Sunday, December 9, 2007

Our Two Advocates in Prayer

Due to the solitary (and, at times, arduous) nature of prayer it is easy to feel lonely as we plead for God’s revival blessing. However, that view is at odds with Scripture. In fact, in all Christian prayer we have two Advocates who pray with us. These Advocates take our feeble attempts at prayer and translate them to power before the Father. Let’s consider our two Advocates briefly.

1. The Lord Jesus is our first Advocate in prayer. In the New Testament we find Christ praying for Peter so the disciple’s faith wouldn’t fail (Luke 22.31-32). In the Garden of Gethsemane we see Christ praying for his apostles (John 17.5-19) and for all who would become Christians (17.20-26).

After the Lord’s ascension Christ never stopped praying for us. Heed the Apostle John:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1Jn 2:1-2 ESV)

The word “advocate” in the original Greek is παρακλητος (“paraclete”). Joseph Thayer defines:

1) summoned, called to one’s side, especially called to one’s aid
1a) one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
1b) one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor
1b1) of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins
1c) in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant
1c1) of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom

Charles B. Williams renders the above Scriptures as:

“My dear children, I am writing you this so that you may not sin; yet if anyone ever sins, we have One who pleads our case with the Father, Jesus Christ, One who is righteous. And He is Himself the atoning sacrifice for our sins; and not for ours alone, but also for the whole world.” (1Jn 2.1-2 WmsNT)

In his Commentary Adam Clarke speaks of Christ’s heavenly role as advocate as revealed in 1 John 2.1:

“We have an advocate with the Father - We still have him before the throne who died for our offenses, and rose again for our justification; and there he makes intercession for us. He is the righteous; he who suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Do not, therefore, despair, but have immediate recourse to God through him.”

Christ’s ongoing prayer ministry for his saints is mentioned in two further passages:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Rom 8.31-34 ESV)

“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7.23-25 ESV)

Christ is praying for us continually! Allow this to soothe our souls. Do we trust Christ? Do we trust that Christ’s faith is perfect? Do we trust that Jesus, who always prays according to the will of God, could ever pray a prayer that his Father would reject?

2. The Holy Spirit is our second Advocate in prayer. Understand Christ’s testimony about the Spirit:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
(John 14.16-18 ESV)

The New Testament Greek for “another Helper” is αλλον παρακλητον (“another Paraclete of the same kind”). The Apostle Paul reveals the Spirit’s ministry of prayer for believers:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
(Rom 8.26-27 ESV)

To quote Williams’ translation once again:

“In the same way the Spirit, too, is helping us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself pleads for us with unspeakable yearnings, and He who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit thinks, for He pleads for His people in accordance with God's will.”
(Rom 8.26-27 WmsNT)

Again, allow this to soothe our souls. Do we trust the Spirit? Do we trust that the Spirit’s faith is perfect? Do we trust that the Holy Spirit, who always prays according to the will of God, could ever pray a prayer that his Father would reject?