Christ the Intercessor
But I have prayed for you . . . that your faith may not fail.
I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.
He always lives to intercede.
All growth in the spiritual life is connected with a clearer insight into what Jesus is to us. The more I realize that Christ must be all to me and in me and that all in Christ is for me, the more I learn to live the true life of faith, which in dying to self lives wholly in Christ. The Christian life is no longer the vain struggle to live right, but resting in Christ and finding strength in Him as our life, to fight the fight and gain the victory of faith. This is especially true of the life of prayer. As it too comes under the law of faith alone and is seen in the light of the fullness and completeness there is in Jesus, the believer understands that it need no longer be a matter of strain or anxious care but an experience of what Christ will do for him and in him. Further, it will be a participation in that life of Christ that on earth as in heaven ever ascends to the Father as prayer. He begins to pray not only trusting in the merits of Jesus or in the intercession by which our unworthy prayers are made acceptable but also in that close union by which He prays in us and we in Him.* The whole of salvation is Christ himself. He has given himself to us. He lives in us. Because He prays, we also pray. Just as the disciples, when they saw Jesus pray, asked Him to make them partakers of what He knew of prayer, so we, seeing Him as intercessor on the throne, know that He makes us participate with Him in the life of prayer.
How clearly this comes out in the last night of His life. In His high-priestly prayer (John 17), He shows us how and what He has to pray to the Father and will pray when once ascended to heaven. But in His parting address He repeatedly connected His going to the Father with their new life of prayer. The two would be ultimately connected. His entrance into the work of His eternal intercession would be the commencement and the power of their new prayer life in His name. It is the sight of Jesus in His intercession that gives us power to pray in His name. All right and power of prayer is Christ’s. He makes us share in His intercession.
To understand this, think first of His intercession. He ever lives to make intercession for us. The work of Christ on earth as Priest was but a beginning. It was as Aaron He shed His blood. It is as Melchizedek that He now lives within the veil to continue His work after the power of eternal life. As Melchizedek He is more glorious than Aaron, so it is in the work of intercession that the atonement has its true power and glory. ‘‘Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who . . . is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us’’ (Romans 8:34). That intercession is an intense reality, a work that is absolutely necessary and without which the continued application of redemption cannot take place.
In the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus the wonderful reconciliation took place by which man became partaker of the divine life and blessedness. But the real personal appropriation of this reconciliation in each of His members here below cannot take place without the unceasing exercise of His divine power by the head in heaven. In all conversion and sanctification, in every victory over sin and the world, there is a flowing forth of the power of Him who is mighty to save. This exercise of His power only takes place through His prayer. He asks of the Father and receives from the Father. ‘‘He is able to save completely . . . because he always lives to intercede’’ (Hebrews 7:25). There is never a need of His people without His receiving in intercession what the Godhead has to give. His mediation on the throne is as real and indispensable as on the cross. Nothing takes place without His intercession. It engages all His time and powers. It is His unceasing occupation at the right hand of the Father.
We participate not only in the benefits of His work but also in the work itself, because we are His body. Body and members are one. ‘‘The head cannot say to the feet, I don’t need you!’’ (1 Corinthians 12:21). We share with Jesus in all He is and has. ‘‘I have given them the glory that you gave me’’ (John 17:22). We are partakers of His life, His righteousness, His work; we share with Him in His intercession too; it is not a work He does without us.
We do this because we are partakers of His life. Christ is our life; ‘‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’’ (Galatians 2:20). The life in Him and in us is identical, one and the same. His life in heaven is a life of never-ending prayer. When it descends and takes possession of us, it does not lose its character. In us too it is the ceaseless life of prayer—a life that without ceasing asks and receives from God. It is not as if there were two separate currents of prayer rising upward, one from Him and one from His people. The substantial life-union is also a prayer-union: what He prays passes through us and what we pray passes through Him. He is the angel with the golden censer: ‘‘He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne’’ (Revelation 8:3).
The Only-begotten is the only one who has the right to pray. To Him alone it was said, ‘‘Ask, and it shall be given you.’’ As in all other things the fullness dwells in Him, as does the true prayerfulness; He alone has the power of prayer. Just as growth in our spiritual life involves a clearer insight into the fact that all the treasures are in Him and that we too are in Him, so it is with our prayer life. Our faith in the intercession of Jesus must not only be that He prays in our place when we do not or cannot pray, but that as the Author of our life and our faith He leads us to pray in unison with himself. Our prayer must be a work of faith in this sense also. Just as Jesus communicates His whole life to us, He also out of that prayerfulness that is His alone breathes into us our prayers.
To many believers it was a new epoch in their spiritual lives when it was revealed to them how truly and entirely Christ was their life, standing as the guarantee for their remaining faithful and obedient. It was then that he first began to truly live a faith-life. No less blessed will be the discovery that Christ is the guarantee for our prayer life, the center and embodiment of all prayer, to be communicated by Him through the Holy Spirit to His people.
‘‘He always lives to intercede’’ (Hebrews 7:25) as the Head of the body, as the Leader in that new and living way that He has opened up, as Author and Perfecter of our faith. He provides everything for the life of His redeemed ones by giving His own life to them. He cares for their life of prayer by taking them up into His heavenly prayer life, by giving and maintaining His prayer life within them. ‘‘I have prayed for you’’ not to render our faith needless, but ‘‘that your faith may not fail’’ (Luke 22:32). Our faith and prayer of faith is rooted in His. It is ‘‘If you abide in me’’ (John 15:7), the ever-living Intercessor, and pray with me and in me, ‘‘Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you’’ (John 15:7).
The thought of our fellowship in the intercession of Jesus reminds us of what He taught us more than once before: how all these wonderful prayer promises have as their aim and their justification the glory of God in the manifestation of His kingdom and the salvation of sinners. As long as we only or mainly pray for ourselves, the promises of the Savior’s last night must remain a sealed book to us. It is to the fruit-bearing branches of the Vine; to disciples sent into the world as the Father sent Him, to live for perishing men; it is to His faithful servants and intimate friends who take up the work He left behind, who like their Lord have become as seed corn, losing their life in order to multiply—to such the promises are given. Let us each find out what the work is and which souls are entrusted to our special prayers. Let us make our intercession for them our life of fellowship with God, and we shall not only find the promises of power in prayer proven true to us but we shall also see how our abiding in Christ and His abiding in us make us share in His own joy of blessing and saving men.
How wonderful is this intercession of our blessed Lord Jesus, to which we not only owe everything but in which we are also taken up as active partners and fellow workers! Now we understand what it is to pray in the name of Jesus and why it has such power—in His name, in His Spirit, and in perfect union with Him. This wonderful, ever-active, and most efficacious intercession of the man Christ Jesus—when shall we be wholly caught up into it and always pray in it?
The following excerpt is adapted from Dr. I. T. Beck’s Christliche Ethik (no publication data available).
The new epoch of prayer in the name of Jesus is pointed out by Christ as the time of the outpouring of the Spirit, in which the disciples enter upon a more enlightened apprehension of the economy of redemption and become as clearly conscious of their oneness with Jesus as of His oneness with the Father. Their prayer in the name of Jesus is now directed to the Father himself. Jesus says that while He had previously spoken of the time before the Spirit’s coming—‘‘I will pray the Father, and he will give you the Comforter’’—this prayer has as its central thought our being united to God in Christ. Jesus Christ must have been revealed to us not only through the truth in the mind but also in our inmost personal consciousness as the living personal reconciliation, as He in whom God’s fatherhood and Father-love have been perfectly united with human nature and it with God. Not that with the immediate prayer to the Father the mediatorship of Christ is set aside, but it is no longer looked at as something external, existing outside of us, but as a real, living spiritual existence within us, so that the Christ for us, the Mediator, has really become Christ in us.
When the consciousness of this oneness between God in Christ and us in Christ still is waning, or has been darkened by the sense of guilt, then the prayer of faith looks to our Lord as the Advocate, who prays to the Father for us. (Compare John 16:26 with 14:16–17; 9:20; Luke 22:32; 1 John 2:1.) To take Christ thus in prayer as Advocate is according to John 16:26 not the same as prayer in His name.
Christ’s advocacy is meant to lead us on to that inner self-standing life-union with Him, and with the Father in Him, in virtue of which Christ is He in whom God enters into immediate relationship and unites himself with us, and in whom we in all circumstances enter into immediate relationship with God. Even so the prayer in the name of Jesus does not consist in our prayer at His command: the disciples had prayed thus ever since the Lord had given them His ‘‘Our Father,’’ and yet He says, ‘‘Hitherto ye have not prayed in my name.’’ Only when the mediation of Christ has become, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, life and power within us, so that His mind has taken possession of and filled our personal consciousness and will, only then His name is become truth and power in us and we have in the name of Jesus the free, direct access to the Father and the certainty of being heard.
Prayer in the name of Jesus is the liberty of a son with the Father, just as Jesus had this freedom as the first and only begotten Son. We pray in the place of Jesus not as if we could put ourselves in His place but insofar as we are in Him and He in us. We go directly to the Father, but only as the Father is in Christ, not as if He were separate from Christ. Wherever the inner man does not live in Christ and He is not present as the living One, where His Word is not ruling in the heart in its Spirit-power, where His truth and life have not become the life of our soul, it is vain to think that a formula like ‘‘for the sake of thy dear Son’’ will avail anything.
Blessed Lord, in adoration I would again bow before you. Your whole redemptive work has now passed into prayer. All that now occupies you in maintaining and dispensing what you purchased with your blood is only prayer. You ever live to pray. Because we abide in you, direct access to the Father is always open. Our life can be one of unceasing prayer. The answer to our prayer is assured.
Blessed Lord, you have invited your people to be your fellow workers in a life of prayer. You have united yourself with your people and make them as your body share with you in that ministry of intercession through which alone the world can be filled with the fruit of your redemption and the glory of the Father. With more liberty than ever I come to you, my Lord, and beseech you: Teach me to pray. Your life is prayer; your life is mine. Teach me to pray like you.
Lord, help me to realize afresh that you are in the Father, I am in you, and you are in me. Let the uniting power of the Holy Spirit make my whole life abide in yours and your intercession, so that my prayer may be its echo. Lord Jesus, let your mind in everything be in me, and my life in everything be in you. So will I be prepared to be the channel through which your intercession pours its blessing into the world. Amen.
*See the difference between having Christ as Advocate or Intercessor who stands outside of us and having Him within us—our abiding in Him and He in us through the Holy Spirit—perfecting our union with Him so that we can go directly to the Father in His name (Beck of Tubingen).