TITLE: Standing in the Gap
By Rachel Spencer
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I was struggling to read the book of Ezekiel. I had deliberately left it till last as I read through the whole bible, but I could not put it off any longer. I read through strange visions, prophecies that I did not even pretend to understand, and graphic allegories of God’s feelings for his people. Honestly, I could have quite happily ripped the whole book out of my bible and pretended that it had never been there.
But hidden in the middle of this mysterious book was the small passage of scripture that was to turn my life upside down:
‘I looked for a man 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 none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ Ezekiel 22: 30-31
I read this passage several times, open-mouthed. The land that God is speaking against is Jerusalem, the Holy City. Leading up to these words is a long list of the wrongs that God’s people had carried out. We know that during the lifetime of Ezekiel, Jerusalem was indeed destroyed, her people taken into exile. What I had never before realised was that this terrible event could have been prevented by one person ‘standing in the gap on behalf of the land’. One person, crying out to God for the city of Jerusalem, and God could have turned aside his anger, but there was no one. Shame upon them, was my first reaction.
Then I started to wonder. Of all the terrible things that have happened in this world in recent years; the wars, famines, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks, how many could have been prevented by someone standing in the gap? Would we have been spared the 9/11 attacks, the tsunami, the current economic crisis, if someone had been willing to cry out on behalf of the land?
At that moment, God spoke to me: “Be that person. Stand in the gap. Intercede for my people.” I realised that this was a ministry that God was calling me to do. I already worked for a Christian organisation, but at that moment I understood that my biggest role in building the Kingdom of God is as an intercessor.
It was not easy to get started. First of all, what was I supposed to pray for? It’s all very well to say that disasters can be prevented through intercession, but how was I supposed to know what disasters were on their way? I could pray for the people that I knew, but how could I stand in the gap for others when I had no idea what was going on in their lives? I struggled to pray for my country, for the world, for leaders, but never felt as if my prayers were effective. I was ready to give up, to admit that I was not cut out to be an intercessor.
Then one morning, I woke up knowing that I had to pray for the political leaders of Greece. I have never been to Greece. I had no idea what the political situation in Greece was at that time, or even who the leaders were. But I knew without a doubt that God needed me to pray for them. I began praying, asking God to give them wisdom and to guide them in their jobs. As I prayed, God revealed more and more to me. I knew that I had to pray against conflict between the leaders, so I did. God put on my heart to pray that the leaders would turn to Him, so I did. I suddenly knew that a major decision had to be made by the Greek leaders, so I prayed that it would be the right one. To this day, I have no idea what was happening in Greece that day, but I believe with all my heart that my prayers made a difference. Why else would God have asked me to pray for them?
Since that day, I start my times of prayer by asking God what He needs me to pray for. Sometimes, a person comes to my mind, a friend or even family member. Sometimes, I hear a name, and I pray for a person who I have never met, and probably never will. Other times, a country or region is on God’s heart, or a people group such as Muslims. Occasionally, I have felt led to pray for terrorists, or for rebel armies committing atrocities around the world. These are difficult prayers, and sometimes all I can do is say again and again, “change their hearts, Lord. Change their hearts.”
As I have prayed the prayers on God’s heart, I have drawn closer to Him. I have gained a deeper understanding of His compassion, and of the love that He has for all people. I have felt the sorrow that He feels for the lost, felt His longing to see them come into His Kingdom. I have glimpsed His anger at nations that have turned against Him, and have prayed, as Abraham did for Sodom and Gomorrah, that He would spare them for the sake of a few Godly people. I have seen God’s grace and mercy as I have repented on behalf of fallen nations, and felt His anger turn away. I know Him more, and as a result, I love Him more and have a stronger faith in Him that ever before.
God has also used these times of intercession to speak to me about myself. I have been challenged many times over my judgemental attitude, as I have been asked to pray in love for those who seem unlovable. God has spoken to me of my purpose, of what He has created me to do, as I have prayed for others to find their purpose. God has comforted and healed me as I have prayed for comfort and healing for others.
Most of all, this ministry of intercession has taught me that everyone has a part to play in building the Kingdom of God. Some people are called to be evangelists, missionaries, pastors. But these people alone can achieve little compared to what God can do through them when others are standing behind them, praying for them and for their ministry, and for the people that they are reaching.
By standing in the gap for the people of this world, we are having more of an impact in the heavenly realms than we can even imagine. Our prayers, your prayers, can change our world. They can save thousands from eternal death; they can turn nations back to God. Of course, God could do these things without us, and this is one of the great mysteries of serving our Lord; why does He ask us to pray at all? I think He just loves to work with us. We are ‘co-creators’ with Him, so it makes sense that we should help Him in the ruling of creation.
Many women that I have talked to feel that they are not doing enough to build God’s Kingdom. They are at home with the children, or at work in an environment which is not open to evangelism. They can count on one hand the number of times that they have actively sought to see God’s Kingdom come. My challenge to these women is to become intercessors. Pray while the kids are asleep, while you are ironing or cooking, in your car on the way to work, during your lunch break in the office. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, there is no limit to what God can do with your simple prayers. And when called to share a testimony, you will have an amazing, powerful story; you are changing the world, one prayer at a time.
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