And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.…
What do most of us know of the value and meaning of intercession? I speak of intercession in its human aspect. And I begin by asking you to confess that you know but little of it as a part of prayer: that most of us, when we have prayed, as we may, more or less fully and earnestly, for ourselves, have done praying; that, whether we feel much or little interest in prayer for ourselves, we feel less or none in prayer for others not ourselves. And in contrast with this admission, it must have struck all of you how very much of intercession there is in our public services — how much in proportion to the other kind of prayer. I might almost say that of prayer directly for ourselves there is but little in the public worship of our Church, following, in this respect as in others, alike the direction of the inspired Scriptures and the example of more ancient Christian Churches. I fear that this is sometimes felt by us to be a drawback to the spiritual character of our congregational devotions. We should like more about ourselves. Even our Lord's own form of prayer has too little about ourselves for our taste. For "our" and "us" we should read "my" Father, "my" daily bread, "my" trespasses, lead "me," deliver "me." Next in order amongst our intercessions we place the ministers of God's Word and sacraments, and the congregations in which they are appointed to conduct that ministry. Thus far we have thought rather of the work of life, the work of rulers, and the work of pastors, and the work of Christians generally; praying that each and all may do that work effectively, and not forget in doing it that, whatever it be, it is the work of God. But now in the last place we are taught to think of the other half of life — its sufferings. I have briefly spoken to you of some of the topics suitable to intercession. Let me not end without a word or two as to the motives by which we should be drawn to it. And I can suffer none to compete in importance with this, the most obvious of all; that all such prayers have a special assurance of acceptance and success. They are, indeed, even more than other prayers, conformable to the mind of God. They are unselfish prayers. It is the recorded experience of one at least who knew what he thus testified, that he had often proved the value of intercessory prayer in its reaction upon other prayer and upon the heart. Often when he knelt down cold and indifferent, unable to brace himself to strong spiritual effort in his own behalf, he bethought himself of another — a friend or a sister — and prayed earnestly to God not for his own but for what he knew to be another's want. And never did he do so without finding himself in no long time released from darkness and bondage, and able to pour out his whole heart, for himself also, with a fervour and happiness which a few moments before had seemed to be impossible. Let us try this experiment. When we know not how to pray, let us intercede. When the chamber of prayer is fastened within us, let the key of intercession be used to unlock it. I need not say to any one what the effect of intercessory prayer must be in its influence upon our spirit and conduct towards him, or towards those, who have been the subject of it. What a spirit of kindliness, of friendly interest, of concern in their best and truest welfare, must it kindle within us! How shall we watch over them and towards them for good! How anxious shall we be to see good, how fearful of communicating evil! How it pledges us to the recollection of their souls, and lays us under a double responsibility not to counteract our own desires, our own efforts, in their behalf! Finally, I must add that intercession is a Divine work, and that, in practising it, we are sharers with Christ and with the Holy Spirit in that which is at once their chosen office and our one hope. When we pray for another, we are doing that, through Christ's merits, which it is our happiness to think that He is doing for us through His own.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.