The sooner we align with God’s agenda for mankind, the better for us all and mankind as a whole.
‘Ask of me and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession’ Psalm 2:8. There is no nobler cause than to pray for another; and it’s every Christian’s mandate to intercede for the brethren. We stand in the gap for those we love. We carry them with us as we move forward with the Lord, living out our abundant lives. We carry them in our hearts and keep laying them down on God’s altar every time we pray, beating down heaven’s doors with their names on our lips. We pray them out of the darkness in the desert wilderness and into God’s marvelous light.
Prodigals eventually return home, as long as someone is praying for them. Even as we stand in the gap for them, we move forward with our lives and we live our lives fully and completely, for anything less will not honor God. And so we live, not derived of all pleasures of life, no, for it is for the abundant life that we have been saved and called to live. Prodigals always return, they eventually come home to the Lord, and we watch the road until they do… because we do not leave our wounded behind…