“Confess your faults one to another, that ye may be healed. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much-James 5:16”
“Let our last article touch once more the key of love wherein the article preceding that of prayer was set. To speak of the Spirit’s work in our prayers, omitting the intercession of the saints, betrays a lack of understanding concerning the Spirit of grace.
Prayer for others is quite different from prayer for ourselves. The latter indeed is lawful; God even commands us “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to make our requests known unto God.” Yet it may contain refined egoism even though it be followed by thanksgiving; hence to prayer is added intercession, that in prayer the breath of love may quench gently, yet effectually, remaining egoism, and leads us to the still holier prayer for the heavenly King and His Kingdom.
Christ prays for us, but the Bride must also pray for her heavenly Bridegroom. David’s prayer for Solomon points beyond Solomon to the Messiah: “Give the King Thy judgments, O God” (Ps. 72:1). In the twentieth and sixty-first Psalm s the same thought is expressed. However, this is not a prayer for His Person (for as such He is glorified already), but for the coming of His Kingdom, for the extending of His Name to the ends of the earth, for the gathering in of the souls of His elect.
In the Lord’s Prayer, this most holy petition stands even in the foreground; for when we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,” we are inspired, not by love of self or for others, but by love for Him who is in heaven. It is true, we realize that the fulfilling of that prayer is most desirable for others and ourselves; still it is the love of God that stands here in the foreground. It is the summary of prayer eminently fitting the summary of the law: “Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God.” This is the first and great commandment. Then, “Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.” And so in our prayer: first, for the cause of God, this is the first and great petition; then, prayer for the neighbor as for ourselves. Our prayer is the test of our relation to the first and great commandment.
And what is the work of the Holy Spirit in the prayer of intercession?
It is necessary here, for a clear understanding, to distinguish between a twofold intercession: (1) there is a prayer for the things that pertain to the body of Christ; and (2) another for the things that do not belong to that body, according to our impression and conception of the matter.
Prayer for kings, and for all that are in authority, does not concern the things that pertain to the body of Christ; neither does the prayer for our enemies, nor that for the place of our habitation, for country, army, and navy, for a bountiful harvest, for deliverance from pestilence, for trade and commerce, etc. All these pertain to the natural life, and to persons, whether saints or sinners, in their relation to the life of creation, and not to the Kingdom of Grace. But our prayer does concern the body of Christ, when we pray for the coming of the Lord, for a fresh anointing of the priests of God, for their being clothed upon with salvation, for success in the work of missions, for a baptism of the Holy Spirit, for strength in conflict, for forgiveness of sins, for the salvation of our loved ones… The first intercession has reference to the realm of nature, the second to the Kingdom of Grace. Hence in each of these two we must look for the bond of fellowship from which springs our prayer of intercession.
For every prayer of intercession presupposes fellowship with them for whom we pray; a fellowship which casts us into the same distress, and from which we look for deliverance, and that in such a way that the sorrow of one burdens us, and the joy of another causes us to give thanks. Where such vital fellowship does not exist, nor the love which springs from it, or where these are temporarily inactive, there may be formal intercession of words, but real intercession from the heart there cannot be.
With reference to the intercession in the realm of nature, the ground of this fellowship is naturally found in the fact that we are created of one blood. Humanity is one. The nations form an organic whole. It is a mighty truck with leafy crown; the nations and peoples are the branches thereof, successive generations the boughs, and each of us is a fluttering leaf. Belonging together, living together upon the same root of our human nature, it is one flesh and blood, which from Adam to the last-born child covers every skeleton and runs through every man’s veins. Hence the desire for universal philanthropy; the claim that nothing be alien to us that is human; the necessity of loving our enemy and of praying for him, for he also is of our flesh and of our bones.
If we were like grains in a heap of sand, each grain might possibly send forth a sigh, but the mutual prayer of intercession would be out of the question. Being leaves, however, of the same tree of life, there is, apart from the groaning of every leaf, also a prayer for one another, a mutual prayer of the entire human life; “the whole creation groaneth.”
But in the Kingdom of Grace the fellowship of love is much stronger, firmer, and more intimate. There is here also an organic whole, even the body of Christ under Him the Head. It is not one converted person independent of another, and the two united by a mere outward tie of sympathy; nay, but a multitude of branches all springing form the root of Jesse; growing from the one vine; all organically one; saved and redeemed by the same ransom of His blood; proceeding from the one act of election; born again by the self-same regeneration; brought nigh by the same faith; breaking one bread and drinking from one cup.
And let us notice it well, this unity is doubly strong; for it is not independent of the fellowship of nature, but added to it. They who become members of the body of Christ are with us created from the one blood of Adam, and with us they are redeemed by the one blood of Christ. Hence there is here double root of fellowship. Flesh of our flesh, bones of our bones. Moreover, born from one decree; sealed by one baptism; joined together in one body; included in one promise; by and by sharers with us of the same inheritance.
In this double fellowship of life is rooted the love which mutually unites the children of God, especially in their prayers of intercession, a union which appears sometimes in their mutual prayer. Vital fellowship does not spring from our love for the people of God, but that love springs from the fellowship of the life of grace, common to all His saints. That which grows not from one root, and, therefore, shares not the same life, cannot attain to love in higher sense. Prayer for one another is born of the love to one another; and the love which unites us ascends from the one root of life upon which we are all grafted through grace, upon which by virtue of our creation from Adam we all were set. And thus the work of the Holy Spirit in the prayer of intercession will appear in clearest light.”
-From Abraham Kuyper’s The Work Of The Holy Spirit Published by AMG Publishers Chattanooga, TN 1995 Originally Published in 1900 Pages 676-679