The Son's Answered Prayer

By Francis Frangipane

To know Christ is to know His heart toward His church. Consider: On the night before Jesus died, the most somber night in His life, our Master presented His most lofty request to His Father. He prayed His disciples would be "perfected in unity" (Jn 17:23). Yet, the only unity the disciples knew that night was a common fear and a collective abandonment of Christ.

Jesus told these soon-to-be leaders of the Jerusalem church that they would be known for their untiring agape love. But that night Christ's three closest friends could not remain awake with him even one hour while He agonized alone in prayer.

In spite of the immaturity, ambitions and failings of His disciples, Jesus unhesitantingly prayed that they would become the human abode of the Trinity--a promise which was almost blasphemous to an Old Testament mind (Jn 14:16-17,23)!

Yet, the confidence of Christ's prayer had little to do with the character of His disciples and much to do with His own power to effect change in their hearts. These average men, these stumbling leaders of the church, would attain such lofty goals, not from their own strength, but through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the intercessory life of Christ. They would do His works because He was about to "...go to the Father" (Jn 14:12b) where He would ever live to make intercession for them!

As it was then, so it is today: The intercession of Christ and the renewing work of the Holy Spirit remain the strength and hope of the church! The shallow, immature condition of the church has never stopped Christ from praying for its perfection. He could no sooner stop praying than cease being the Redeemer of mankind. Just as Jesus cannot cease praying for His imperfect people, so we too ought to position ourselves in intercession as well.

Jesus Our Only Virtue!

As leaders and intercessors, we commit our hearts to obey God, but we frequently fail. Truly, we seek to know His word; but we barely understand it. We pledge ourselves to follow, but how often we find ourselves lost! Christianity was never meant be a means to suppress ungodly attitudes and desires; God's goal was not behavior modification, but relationship modification. Indeed, apart from our living a moment by moment relationship with Jesus Christ, we can do nothing.

This issue of the church's utter dependency upon Christ is absolutely, irrevocably central to God's plan. The power that is to flow from the church is not inherently within the church; it is to issue through us from the relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Our spirituality is measured not in human attainments, but in the measure of our dependancy upon Who Jesus becomes to us. Virtue, true righteousness, is not discovered in our accomplishments, but our abandonment to Christ. Thus, our failures can actually become more valuable than our successes, for in reaching, yet falling, we break, and in brokenness we are cast more desperately upon the mercies of God.

Brokenness creates openness to God, where the actual Presence of the Living One seeps into the soul of the failed follower of Christ. We have recently spoken of those who were devastated by the failing of a leader. Yet, if that leader genuinely repents, he will find awaiting him a fuller unveiling of the living Presence of God.

Dear friends, Every leader Jesus gave the church in the first century failed in one way or another. God didn't turn away from them. Instead, He used their new found knowledge of deepened personal weaknesses to perfect His strength within them (2 Cor 12).

Consider Peter: Though others might stumble, Peter boasted that he would never deny his Lord. Yet, Jesus warned His upstart disciple how, that very night, he would deny Him three times (Jn 13:36-38). Indeed, all Christ's disciples deserted Him. What was the Lord's reaction? Did He chasten Peter? No. Although there are times when Christ must confront and rebuke us, Jesus prayed for Peter that, though he would fail, his faith would continue and he would be a strength to his brothers (Lk 22:32).

Incredibly, knowing His disciples would struggle terribly about their failure, Jesus then further comforted them, saying, "Let not your heart be troubled. . ." (Jn 14:1). He is about to be deserted by His disciples, yet Jesus comforts them, seeking to ease their hearts in advance of their fleeing Him.

Beloved, we do not truly know Christ until we have faltered and find Him still our friend, drawn ever closer to us by our repentance and our brokenness. If we turn and trust Him again, we will find that the same Lord who requires obedient hearts of us remained our Redeemer and Intercessor even when we failed Him. He reminds us that, "he who is forgiven much, loves much."

Two Unchangeable Things

There are two things greater, more enduring than the failings of the church: "the unchangeableness of [God's] purpose..." and Christ's"...permanent" priestly intercession (Heb 6:17; 7:24). The price has been paid, not only to provide us with the very life of Christ, but to atone for our failings until we attain Christlikeness.

Do not abandon people when they fail. The greatest leaders in the church will be people who have known failure. Every revival that has ever occurred has started with people who had previously failed God in some important way. I am not excusing sin. I'm not saying, "Let us sin, that grace may abound." I'm saying that God can still use sinners. Jesus is still a friend of sinners.

Just as Christ has not abandoned leaders who have fallen short, neither should we. Just as He lives to pray for us in our failures, so also should we pray for others in their failures. When we agree with Christ in prayer, an outpouring of redemptive power connects heaven to earth.

Many in the church have been disillusioned and wounded by leaders; conversely, many leaders have been crushed by the people under their care. It is time for the wounding to cease and intercessory prayer to begin. It is time to posses the heart of Christ, who is still praying that His imperfect church, both leaders and congregations, "may all be one."