"The Never-Ceasing Flame Of Intercession"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2002 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now we want to turn today to the book of Leviticus chapter 6. Of course, with today being a day of prayer and the beginning of our week of prayer, I want to take this theme of prayer this morning as our message. Let me just say that after this service, those of you who want to can go straight upstairs to the upper room, where we will be in prayer right throughout the whole afternoon until this evening's service. Of course we'll be having prayer as usual before the Gospel meeting, but it will just be the elongated prayer meeting, and then back here at seven o'clock for our gospel meeting. Then we'll be staying another little while until nine o'clock, we began at nine this morning, and we'll finish at nine tonight in prayer. So do join us when you can, I know that there are many commitments of family and so on, but if you can be here we would benefit from seeing you.
But I want to speak with you this morning about the never-ceasing flame of intercession, and I don't want to blind you with science by looking at this chapter of Scripture - I couldn't do it even if I wanted to anyway, but there's only one verse that I want to read to you, and it's verse 13: "The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out". 'The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out'.
I've been reading much lately, and listening to much, about the Moravian people. I don't know whether you've ever heard of the Moravian people, but in 1722 there was a group, a Christian group called the Moravians who were so persecuted in Europe in their various countries - particularly Moravia and Bohemia - that they had to flee their homes, and they took refuge in the estate of a German man called Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf. You may have heard of him, you may have sung some of his hymns - I'm sure you have, and later on in our meeting we're going to sing one of those. This man was only 27 years of age, yet he saw the plight of this Christian people, the Moravians, and of course he was a believer himself. The estate that he owned, where these Moravians found their refuge, became known as 'Hernhut', which in German means 'under the Lord's watch'. There they were, fleeing for their faith, yet God gave them a refuge in Count von Zinzendorf.
The very first building that was ever built in Hernhut, in this estate of this great German man, they inscribed upon it Psalm 84 verse 3. Psalm 84 was their favourite Psalm, and they put verse 3 on this building: 'Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God'. It was under that verse and in that place called 'Hernhut', that the Moravians learnt to pray. On the 27th August 1727 they began what has been known as the hundred year prayer meeting. It was simply a round-the-clock prayer meeting that lasted for 24 hours a day, every hour of the day, right through every week in the month, every month in the year, and it went on - believe it or not - for one hundred years solid. Twenty-four men and 24 women covenanted to spend a one hour watch, both men and women separately, before God. Praying through each day, 24 of them, one taking each hour, and they would go through a whole week, a whole month, and a whole year. They would meet together once in the week, they would open letters, and read prayer requests and bring them before the one who was watching for that particular hour. They prayed year after year after year like this, and eventually one decade passed, and then another decade, and then 50 years, until 100 years were on the clock!
I know that many of you find that very difficult to accept. In one light I do too, it sounds so difficult, it sounds so demanding. This man Nicolas von Zinzendorf was remarkable, because he realised - as many of us are beginning to realise here in the Assembly too - that you need to do more than pray. Prayer is extremely important, and we need to start praying, and we need to pray as much as we can, but he challenged these Moravian people that they needed to go forth and preach the Gospel. He challenged them particularly about the West Indies, Greenland, Turkey, Lapland - and as he challenged those people he appealed to them, and right away 26 of them stood to their feet and volunteered to go to those lands with the Gospel. History tells us that 22 out of those 26 first missionaries died on the mission field prematurely. Two of them were imprisoned, but others went out when they died or were imprisoned, others went out from that little community and took their place - and many of them died. Within several years, out of a congregation of Moravians which totalled 600, there were 70 missionaries right across the world - second to none, never in the history of the Christian church that we know has as many missionaries ever come out of one congregation before.
Sixty-five years after that one hundred year prayer meeting began in 1792, the Moravian organisation and congregation, or denomination if you want to call them that, sent out 300 missionaries worldwide. They were truly the fathers of modern Protestant missions. Many of you know the story about William Carey, you know all about it. In 1792 he stood up among his Baptist brethren, and he challenged them about those who were unsaved, the heathen people of other lands, and he had a particular burden about going to India - and you remember what they said to him, they were hyper-calvinistic, and they told him to 'Sit down', that if God wanted to save the heathen He would do it without William Carey. But what many people do not know is that after they said that William Carey had within his hands a report of what the Moravian 300 missionaries were doing further afield, and he threw it down on the desk before these men, and he said: 'Look at what the Moravians are doing, can we not do the same?'.
It's only a challenge, but I throw the gauntlet before you: look at what the Moravians did, can we not do the same? Also, if you want to see the benefit of what prayer does, and what one hundred years of prayer really does, you go to a little Moravian prayer meeting in Aldersgate Street in London. You see a young man there in a prayer meeting, and he testifies all of a sudden that something spiritual begins to happen in his heart, and on the 17th of May 1738, 11 years after these people had begun praying, John Wesley said: 'I felt my heart strangely warmed'. Charles Wesley, his brother, was in the same meeting and was converted the same night - and both of those men, particularly John, went throughout this nation, the United Kingdom, and eventually over to the Americas and right throughout all of Europe, in an impact for revival that has never been known again - called the 'Great Awakening' because so many were converted and the church was revived.
Will I stop my sermon there? I think that's enough proof, isn't it? That incessant, never ceasing, persistent prayer, persevering before God and wrestling before God, never fails to avail - because it's never a vain thing to call upon the name of the Lord. That one hundred years of prayer is still having a benefit in our nation today, it might be hard to see it, but we're still living in the good of it - and I believe that the results of it will last for all eternity. Look what the Moravians did, can we not do the same?
The grounds for this great prayer effort that they began that lasted one hundred years, was given as Leviticus 6 verse 13. They took Old Testament typology that we're very familiar with, and they took it perhaps in a way that we're not too familiar with, and they talked about the sacred fire that was never permitted to go out. Now you know in chapter 6 verse 8 of this book, right through to chapter 7 verse 38, you have the law of the offerings. If you're ever reading the book of Leviticus, and I'm reading through it particularly at the moment in my own devotions, it's very difficult to discern the difference at times between each chapter. The chapters leading up to chapter 6 seem quite similar to this one that we're reading today, but the difference simply is - as you can see from chapter 1 and verse 2 - that the first chapters are given to the children of Israel, to the nation, to the people; but the verse and particularly the chapters that we're looking at, chapter 6 on, are given specifically to the priests, to those who are the leaders among God's people, to those who are given the responsibility of exercising and executing these holy and sacred offerings and sacrifices.
We don't have time to go into the significance of the offerings and the sacrifices in the book of Leviticus, save to say that all of them are concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, and they are concerning primarily His once and for all sacrifice for sins for ever - that by His blood we are redeemed, that our sins are atoned for in a way that the blood of bulls and goats could never atone. He has once and for all made one sacrifice for sins forever and has sat down at the Father's right hand - finished. Of course, these are shadows and symbols pointing forward to that great sacrifice, but there's more in it than that. Because if we don't see that primarily, we look deeper and we see something that is speaking of our responsibility before God as a kingdom of priests today, as ministers before God in worship and specifically in prayer.
If you don't believe me turn with me for a moment to Revelation chapter 1. I don't want to take too much time, but I want you to know what we are saying is biblical. Revelation chapter 1 verse 5, John is writing to the seven churches, and he says that this is a revelation 'from Jesus Christ, who is' - verse 5 - 'the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood', verse 6, 'And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen'. The Lord Jesus, by cleansing us and saving us, has made us kings and priests unto God. If you turn to 1 Peter for a moment, turn backward a couple of books, 1 Peter chapter 2 verse 5 - we read: 'Ye also, as lively stones', or living stones, 'are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood' - what to do? - 'to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ'. We don't offer literal sacrifices, because literal sacrifices for the present have ceased in the once and for all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. You can't do any better than His sacrifice, but we are called upon as priests to offer up spiritual sacrifices unto God.
If you turn to the book of Hebrews chapter 13, just back a few books again, we find out a little bit more about those spiritual sacrifices in verses 15 and 16: 'By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased'. We have been made kings and priests unto God, we have been made a holy priesthood, Peter says, to offer up spiritual sacrifices unto God. What are these spiritual sacrifices? Paul says in Hebrews that they are 'praise to God continually'. Let the fire upon the altar ever be burning, it shall never go out.
I wonder, setting all the typology aside about our Lord's death - and you know that I'm not meaning in any way to demean that or say it's unimportant - but as we home in on prayer today, we need to ask ourselves: do we follow the example of the priests of Israel? Each morning, do we come and do we clear out and get rid of the old ashes from the day that has gone by, and do we kindle again the flame in our heart, do we stir up the fire that has gone dim in the day that has gone by or perhaps the night that has passed? Do we come as priests before God and bring Him a new offering, bring Him new sacrifices? As Paul says in Romans 12: 'I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, because God has been so good to you, I plead with you that you bring your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your expected worship'.
Do we do it? Clear out the old ashes, stir up the dying embers, bring our bodies to Christ again on a daily basis and take up our cross and follow Him? You remember Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1 verse 6: 'Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee' - the word for 'stir up' literally means in the Greek 'stir up the flame into life again'! Stir it up until you're on fire, until you're a blazing furnace of the love and the power and the holiness of God! I ask you individually and corporately as an assembly today, and please answer me from your hearts: is the flame of God burning high on the altar of your heart? Are you like the two on the road to Emmaus, as their hearts burned internally as Christ walks with them, and talks with them, and leads them on with Himself and reveals more about Himself to them? Are your hearts burning? Or are we like the church in Laodicea that John speaks of, who are lukewarm, who are neither hot nor cold, and who Christ says He will vomit and spew out of His mouth? The Lord Jesus says that there is coming a day, and perhaps we're in it, when the love of men's hearts will wax cold.
We can take many lessons out of this typology here, and time wouldn't permit us to do it, but we're to keep the leaven of sin out of our lives. Leaven is a picture of sin, and we're to do away with that in our lives - and the Lord Jesus spoke of the leaven as being the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He defined it even more narrowly, He's saying 'trying to be something that you're not, portraying a facade of religiosity and of fundamentalism, or Christianity, or spirituality, or holiness, when you're not, is leaven that is sin and is not an offering to Me'. Paul went even further in the book of Galatians and spoke of false doctrine as being like leaven, and then in 1 Corinthians 5 Paul says more: that corrupt living is like leaven, leaven in the offering to God! But our offering is to be holy, acceptable unto God, and the typology here tells us - I believe, and more so right throughout the Scriptures - that our offerings of praise and prayer to God, of a necessity, are meant to be continual. They're meant to be persistent, insistent, persevering prayer before the throne of grace.
Now I don't need typology to prove that to you, and the Moravians didn't need it either, because you go to the Lord Jesus Christ - and it's written upon your bookmark for this day of prayer and the week of prayer - He said: 'Men ought always to pray, and not to faint'. He said again: 'Shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry unto Him day and night without ceasing?'. Paul said to the church of Thessalonica: 'Pray without ceasing' - how more clear can you get than that? Then in Ephesians 6, talking about the armour of God and coming to the last weapon, which is not the sword of the Spirit but is 'all-prayer', he says: 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints' - but note what he says: 'praying always'.
I wonder does God feel like He did in the day of Ezekiel when He said: 'I looked for a man to stand in the gap, I looked for a church to stand in the gap, but there was none'. Isaiah could say: 'Is there not one who will stir himself up to seek My face? Not one?'. We often hear that we need to get back to the New Testament church, and I would agree with that in some respects - I wouldn't like to get back to some of their problems, we've plenty of problems today and we don't need any of their problems because they had some big ones - but you know, often when that's said it's talking about doctrinal practice from the epistles, but I would love to get back to the Acts of the Apostles. I know that there are arguments and we could theologise here all morning about what's for today and what's not for today, but I fear that when we do that, the more we do it the more we miss the whole point of it, and it's this: God desires the church of this generation to have the basic foundational, fundamental power that the church of Jesus Christ had in the book of the Acts. Do you believe that? Do you? The Holy Ghost that came then has not yet gone!
Where did they gain their power? Do you ever ask the question 'Where the birth of the church was?'? If you go to Acts chapter 1 and chapter 2 you find that the birth of the church was in the very middle of a prayer meeting that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself commanded. The power came first on the church in the place of prayer, and some scholars - I don't know whether it's right or not - believe that after Christ's resurrection, as He was just about to ascend in Acts chapter 1, that His appearance before the 500 that Paul talks about in Corinthians was there and then at His ascension, when He told them to tarry in Jerusalem and wait for the promise that would come from on high. Do you know what that means? If that is true and there were 500 people gathered there, there was only 120 turned up in the upper room! 24% - I wonder how that measures up to how many we get to our prayer meetings and other churches do. It doesn't really matter, but what it tells me is this: it doesn't matter how many meet, it doesn't matter how many listen, all that matters is that some men take up the throwing down of the gauntlet of the Holy Spirit and seek God's face, and don't let the embers of the fire go out no matter what.
It's amazing when you go through the whole book of Acts, and I exhort you to do it, and look at the place that prayer was given right throughout it all. Remember in chapter 12 of Acts Peter was taken to prison, and James had already been killed, and they thought that that fate was going to come upon Peter. The church got together and it says: 'Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him'. Prayer was made without ceasing in the church! And a mighty thing is read in verse 24 of the same chapter: 'But the word of God grew and multiplied'. Do you see the connection? If you want the word of God to grow and multiply, there must be prayer in the church without ceasing. And remember back a few chapters, because in Acts chapter 6 the church was in a bit of a mess, and there was bickering, there was unrest, they'd just experienced - if you like - a revival of the Holy Ghost coming at Pentecost, and thousands of souls being swept into the kingdom, and the next minute they're turning round eating the face off one another! Who's getting money from the church? Who's getting favouritism from the leaders of the church? But it is after that, even into the most terrible of circumstances, when the apostles made the decision to give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word of God, and the church followed suit behind them and made unceasing prayer for Peter, that the explosion came of the word of God in the book of Acts.
What is our problem today? I say that our problem is manifold, but one thing is this: the presence of the living God is missing. I know that where two are three are gathered together in His name that He is in the midst, but I think you understand what I'm talking about when I speak of the presence of God is the manifestation of His power evident with it. I have much more to say to you today, I don't really have time to say it, what I would say to you is this: this book is not an end in itself, this book is to bring you to God, bring you into the presence of God, bring you into the knowledge of God. It will happen when you take this book, and when you have a life of prayer as a fellowship, as an individual, but what is choking our type of Christianity - if I can say that - today is what I believe is called textualism, where because the Bible says that Christians are something, or have something, or had something in the beginning, that we acquaint that we have it now. We're like the bus conductor that shouts out the destination so many times that we think we've been there.
A rich man died and left his will, and he passed the text on to his son via the solicitor. This man was going to be a very rich young man, he was the son and heir, and he went to the solicitor and borrowed the text of his father's will. He began to carry it about with him, and now and again he would take it out and look at it and think: 'Boy, I'm really rich, I'm going to have some wealth one day. It's just tremendous!'. But the more he walked around and the more he read that will, the more he became ragged and hungry - and before he knew it he was begging for a crust of bread on the street. When someone came up to him and said: 'Poor fellow, you're in a bad shape! You're weak, you're pale, you're sickly, you're poor', he would react very strongly and say: 'What do you mean? Don't talk to me like that! I have much more than I will be able to use!'. To prove it he dug into his pocket, and he opened up his father's will, and he showed them it and read to them: 'Unto my dear son, Charles, I bequeath my property, my stocks and my bonds, my bank accounts and my entire estate'. Charles was completely satisfied with the text of his will, he took hold of it and he limped down the street, poor, blind, wretched and naked.
Do we go down life's spiritual valley clasping the text of our Father's will, yet walking in rags rather than riches? Listen today, as we have a day of prayer, as we have a week of prayer, I urge you, I plead with you individually and together as an assembly: do not give this up, seek God by faith and prayer. We have not because we ask not, but if we seek and ask with all our heart we will be found of Him! A W. Tozer, whose writings I love, tells the story of a young man who was a preaching colleague of his - and I finish with this. His name was Paul Raider (sp?), and he was just after preaching a powerful sermon on the theme: 'Out Of Men's Innermost Being Shall Flow Rivers of Living Water'. Later on, as often happens preachers everywhere I imagine, there were two men who came to see him, and they wanted to have a meal with him and discuss his sermon. One man began saying: 'Mr Raider, you preached good sermon, but you're all wrong dispensationally'. The other said: 'Mr Raider, you're a good preacher and a good brother, but the problem is that you've the wrong interpretation'. Mr Raider didn't answer, and they all bowed their heads to pray before eating in giving thanks, Mr Raider lifted his head and finally looked across the table at the first brother, and he saw that something was happening to him and tears were streaming down the man's face. His shoulders began to shake with emotion, and finally he was able to say: 'Brother Raider, we have the interpretation, but you have the rivers of blessing'.
Do you know what the song of the Moravian revival was?
'I thirst, Thou wounded Lamb of God,
To wash me in Thy cleansing blood,
To dwell within Thy wounds,
Then pain is sweet and life or death is gain.
Take my poor heart, and let it be,
Forever closed to all but Thee.
Seal Thou my breast and let me wear
That pledge of love forever there.
How can it be Thou heavenly King,
That Thou shouldst us to glory bring?
Make slaves the partners of Thy throne,
Decked with a never-fading crown?
Hence our hearts melt, our eyes o'erflow,
Our words are lost, nor will we know,
Nor will we think of ought beside
My Lord, my Love, is crucified'.
Was it Zinzendorf who said: 'If that is what He gave for me, what shall I give for Thee'?
Let us pray. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar, it shall never go out. Lord, to make our weak hearts strong and brave, send the fire; to live a dying world to save, send the fire; O see us on Thy altar lay our lives, our all this very day - to crown the offering, now we pray, send the fire. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly, Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "The Never-Ceasing Flame Of Intercession" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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