IGHTY YEARS AGO, Thorlief Holmglad was pastor of a downtown church in Norway. His custodian met him as he stepped from the pulpit one depressing morning. “There is going to be a revival in this church!” the custodian declared optimistically.
“Does this look like revival?” the pastor asked him, pointing to the nearly empty church.
“Come with me,” the custodian said, leading the pastor behind the pulpit. “Do you see those watermarks in the carpet? Those are tear stains. I have been praying and weeping here for five years. The Lord has assured me He is going to send revival.”
Two women in a nearby city were also praying for revival in Norway. They prayed, “Lord, if this burden is from You, will You send two more women to pray with us?” The two became four. They asked God to double the number again—to eight. He did. The eight asked for another doubling. The group enlarged to 16.
It was a restless Sunday evening youth meeting when God chose to interrupt. Those present were not very attentive, and the leader was ineffective in seizing their interest. Suddenly, a white cloud began to slowly descend from the ceiling. The leader alone saw it. The lower the cloud came, the more restless the young people became, until the cloud touched the top of their heads. “Instantly, without any outward signal, all the youth fell to their knees praying, weeping, and confessing their sins” (Ben Jennings, The Arena of Prayer).
The youth service carried over into the adult evening service. Adults too descended to their knees in penitent prayer.
The next night, with no regular meeting scheduled, most of the people returned, and did so every evening that week. Brokenness of spirit permeated every service. They were in the presence of God, and humility arrested pride and uncovered sin. For 12 years, the revival continued.
It spread to other churches, resulting in 20,000 conversions in Oslo alone.
Never underestimate the power of one persistent, humble, faith-filled intercessor. God uses intercessors to resurrect dead churches and change entire cities.
The dictionary defines intercession as “an interceding; mediation, pleading, or prayer in behalf of another or others.”
A person who does the intercession is called an intercessor. Dutch Sheets defines intercessory prayer as “an extension of the ministry of Jesus through His body, the Church, whereby we mediate between God and humanity for the purpose of reconciling the world to Him, or between Satan and humanity for the purpose of enforcing the victory of Calvary” (Intercessory Prayer).
The Focus of Intercession
The highest call of intercession is prayer for the lost—for those not yet reconciled to God through His Son—to come to Christ. The role of an intercessor is one standing between Christ and others in need, especially those in need of salvation.
Everyone should do the work of intercession, but there are especially “graced” people who seem to be called to a ministry of prayer. These people lead the way in prayer for the church—they are the “prayer engine” of the church. They may be a majority of one. They will usually be the ones who hear and smell the coming rain of revival before anyone else.
The Scripture makes it clear—God has ordered our boundaries. He moved the family in next door to us (Acts 17:26). He parked the pagan at the desk next to us. Why? He wants those people exposed to the salt and light He has placed in our lives. We, on the other hand, are constantly on a mission to escape the darkness, to fellowship with nice Christians, to avoid profanity and pornography, to surround ourselves with pleasant and polite people.
God is on a different mission. He wants to press us into the corruption around us and plunge us into the darkness. He has more confidence in the power He has placed within us than we do. We often see ourselves as besieged Christians in a culture increasingly hostile to Biblical faith. God sees us as His missionary force. We are looking for a Christian haven; He is looking for a Christian to park at some gate to hell. His ways are not our ways.
The process can be started in a safe way. The essence of prayer evangelism is a commitment to be “a light” to the lost people around us, to be intentional with regard to the lost in these ways:
• Identify at least five people who are not Christians. This may require some relational work, since the average American knows fewer than three neighbors.
• Make a list of these people and place the list in a place where you will see it regularly—the sun visor on your car, your computer screen, the bathroom mirror, the flyleaf of your Bible. Your prayer for them fulfills the “Great Commitment.” Do these things:
1. Pray for them at least five minutes a day for five days a week.
2. Ask God to help you find ways to care for them (the Great Commandment).
3. Respond to the open doors God gives you to share Christ with them (the Great Commission).
The prayer that is prayed for these people is one of blessing. Use the word bless as an acronym for prayer:
Body—pray for physical matters: housing, health, healing, and so forth.
Labor—pray for work needs, job issues, employment-related concerns.
Emotional—pray for peace of mind, fulfillment, joy, happiness.
Social—pray for relationships, family needs, children, marriages.
Spiritual—pray for their salvation, for them to come to know Christ, an awakening for them as a family, as individuals, for their hearts and their home to be open to Christ.
I challenged people to pray for their neighbors in one church in North Carolina, and Jack reported to me his experience. Coming home from work one night, he experienced a heaviness from the Lord—an overwhelming and inescapable burden to pray for his neighbors that night in a specific way. After parking his car, he began to prayer-walk the circle on which he lived. None of his neighbors who share the cul-de-sac went to church.
“I felt I should pause in front of each of the five houses and raise my hand toward each house. It was a tough assignment for me. I was so afraid of what someone might think if they saw me. But there was such a solemn sense of obligation from the Spirit, I knew I had to obey.”
When he finished, he returned to his house with an “I’m glad that’s over!” feeling about the experience. He continued to pray for each neighbor, but nothing happened for almost six months.
Then Larry, the neighbor to his left, commented one day, “I notice that you never wash your car or mow your yard on Sunday. The rest of us are out here—but we all see you dressed up, and leaving on Sunday morning. Everyone in this neighborhood has had some kind of bad family disruption except you. You go to church every Sunday, don’t you? What’s it like?” Jack talked with Larry and Wanda about Christ at their kitchen table, gave them Christian reading material, and then watched them begin the regular habit of attending church every Sunday.
Fred lived on the other side of Jack in the third house. They sometimes washed their trucks together. Fred was a good man, but not a believer. Facing some uncertain challenges, he and his wife opened up to faith and began to attend church with Jack and his wife, Fran.
Two houses over, the fourth house, another couple found their marriage in trouble. They had watched the changes in Larry and Wanda, the couple in the first house, so they began to talk with them and attend church with them.
The sixth house on the circle was owned by Jerry and Sue, who had moved to Texas. Their nephew lived in the house with a “for sale” sign outside. But the night Jack had been so driven by the Spirit to prayer-walk the circle, he had not prayed for the nephew, but for Jerry and Sue. Why? He didn’t know. They weren’t planning to move back. But they did.
And in the year they were gone, in the six months following that nighttime prayer-walk, Sue had come to faith in Christ. Jerry was another story. But prayers keep ascending for him.
The only house into which salvation has not come is the fifth house. Linda lives there. She is a single girl who shared that house with her elderly mother, who died during this same period. Jack and his wife reached out to Linda, but she put up a thick wall of disinterest. They keep quietly praying for her as she now watches five cars, not one, drive out of that circle every Sunday to make their way to some place of worship in the city.