Loneliness is becoming a real problem today in spite of the population explosion and in spite of all the media available. Loneliness is that feeling deep down inside that nobody thinks about you or cares about you. Loneliness is not the same as solitude. Solitude is good for us; it helps to build us up. Even our Lord Jesus Christ came apart from the crowd and enjoyed fellowship with God in solitude. Loneliness tears us down. Loneliness is that awful feeling down inside that you don't count and that if you were missing nobody really would miss you. Henry David Thoreau, the naturalist, defined city life as millions of people being lonely together. Of course, the result of all of this is often physical illness, emotional problems, spiritual problems, sometimes rebellion, sometimes withdrawal, sometimes even suicide.
The wonderful message of the Gospel is that the Father cares for us and that Jesus cares. We as believers ought to care. This is where intercession comes in. The truth of intercession proves that God is for us and we need not feel alone or afraid. To intercede means to act between parties so as to bring them together, and togetherness is the opposite of loneliness.
I would like to discuss with you a threefold intercession that is found in the Bible. And if you and I will understand this threefold intercession, we can never really be lonely again.
Jesus Cares and Intercedes
First of all, Jesus cares and intercedes for us. Romans 8:34 says, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." The Lord Jesus Christ today in heaven is interceding for His people. When He was here on earth, He had a prayer life that touched the lives of many people. In fact, when He was dying on the cross, He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). The Prophet Isaiah prophesied that Jesus Christ would make intercession for the transgressors (see Isa. 53:12), and He did.
Today the Lord Jesus Christ is not praying for a lost world. That comes as a surprise to some people, but it is true. "I pray not for the world," He said in John 17:9. Rather, He is praying for His own in heaven, and He is interceding for us in a twofold way-as our Advocate and as our High Priest.
The ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ in heaven as the Advocate is described in I John 2:l: "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
The word translated "advocate" means a counsel for the defense. It means one who lends his presence to his friends. The Lord Jesus Christ in heaven represents us before the throne of God. This does not mean that God the Father is against us. It simply means that we ourselves cannot approach a holy God in our own name or with our own merits. We come through the merits of Jesus Christ.
As our Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ restores us when we have sinned. It is true that we shouldn't sin, but we do. Each of us faces temptation, and sometimes we fall. John said, "Get up, confess that sin, and your Advocate will restore you." "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
But as our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ intercedes to keep us from sinning. It really isn't necessary for us to sin. When we are tempted, we can come to our Heavenly Intercessor, our High Priest, and He can give us the strength and grace that we need. "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:14-16). Our Lord Jesus Christ cares and intercedes for us in heaven.
He knows our weaknesses, and He knows our temptations. Jesus Christ has suffered every kind of testing you and I will ever face. In fact, He endured far more, because He was perfect. You and I do not have the kind of sensitivity that He had when He was here on earth, living in a perfect body. Jesus Christ has been through fires that we will never see. He has carried burdens that we will never feel, and He has succeeded. In heaven today He prays for us, He intercedes for us, and therefore He is able to help us succeed.
Hebrews 7:25 says, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." We are saved eternally, we have security, because Jesus is ever living to represent us in heaven. Jesus cares and intercedes.
The Holy Spirit Cares and Intercedes
Second, the Holy Spirit cares and intercedes. Romans 8:26 says, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities." What is our infirmity? "For we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (vv. 26,27).
The Holy Spirit dwells within the body of each believer. Romans 8:9 tells us very clearly that unless we have the Holy Spirit we are not saved: "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." The Holy Spirit lives in us, and He intercedes for us. The Holy Spirit knows the mind of the Father. A beautiful relationship is described here. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us on earth, and Jesus Christ intercedes for us in heaven. Is it any wonder that the Devil attacks us? And the greatest wonder of all is that we should fall when we have this kind of assistance to see us through to victory.
Jude 1:20 tells us we should be praying in the Holy Spirit. I believe the biblical pattern for prayer is that we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Many times in your praying the Spirit of God will guide you to pray about something. I have been awakened at night or early in the morning with an impression upon my mind and heart that I should pray about something. And so I have prayed about it. Then I tried to remember when that time was, and I have checked afterward, and I have often discovered that the person for whom I was praying was going through a difficult time.
I'm sure people have been stirred by the Spirit to pray for me. It's a marvelous thing to share in the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit helps us to pray in the will of God. "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). As the Holy Spirit directs us, we fulfill the purpose of God.
Believers Should Care and Intercede
Third, you and I as believers should care and intercede. "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Verse 8 says, "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."
In the Bible you find a number of great people who were intercessors who stood between God and man and prayed. Abraham was a great intercessor. Had it not been for Abraham's praying, Lot would never have been delivered from Sodom. Abraham knew how to intercede.
Moses was a great intercessor. Moses met God on the mountaintop and interceded for the Children of Israel. In fact, he offered himself to die on their behalf.
Daniel was a great man of intercession, and so were Ezra and Nehemiah. So was the Apostle Paul. Paul said his heart was just breaking because of the needs of his people, the Israelites. So when you intercede, you are a part of a great company of people; and of course, the greatest of all was our Lord Jesus Christ.
For whom should we pray? For all men, and that covers a lot of people! We should pray for those who are sick and for those who are well, for those who have problems and for those who don't have problems. We must pray for the saved and the unsaved. We should pray "for all that are in authority" (v. 2). Pray for the president, for the governor of your state, for the mayor, for those who are in places of leadership. For what purpose? "That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (v. 2). I really believe that if Christians were interceding more for people in public life, it would be safer on the streets and we would have better enforcement of the laws. We are to intercede for people in authority.
Certainly we are supposed to intercede for those who are lost, for God "will have all men to be saved" (v. 4). I have heard people say, "We aren't told to pray for lost sinners." I think we are. I think if God wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth and we are supposed to pray for all men, then we ought to pray for the lost. Do you have a list of names of lost people for whom you pray?
Of course, we have to have the right conditions in our own life. First Timothy 2:8 says, "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." This means that we will be living a pure life, a life of fellowship and love, a life without dissention. We should be peace-loving people; we should be peacemakers, not troublemakers. We should have clean hands and a pure heart, and we should be interceding in the will of God.
Intercession is a tremendous privilege. I trust that each day you get alone with God and have before you the Word of God and perhaps a list of people about whom you are concerned. The interesting thing is this: You cannot pray for people very much without getting interested in them and learning to love them and wanting to do something for them. Prayer is really dangerous, because the more you pray, the more you are going to get involved. One of the best ways to cure loneliness is to pray and to get involved.
I trust you are praying for the pastor of your church, for your Sunday school teachers and for the spiritual leaders in your church. I trust that God is using you to intercede. Jesus cares and intercedes. As our Advocate, He restores us, and as our High Priest, He strengthens us to keep us from sinning. The Holy Spirit cares and intercedes. He guides us in the will of God and helps us to pray in the will of God as we surrender to Him. And you and I should care and intercede.
Don't ever say to somebody, "Well, the least I can do is pray for you." My friend, the most you can do is pray, because intercession has great power, and intercession is a great privilege.
©Warren W. Wiersbe, Key Words of the Christian Life (Lincoln: Back to the Bible, 1982), 89-96.