Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord. 2 Chronicles 34:27
What makes going deeper in prayer difficult and true intercession rare is that any step forward is only made through a genuine work of the heart. As we attempt to go deeper we bump into our old heart of stone that doesn’t respond to the deep cries of others or of the Spirit of God. General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army was once asked “How can we save the lost?” He wrote a return letter with only two words – “Try tears.” Unfortunately like Keith Green in a famous song wrote “My eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, and my prayers are cold. And I know how I ought to be—alive to you and dead to me.” So, what can be done to soften our hearts? Romans 5:3-5 states that …
we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
So continual rejoicing in sufferings leads to a process that ends with God’s love being poured into our hearts.
Suffering is something we normally avoid, but there are sometimes that we purposely suffer. Fasting is a voluntary form of suffering, being a Christian in an unpopular setting, and carrying a burdened in intercession are all situations that we purposely choose to suffer. Each of these are instances of self-denial that can be used of God. The Lord also uses the sufferings and sorrows that come upon us in the course of our lives especially if we understand in the providence of God that these attacks or tests have been allowed.
We humans are not the only ones who suffer or have sorrow. Many times in the Bible the Lord expresses sorrow and grief (With Noah in Gen. 6:6, Moses in Ex.3:7, Saul in 1 Samuel 15:11, Isa 63:10, Jer 6:7, and with Jesus in Mark 3:5. Of course it is best expressed in portions of Isaiah 53:3-10 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… Surely He has borne our grief’s And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. …And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.
Paul E. Billheimer, the author of Destined for the Throne in which his thesis is that the eternal purpose for creating the earth and man was to provide His Son with a bride; wrote a sequel called Don’t Waste Your Sorrows which I quote –
If God was to realize His purpose in creation, to obtain an Eternal Companion for His Son, HE had to suffer. It was unavoidable. If the Bride was to be qualified to rule with Him, SHE also had to suffer. This illuminates the passage in 2 Timothy 2:12, ‘If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.’ Therefore, suffering is inherent in God’s universe. Since this is true, suffering must be performing an infinitely valuable service. It must be of supreme importance. p.31
Next Billheimer states that the universe is moral and that the law of love is supreme, it is the fulfillment the law, therefore God is love. This is agape love which is “aggressive, benevolent, sacrificial outgoing goodwill.” p33 “God’s primary occupation in this age is not regulating the universe by the mighty power of His command, but it is teaching the members of His Bride-elect the lessons of agape love in preparation for the throne. Therefore, every single incident, whether of joy or sorrow, bane or blessing, pain or pleasure, without exception is being utilized by God for the purpose of procuring the members of His Bridehood and maturing them in agape love.” p35 “There is no love without self-giving. There is no self-giving without pain. Therefore, there is no love without suffering. Suffering is an essential ingredient of agape love and therefore of a moral universe.” p.36 and Finally “The Apostle Paul said, ‘Love suffers’ (1 Cor.13:4). This means that love must suffer voluntarily. God is love, but there is no love without voluntary suffering. Love that does not accept suffering voluntarily is a misnomer, for the essence of love is decentralization, that is, repudiation of self in behalf of another. One who has never voluntarily suffered is totally selfish. Only great sufferers are truly benevolent. There is no such thing as a saint who has not suffered.”
Romans 9:2-3 I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 for my brethren,
1 Samuel 15:11 And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night.
Job 30:25 Have I not wept for him who was in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
Nehemiah 1:4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
Paul, Samuel, Job and Nehemiah each had different gifts, functions and ministries. They fulfilled their calling by forgetting about themselves and allowing their hearts to sorrow, grieve, weep and mourn before God. Rees Howells was a great intercessor of the Welsh Revival also understood that “God has never changed his love, the love that was manifested in the Savior on Calvary. This is the first condition in intercession, and the beginning of the life of the intercessor – to love enough to take the place of others.” He goes on to teach that “There are three things to be seen in an intercessor, which are not necessarily found in ordinary prayer: identification, agony, and authority.”
Identification – “Identification is thus the first law of the intercessor. He pleads effectively because he gives his life for those he pleads for; he is their genuine representative; he has submerged his self-interest in their needs and sufferings, and as far as possible has literally taken their place.”
Agony – The author of Hebrews (5:7) says our Master prayed with … strong crying and tears. The apostle Paul says in Romans 8:26 … the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Authority – “Intercession so identifies the intercessor with the sufferer that it gives him a prevailing place with God. He moves God. He even causes Him to change His mind. He gains his objective, or rather the Spirit gains it through him.”