Prayer has been called many names through the ages. Some call it travailing, some intercession, and others say that it is simply talking to God. Still others call it a calling and some might even call it boring. I personally like the phrase “standing in the gap”.
When I was 8 years-old, I found a song that captivated my heart. It became my earnest prayer:
Won’t You Lord take a look at my hands // Everything I have use it for Your plan
Won’t You Lord take a look at my heart // Mold it, refine it, as You set me apart
I want to run to the altar and catch the fire
To stand in the gap between the living and the dead
Give me a heart of compassion for a world without vision
I will make a difference, bringing hope to my land
I vividly remember listening to this song and having its lyrics pierce my heart. This song was referring to what Aaron did in Numbers 16:42-48 (if you haven’t already read this story, please please do! It is amazing). It moved me deeply that God SO wanted to save the people of Israel; all He was waiting for was a man who would stand in the gap – literally between the living and the dead.
The story was seared into my heart. I thought to myself, “How wonderful it would be to do what Aaron did and know the heart of God in that way!”
Right there, I made a silent wish to God that I wanted to be like Aaron. To be someone who would stand in the gap on behalf of God.
God took my prayer and held me to it.
From the time I was a child, a deep longing for more of God was deposited in my heart. I would make up songs to Him in the night; He seemed to be part of my DNA.
At the same time, I was also deeply affected by the emotions (especially pain) of others, and could sense what was going on inside their hearts.
I went through a season of depression in my teen years as these two aspects intensified and seemed to stretch me in two directions.
On hindsight, I realize now that I was learning what it meant to stand in the gap – It is a stretching out to God on one side, a reaching out to people on the other, and bringing the two together.
What does standing in the gap look like?
1. Surrender. This has to be the first and foundational step. We need to come before God and say, “Lord, I offer everything I am and everything I have before You. Use it according to Your will for your plans.” Without surrender, the journey is going to be pretty rocky. Prayer/intercession/standing in the gap MUST originate from God – meaning that we only pray the thoughts & desires of His heart (more on that in this post). There are times that God will tell us to do/pray something that goes against our own desires/wisdom/comfort zone. Without surrender, we will be like the prophet Jonah who ran away, rejected God’s Word, and grumbled – he ended up being an oracle for God but missed out entirely on the heart of God.
2. Consecration. As we pray, we come closer and closer to the heart of God. That also means that our hearts keep getting refined & purified – God is a consuming fire, and closeness to Him means that all the impurities in our hearts will have to surface and be burned away. This is an awesome process and I love it dearly, though it is challenging and painful at times. Why do I love it? Well, I have found that the closer that I come to the heart of God and the greater the purification, there is a new level in which He shares the secrets of His heart with me. God is looking across the earth for men and women whom He can trust to carry His heart & His burdens.
3. Sacrifice. The burdens of God’s heart often require sacrifice on the parts of those who carry them. Look at Abraham, Noah, Samuel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, Esther… These people had to sacrifice their families, the good esteem of friends & neighbors, and often even their own lives, for the purposes of God. If we want status, popularity, or glory for ourselves, then being a servant of God is not the right career path. Through Church history, men and women have chosen to sacrifice everything in order to follow Jesus – I believe, and can personally testify, that once we have seen the greater picture in eternity’s light, none of it will feel like sacrifice. Instead, it would be something we delight & find our deepest joy in.
4. Compassion. The purpose of anything God does has its root in love. Every thing that He does is in love and for love. Apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, pastors – these are given to the Church for the purpose of building up the people. Without compassion, we can speak plenty of spiritual things and even move in powers, signs, and wonders, but we would be about as useful as a clanging gong.
Choose to stand in the gap and you will find that there is a constant stirring in your heart. It will constantly be crying out and wanting more of God for a person/group of people/nation.
Another aspect of standing in the gap is illustrated in the battle between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18: 16-39). In the story, the only things necessary to have the fire of God fall were:
1. An altar
2. A sacrifice pleasing to God
The altar symbolizes the place where people meet with God – it is a symbolism of my inner man, who communicates with the Spirit of God as deep calls unto deep (Psalms 42: 7). The sacrifice God requires is me – a living sacrifice, surrendered and yielded to Him.
He is asking if we would be the living sacrifice – Aaron ran to a physical altar and caught the physical fire, but now we need to become the dwelling place in whom the fire of God can rest.
Then, we carry the fire of God in us. And wherever we go, death will stop and life will come.
Being an intercessor is to have our own lives become an intercession.
Have you ever felt the burden for a particular person/people group/nation? What would it look like for you to stand in the gap for them?