*An excerpt brought to you here for free, from Patty Juster’s moving, transparent book The Cry
God is faithful to hear our cries! And we all can receive the personal grace released when we cry out to Him. But sometimes, when our souls (mind, will, and emotions) are weak within us and we draw near to death, we come to the point of despair where we cannot cry out for ourselves. At times like these, He raises up those who will stand in the gap for us.
Life can be so cruel that our only means of coping is to shut down. I have been there! God’s grace is sufficient even for this serious condition. God will stir the hearts of His servants to intercede and those who obey will stand before Him and cry out for those who are initially in despair and cannot or refuse to turn to Him. How desperately God is looking for those who will stand in the gap as He is not willing that any should perish. He knows we are but dust. As He finds those who yield to Him in the midst of their trials, He can train them to cry out for mercy towards others. He has chosen to use us in redeeming the world not because He is unable to save others without us, but because He in His wisdom and great love decided to make us co-laborers with Him.
When we have come face to face with our own pain and have dealt with the injustices in our own lives, then God often uses us to cry out for the needs of others. (He uses us even before we are fully mature.) God will call upon us to stand in the gap when others are not in the place of faith to cry out because of their unbelief and the hardening of their hearts. There is one kind of power when we cry out for ourselves and an even greater power when we cry out for others. Just think of Abraham who had such favor with God that God heard his plea for Sodom and Gomorrah. God was willing not to destroy these cities if He found even ten righteous people living there.
Moses cried out for the Israelites when God was about ready to wipe them all out and make him a father of many nations in place of Abraham’s seed. God heard the prayer of Moses and released the grace of forgiveness to His people Israel time and time again.
We can thank God for His prophets. They, too, often cried out for mercy towards the people of Israel: “They said to Samuel, ‘Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines’” (1 Samuel 7:8).
The priests of Israel were admonished to stand in the gap on behalf of the people, and sometimes God came through by relenting of the calamity He had planned.
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion, declar a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ Then the Lord will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people.” Joel 2:12–18
“When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, ‘Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!’ So the Lord relented. ‘This will not happen,’ the Lord said.” Amos 7:2–3
Even our youngest daughter, Simcha, has experienced a call from God to cry out on behalf of her friends. One time, she cried out for the salvation of her friends with such intensity that others thought someone was murdering her. It happened one Friday evening before our Shabbat dinner at the home where we were spending the summer in Israel. She was having some time alone with the Lord, trying to catch up on her fellowship with God through worship and reading the word. I had gone back to her room to check on her, and she began to explain the revelation she was receiving from the Lord concerning His heart for His people as recorded in the early chapters of the book of Ezekiel. Then, this intense grief for the lost came upon her, and she began to scream out at the top of her lungs and wailed for the hearts of her friends in the army. (She was serving in the Israeli army). She abandoned herself to The Cry for mercy while the guests in the other room were horrified. Thankfully, they were all believers, so when I came out of our daughter’s room and explained what was going on, they all breathed a sigh of relief. They strongly admonished us to give them some warning next time — to let them know before we released this level of intercession!
These tears that we shed for others are a God-given gift. It does no good to try to work them up. It is God who gives us such a heart of compassion where we weep for another. One time, I was ministering to a woman who was in bondage to smoking. I sensed that she suffered great shame for her failure to quit, and I knew that she had been injured many times by well-meaning Christians. I did not want to heap more condemnation on her. God began to break my heart for her, and I started to weep for her and ask God for His mercy and grace to come through. It was only after I softened the way through tears that I felt liberty to speak to her. To make a long story short, she was set free, went off cigarettes cold turkey, and has not had another cigarette for months. It was God’s compassion that set her free!
God, stir us up to care about the hurting and the lost—those who are too hardened to cry out for themselves. No greater love can we have for others than to lay down our lives for them. Spending time interceding is costly; it is sacrificial. Oh, to have eyes to see the impact our prayers make on the unseen world. Praying rends the heavens and releases righteousness and salvation on the earth. “You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord, have created it … ” (Isaiah 45:8).
The Apostle Paul cared so much for others coming to salvation that he said he was willing that he himself be cut off from the presence of God for the sake of his brothers after the flesh. This is true intercession! He cared nothing about the comforts of this life, and he was compelled to preach the good news of the gospel of grace until the day he died. His great love for Jesus constrained him; therefore, he had grace to offer his life as a living offering unto God’s purposes.
Such praying releases grace for spiritual growth for others. The Apostle Paul cried out on behalf of the believers that the Messiah would be formed in them. He kept them continually in his prayers that they may know the depth of God’s love for them and that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened. He wanted others to know the perfect will of God and come to the fullness of the knowledge of God. Paul often compared his intercession to travail as a woman in labor. How his heart burned within to see God’s kingdom manifest on earth in every realm.
Perhaps Paul was willing to endure such adversity for the sake of the gospel because of his gratitude for God’s forgiveness and forbearance towards him. Because he experienced such liberty and joy in his salvation, he longed that others shared in this glory. He was so caught up in the purposes of God that he often spoke of his spiritual children as his crown and joy!
Paul took up ownership with God and was to share in His suffering in order to receive his inheritance along with Jesus. His inheritance was the people of the world—the same inheritance spoken as a promise to Abraham. God promised Abraham that he would be an heir of the world. When we have this mindset, we are more willing to fight for what is ours. Employees that share in the profit of a company are often more willing to give one hundred percent effort in their job than those who view themselves as just a hired hand.
“The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” John 10:12–13
This principle of joint ownership is so important. We must see that we are shareholders in the kingdom of God. Without participating in this concept, we will not give one hundred percent in establishing God’s kingdom on earth. We will not pay the price to bring others fully into the purposes of God. We will have an attitude that says, “Let God do it. The people belong to Him. If He wants them, He can save them. He doesn’t really need me.” And then, when the going gets tough, we will readily give up and run away from our calling. It is much easier to let someone else lay down His life. What we do not understand is that if we stop fighting for life, life in ourselves and life in others, we will die. God has set up our existence here on earth as being corporate in nature. We are not islands unto ourselves.
The body of Christ works much like the human body in that when a part gets infected, fighter cells from other parts of the body come to the aid of the cells surrounding the wounded area. Together they fight off their common enemy—death. If the body ceases to fight for the life of the body, then it dies. When we stop being concerned for another’s welfare, we will die, for love has ceased. The word says that we know when we pass from death to life when we love one another. Anyone who does not love remains in death. And when we love, we are willing to lose our lives for the sake of others.
We see that we are fighting for a corporate expression of the life of God manifested on earth as a living testimony. If Satan can seduce us into passivity, then he has won the battle. The testimony of the life of God would be defamed, and death would triumph. Then, it would be proven that God did not have the power to bring us into our promised land, and He really didn’t defeat the power of death. The keys of hell and death would still be in the hands of the evil one, but they are not; the keys are in the hands of this corporate expression.
As soon as we enter the world, forces of evil are arrayed against us to rob, steal, and destroy. If Satan is not permitted to snuff out our physical lives, then he works to harden our hearts—in other words, to kill us spiritually. Whenever we are sinned against, the power of death is enlarged against us. Bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, rejection, violence, envy, hatred, etc., all spring up within (if we do not go to the cross for power to overcome), and we in turn become instruments of releasing death towards others instead of life! Whenever evil befalls us through tragedy and other events, death stares us in the face of our spirits. If we cower in fear, the doors of our hearts shut down to the life of God, and we participate in a process of distancing ourselves from our Source. We must overcome these forces of evil through the spiritual weapons of warfare assigned us through the Holy Spirit. Intercession is one of the most powerful weapons of our warfare.
The Apostle Paul made an appeal to his fellow believers to continue praying fervently for him for his deliverance. He recognized his dependence on the body to come to his aid in prayer to fight off the attacks of the enemy.
We do not want you to be uninformed brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. 2 Corinthians 1:8–11
Oh Lord, we confess that we have allowed our own hearts to become desensitized to the needs of others. We have not valued Your gift of life to us. Open our eyes so we can understand our role in releasing Your life in this world. Help us to see the worth of our inheritance and take up ownership as co-heirs with You, being willing to suffer as You suffered for the sake of Your honor. We confess that our eyes have been blinded to this pearl of great price. We want this revelation.
Resurrect us from the dead so we have the motivation to fight for others and to cry out for their resurrection. Give us Your heart of love for others so we will be willing to lay down our lives, if this is what it would take, for others to come to the fullness of Life in You. We recognize that this prayer can only be answered by You, for in no way can we love like this in our own strength.
Open our eyes to Your plumb line of righteousness (God’s standard of righteousness found in His son) and expose areas in our own lives that are not pleasing to You so we will not be self-righteous in our prayers for others Enable us to be tender toward those in sin without condoning their lifestyles. Break through, oh God, for the sake of the honor of Your holy name! Amen.