The story in Exodus 32 about Moses standing in the gap between God and Israel is a good example of what it takes to intercede for others in prayer.
The Israelites, impatient and lacking in faith, incurred God's anger by constructing a golden calf to worship. This happened while Moses was away with God. Because of that, God determined to destroy them and begin a new chosen nation from the loins of Moses.
At that point, Moses displays 3 traits of a praying intercessor
1. Boldness. Moses questioned the reasoning and wisdom of God's proclamation to destroy Israel (vs. 11).
Furthermore, He reminded God of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to multiply their descendants and give them a land (vs. 13). Of course, if God had made a nation out of Moses, the promise still would have been intact, for Moses was a descendant. But the point here is that Moses was bold to think that he was actually reminding God.
The lesson is that it's okay to appeal to God by questioning that which we don't understand. It's okay to make our case by claiming and standing on His word. It actually puts us in alignment with His will.
2. Concern for others. This is clearly highlighted when Moses makes an appeal to God's mercy, pleading with the Lord to forgive his people's sin. He even offers his life as a sacrifice to keep them from harm (vs. 32). He can't bear the thought of living without his people. What is clear is the love he has for them.
The lesson is that intercessory prayer, to be effective, involves a strong, loving interest and empathy for those prayed for. To not have it, though, doesn't mean we shouldn't pray. God forbid! The prayer can still be effective if the desire is there to be compassionate, and we have cultivated the desire by daily asking the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with God's love. If sincere in that desire, God will honor, and through sanctification, grant the desire. So much so, that we too will be willing to lay down our lives for others.
3. Concern for God. Moses reasons with God that if He destroys Israel, the gentile pagans will question His purpose for delivering the people from their hands, and even go so far as to accuse Him of having a nefarious motive for doing so (vs. 12). Moses cared about God's reputation.
The lesson is that in praying to God for an outcome, we should pray from the motive that God will be glorified and honored for His actions. May the protection and advancement of His character always be of utmost concern in our prayers.
Intercessory prayer is a great way to consider the interests of others as well as our own. It's a discipline that teaches and grows us into the giving characteristics of God's love.
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