A Missionary Family-
For the past 6 years Jeanette and I and our 4 children have served the Lord as full time intercessory missionaries. This is not our title, rather it is simply a description of how we function before the Lord in ministry. Together, for the sake of the gospel, we have consistently rearranged our lives and our lifestyle in order to more fully follow the call that God has so graciously placed upon our lives to champion and strengthen His purposes for prayer. The Holy Spirit has set within us a burden for the resurrection and establishment of prayer (Is.56:7; Amos 9:10; Ac.15:16-17)) as the primary way that the church relates to God and walks out the Great Commission in power (Mt.28:18-20). We embrace a missions lifestyle and a missions focus while “doing the work of the ministry from the place of prayer”.
What is an Intercessory Missionary?
While in certain missions circles the term intercessory missionary is making a comeback and gaining traction as a descriptive ministry title and function, many have never heard this phrase and are unfamiliar with what it represents. This expression was first publicized by a Nazarene missions organization in 1948.
“In a 1948 issue of the forerunner to Mission Connection, the term “intercessory missionary” was used by an unnamed source…Intercessory missionaries are laborers who cannot go in person to the field but who have set themselves apart to pray for the definite details of missionary work.” [Gail L. Sawrie • NMI Editor]
(*to read the full article use this link- http://nmi.nazarene.org/Stories/docs/Praying/PrayerFast/Intercessory.pdf)
In recent years Mike Bickle, founder and Director of the International House Of Prayer in Kansas City, MO [http://ihopkc.org ], has used the term intercessory missionary to refer to
“…one who does the work of the kingdom from the place of prayer and worship, while embracing a missionary lifestyle and focus.”
(*to read Mike Bickle’s full article on Intercessory Missionaries use this link- http://www.ihopkc.org/blog/teachings-notes/call-full-time-intercessory-missionary/)
Our family uses this term to describe both what we do as vocational intercessors and vocational missionaries.
It is generally recognized that God has set some apart for the work of the ministry as their full-time occupation (Ac.13:2). Some believers serve overseas in lands foreign to them while others serve locally in their own cities and neighborhoods. Though every saint is called to do the work of the ministry (Eph.4:11-12) some are called vocationally. In other words, ministry is their job. There are many examples in scripture of a divine conscription, a holy calling away from homes, jobs, families and financial security in order to consecrate oneself or family to Him in full-time service. Events in the life of men such as Moses, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah and John the baptist provide windows into just such a reality. In the early life of the apostles, including Paul, each experienced a critical juncture in time where they were called away from the normalcy of everyday life and separated to the Lord for specific service related to the proclamation of the gospel and the building of the church (Mt.4:18-22, 9:9; Jn.1:43, Ac.9:1-18). This type of call to spiritual service requires full-time attention. Praying, leading, organizing, teaching, studying, traveling and fund-raising require exclusivity and demand a determined focus and persistent diligence.
In the gospel of Luke we are introduced to a prophetess by the name of Anna, or Hanna (Lk.2:36-38). The Bible describes her as one who ministered to the Lord day and night with prayer and fasting. She is described as an intercessor (v.37) a watchman (v.38) and an evangelist (v.38). Anna’s lifestyle and radical commitment to the Lord in the place of prayer will serve as a template for the type of wholehearted believer that will bear the name of Jesus in every nation of the earth before His return. Anna’s ‘job’ was prayer and fasting and it is precisely out of this reality that we see her function as a prophetic voice and an evangelist. Anna was what we might call a vocational intercessor, because intercession was her job.
John the baptist described himself as a friend of the bridegroom who stood and listened for the Lord’s voice. His prophetic function as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” was rooted and grounded in a lifestyle of prayer and fasting (Mt.11:18)
In the formative years of national Israel the Lord choose and separated unto Himself an entire family, the tribe of Levi, from the nation of Israel exclusively for the purpose of ministry to Him (Ex.28:1-4, 41; 29:44; Jer.33:22) Unlike the other tribes they were to have no land apportioned to them, God alone was to be their inheritance (Num.18:20) and their sustenance was to come from the nation’s tithe (Num.18:26). Israel’s priestly class were Levites and although the entire nation was to be before Him a priestly people, ministry to the Lord was the Levitical vocation, it was their full-time occupation.
Today in the church, many are unfamiliar with a call to full time intercession. We might imagine that the idea of a people called exclusively to minister to the Lord as their occupation ceased when the New Covenant was inaugurated by the shedding of Jesus’ blood or when the Jewish temple was destroyed in 70 AD. However, the Bible clearly affirms that God’s people will serve Him by ministering to Him as a priesthood forever (Rev.1:6; 5:10; 20:6). It was precisely the shedding of the blood of Jesus and our redemption by Him that qualifies us to be a priesthood before Him.
“…For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us…priests to our God.” Rev.5:9-10
Ministry to the Lord will be the central occupation of every believer forever!
Now, the idea that only some believers are called to intercession is completely foreign to scripture. As a priesthood, every believer is called to both intercession and worship as the primary place of engagement with Him by the Spirit and the primary way that the Kingdom goes forth in power.
During the reign of King David, the Lord instructed a radical shift within the Levitical ministry to the Lord. Under David’s direction the Lord established night and day worship and prayer as central to the Jewish religion and the propagation of His Kingdom. David employed nearly ten-thousand full-time singers, musicians and gate-keepers to uphold and maintain the sacred charge of incessant ministry to Yahweh (1 Chr. 9:33; 16:37; 23:5; 25:7; 2 Chr. 31:4; 8:12-14; 31:4-6, 16; 34:9, 12; Neh. 10:37-39; 11:22–23; 12:44-47; 13:5-12).
By the word of the Lord, David commanded that this worship order continue throughout Israel’s history (2 Chron.8:14). “In the generations that followed, when Israel went astray, God raised up spiritual reformers with a vision to restore worship as David had commanded it. Seven generations in the Old Testament experienced “revival.” Each honored the command that God had given David, and restored Davidic worship, complete with full-time intercessory missionaries.”
During the days of the prophet Amos, Israel’s northern kingdom was enjoying a time of nearly unprecedented material prosperity while simultaneously experiencing a rapid, unrepentant spiritual and moral decline. God raised up a prophetic voice to predict the future subjugation of the nation as well as a future national reestablishment that included the promise to “raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down…and rebuild it as in the days of old.” (Amos.9:11-12). Again, nearly 800 years later, at the historic Jerusalem Council, the apostle James quotes this very passage from Amos as the early church leaders were considering how to reconcile the fact that many gentiles were coming to Christ (Ac.15:16-17). This may seem insignificant at first glance but when we remember that the focus of the passage involves the restored nation of Israel possessing the “remnant of Edom”, or the gentile nations, then this takes on new meaning.
The apostles anticipated the return of Jesus in their day. As Jews, His return signified the beginning of events which would establish Israel as chief among the nations and Jerusalem as the city from which her Messiah-King would rule the earth (Matt.24:3). Both Amos and James declared that the dynasty of David would be restored (Is.16:5). When we survey David’s life and the way in which God led his heart and established his kingdom we see that at the very center of it all was a longing desire to know and experience God’s beauty and to magnify His greatness day and night by offering unceasing praise, adoration and thanksgiving. When God speaks of the rebuilding of David’s tabernacle he is referencing not only Messiah and His throne but also the method in which He will restore, establish and perfect the righteous kingdom of His Anointed One. God remembers His promise to David to build him a house and to establish his throne throughout all generations and to give him a Son who will rule throughout all eternity (2 Sam.7). Today, we live within the very thrust of this same story. God is building His house of prayer (Is.56:7) that will one day welcome Messiah Jesus to the earth to rule the nations as His inheritance from the city of Jerusalem (Gen.22:18). But prayer isn’t just our invitation for Jesus to come back, prayer is the way in which His government will go forward once He returns.
The New Testament sets forth the template for church leaders who prioritize prayer. To prioritize prayer does not mean simply that prayer is considered important and given some time on the ministry event calendar. Prayer was more than important to the apostles, prayer was critical for the building up and establishing of a heart and ministry that would remain faithful to Jesus in the midst of the years and for plum-lining the course of the church for millennia. In Acts 6:2,4 the twelve are recorded as saying, “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Prayer was more than a concerted effort to push along their ministry agenda and counter crisis, it was the means by which their hearts were renewed and refreshed and their spirits strengthened. As ministry demands grew and the pressure to resolve internal conflicts increased the apostles retreated to the place of prayer as Jesus before them had done (Mt.14:23; 6:12; 9:28). The increase of pressure helped to institute a fresh new precedence for a life of prayer.
Jesus spoke to certain of John the baptist’s disciples in Matt.9:15 when they questioned Him regarding the importance of fasting. He said, “… Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” John’s disciples, like the Pharisees, were duty bound to fast. It represented for them devotion to God and commitment to His prophetic plan to bring Messiah. They saw that Jesus’ own disciples were not fasting as they did and immediately took issue. Through Jesus, the Father revealed to them another dimension of fasting [and prayer] related not to duty but to desire. In His presence, the disciples had intimate access to the beauty of Jesus’ power, presence and personality, but soon He would leave them and they would long to experience His nearness, and thus their fasted lifestyle would be born. The apostles’ statement in Ac.6:4 wasn’t about their duty as professional ministers, it was about the realization that everything that had been given was from God and without His nearness and His power flowing in and through them they were powerless to love Him and to love others in a manner that was worthy of Jesus’ suffering and exaltation (2 Thess.1:11-12). They understood that He was their source and the very focus for their worship and adoration.
Where does prayer fit within a missional lifestyle?
We define a missional lifestyle as a deliberate prioritizing of time, energy, resources, relationship and finances in order to fully focus on the work of ministry. Every believer is to live with a missional focus. The idea that only some are called to do the work of the ministry while others simply engage in “living life” is foreign to scripture. God has called every believer everywhere to function as a missionary in whatever capacity that the Lord has placed them. However, many cannot imagine the idea of making room for prayer in an already full schedule. When it comes to the work of ministry the challenge is no different. Often, many leaders are simply too busy meeting needs and organizational demands to pray.
In Luke 10:2-3, Jesus introduces His disciples to the necessity of prayer in fueling the Great Commission (Mt.28:18-20).
“ The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.” Lk.10:2-3
Because there is so much need, because there are so few to go…pray! This is the order in which we are to be about the work of the ministry. Jesus sent His disciples out because He had prayed for them. Therefore, as missional believers called to preach the gospel, to heal the sick and to raise the dead…we will pray! Pastors, prophets, teachers, evangelists, church staff, business leaders and students are to function missionally from the place of prayer.
Do I have the time?
Everyone has the time to pray. We all have the same amount of time in a day. The question is not really about time, but about priority. We will make room for what we value most, what we deem most important. The bigger our vision for prayer, the bigger our time to pray gets. The less we understand and value the work of prayer the harder it is to prioritize prayer. Setting a time to pray each day is the most practical way to incorporate a routine of prayer into daily life. It is also important to incorporate the scripture into your prayer life. They are the very words of God which give light and life to us (Ps.119:130). They give us access into His ways, His heart and His plans. Be diligent to read and study the word (Ac.6:4). A simple Bible reading plan and a consistent time set aside for deeper study can make all the difference.
At home, we have apportioned a significant amount of time each day for prayer and the word. The rest of our schedule is built around that. Depending on the day (weekday or weekend) this schedule may shift a little bit. In addition we have set ministry activities in our schedule as well as many that may pop up some-what spontaneously. But it is important to remember that ministry isn’t just prayer first, but often prayer is the ministry. Ministry to God is ministry. It is part of our priestly function and the most practical way in which we will obey the first and greatest commandment to love God (Matt.22:37). We serve and bless the Lord of Glory by offering to Him our time, our words and our emotions.
I (Zach) gave my heart to the Lord when I was about four years old (1979), but it wasn’t until I was 19 (1994) that I made a commitment to surrender myself to Him as Lord, warring against the desires of the flesh and seeking to pursue the things of the Spirit. I really didn’t know much about spiritual life and I had certainly never heard of even the idea of a life of prayer. It was’t until a few years later (1997) that I had my first powerful dream from the Lord about revival in America and a great release of God’s power in this nation. I was fascinated by dreams like this. I yearned deeply to live in a reality such as I saw in my dreams and to experience God’s presence and power moving through me in this way. As I look back I realize that God was sharing with me His own dream for America and His own deep yearning for a people that operate before Him in great power. In 1999 I was introduced to teaching on the subject of God’s family operating as a house of prayer. I was gripped. I couldn’t get enough. This began what is now a 16 year journey into God’s heart and purpose for prayer in and through His people. My life has been radically and permanently altered because of the Lord’s zeal for His house lighting upon my life. 6 years ago my family entered a season where, as our full time focus, we join with the Holy Spirit in championing, building, and strengthening prayer. We give ourselves to many hours of prayer daily, as well as leading weekly and monthly prayer meetings, bible study and serving others as they lead and build prayer. For the last 3 years we have been serving in the Buffalo/Niagara Region of New York State. This is our home and Buffalo is our base for ministry. Our finance and provision come from the faithful giving of God’s people as He leads and guides them and our Father generously provides the increase of His grace to continue moving forward.
With eager anticipation I am looking ahead to the next 10 years of contending for the fullness of God’s power and presence to be made manifest in every corner of the earth!
Why It Matters-
Like anything we might set our hearts to do longterm we need to have a clear vision and a consistent reminder of why prayer matters and what it’s all about. Embracing a lifestyle of prayer is a glorious and deep reality with a mystical-spiritual element but it also includes a very practical and disciplined labor dimension. There is much hard work involved on many levels. As an example, The nations are pictured as being brought into God’s house [of prayer] and encountering His joy during the millennium (Is.56:7) while David distresses over the burden that zeal for God’s house [of prayer] had brought him during his lifetime (Ps.69:9).
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” -Is.56:7
“…zeal for Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.” -Ps.69:9
Hebrews 12:2 speaks of “the joy that was set before [Jesus]” and yet the disciples recalled that Jesus’ zeal for the Father’s house of prayer had “eaten Him up” (Jn.12:16-17; Ps.69:9).
“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Heb.12:2
“And [Jesus] said to those who sold doves, “ Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” -Jn.12:16-17
It is important to understand the call to prayer as all encompassing, and as having both a glory and a suffering dimension (Phil.3:10). This helps us to be able to accept the truth about prayer when things are difficult or boring rather than dismissing it for the intercessors group that meets on Wednesday nights.
In reality, prayer is the primary way that God defines how His people will know and relate to Him forever (Is.56:7) Prayer involves our worship and His word (Prs.119:130).
Prayer is the at the very center of world missions and a great harvest of souls at the end of the age (Amos 9:11-12; Ac.15:16-17; Lk.10:2; Rev.7:9-10)
Prayer is the single greatest means by which we will experience the beauty of God and bring Him glory forever (Rev.4).
Prayer is how God releases justice by making wrong things right (Lk.18:1-7).
Prayer is at the very center of the upholding and restoration of the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel at the end of the age (Is.62:6-7; Zech.12:10).
Prayer is how God fills the earth with knowledge of Himself in this age and the age to come (Hab.2:14; Lk.11:9-13). God gives the increase of the activity of the holy Spirit as we ask Him for it.
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” -Hab.2:14
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” -Lk.11:13
Prayer is the place of intimacy with the Godhead by the Holy Spirit where God reveals hidden mysteries concerning Himself. It is where we behold the workings of His glory and beauty concerning Himself and His affection for His people (1 Cor.2:6-16). As the Psalmist wrote, it is the place where “deep calls unto deep”.