One common misunderstanding many people have is the idea that Jesus sits on his throne in heaven praying for us.
It’s a picture of the hard-working Son of Man pleading for our safety. And we know His prayers will always be answered! No worries! Our approach to prayer is relegated to an exercise of passivity, to agreeing with and accepting the inevitable result that God has locked in for us anyway.
There is only one problem: technically it isn’t true. The idea that Jesus is praying for us in heaven has no basis in scripture and is drawn from a misunderstanding of the following three verses:
- “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 NIV)
- “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34 NIV)
- “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1 NIV)
Before you brand me as a heretic, allow me to explain.
According to Webster, “intercede” means “to go or pass between; to act between parties with a view to reconcile those who differ or contend; to interpose; to mediate or make intercession; mediation.” The word “advocate” means lawyer or legal representative.
Jesus Our Mediator and Advocate
As Redeemer and Savior, Jesus is the Mediator and Go-between that reconciles us to God. Through his death, burial and resurrection, He has done all the heavy lifting. The veil into the Father’s presence is permanently rent open so that we can come boldly before the throne in prayer! Christ’s intercession, in keeping with its literal meaning, is not a prayer He prays, but a work of mediation He does.
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)
So what does Jesus do for us in heaven? The Apostle John describes Him as our “Advocate” who stands ready to defend us and present our case before the Father. But here is the catch: we must make the case. And we do that through prayer.
Dutch Sheets, in his powerful book “Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth” writes:
“He who was made to represent God on the earth (mankind) now needed someone to represent him to God. Christ, of course, became that representative, intercessor or mediator. Not only did He represent God to man, but He also represented man to God. This God-man was the attorney for both sides! He is the ultimate, final and only go-between. He is “the Apostle [God to the human race] and High Priest [the human race to God] of our confession” (Heb. 3:1). He is Job’s great go-between, hanging between heaven and Earth, placing one hand on God and the other on humans (see Job 9:32–33). Are you getting the picture? Christ’s intercession, in keeping with its literal meaning, was not a prayer He prayed, but a work of mediation He did.”
Sheets goes on to write,
“I’m certain it [the term “intercession” that is applied to Jesus in Hebrews 7:25 and Romans 8:34] refers to His work of mediation (see 1 Tim. 2:5), to His being our Advocate with the Father (see 1 John 2:1). He is now functioning as our representative, guaranteeing our access to the Father and to our benefits of redemption.
In fact, Jesus tells us in John 16:26 that He is not doing our asking or petitioning of the Father for us: “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request the Father on your behalf.”
So…Jesus isn’t praying for us; He is interceding for us so that we can pray. This is what is meant by asking “in His name.”
Why This Distinction Is Important
When we fully appreciate what the cross accomplished and what the words “It is finished” mean, we will understand why the idea of Christ praying for us makes no sense. He has accomplished complete redemption and has secured access to God’s throne on our behalf. Prayer is our part. He sits on his throne waiting for the full execution on earth, in real historical time, of all He secured on the cross.
“But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:13-14)
Here is the whole point: The role of prayer has been delegated to us! We have been deputized by Jesus to stand in the gap and declare “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” We are, in essence, His hands and His feet! Writing to believers, here is how Paul the Apostle described it:
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)
Scripture underscores this point further in many other passages. Here are just a few expmples:
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV)
“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30 NIV)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV)
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
John Wesley said “God does nothing but in response to believing prayer.”
I once had an intern question the necessity of prayer. He looked at me and said “God doesn’t need our prayers, He is sovereign and does what He wants.” I explained to him that while God may not need us to pray, He desires us to pray. We both agreed that should be enough.
We live and walk in a fallen world! Prayer is the means by which we press through the darkness to peer through the open windows of heaven! So let’s come with full confidence before the throne of grace to obtain help in time of need!
If you would like to read more on the subject of prayer and intercession, I highly recommend Dutch Sheets, who is one of the leading voices in the church on the subject. Here are some titles by Dutch:
“Anyone who cares about our country and is drawn to intercession will love this book. Dutch Sheets is a prophetic person and has a very amazing story of how God revealed the flag from George Washington’s time and recaptured the relevance for now. This truly is a call for intercession, in our day, for the United States of America.” (Reviewer)