"Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).

Our prayer to God is that He would awaken us all to our responsibility and our privilege of being intercessors on behalf of "all men, for kings and all that be in authority." Surely there never was a time in our day when there was more need for this. We know that "the fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much." It is more powerful than mighty armies, for it moves God to act, and God is greater than men. They propose, He disposes, they speak, but He has the last word. The efforts of men to maintain peace in the world only seem to make confusion worse confounded, and they have no way out; but the Christian has a way out. He looks up, he may intercede with God, and may have power with God and men. It is a time for prayers.

We are convinced that the nations have gone far from God, even where once His Name was owned in a formal way, and judgment is overdue. It is most surely on the way, and when it comes it will sweep the world without partiality and in perfect righteousness. We should feel it, and we shall if the fear of the Lord, and His compassions are in our hearts. If He wept for a doomed Jerusalem we should have tears for godless men, and we should intercede for them. It is the intercession of the saints ascending to God that holds back the judgment, for it works in harmony with God's long-suffering, and when the intercession ceases to go up the judgment will come down, and that will be when the church has been caught up. Then woe to the world! But we should be greatly humbled, that seeing we have this responsible and honoured place of access to God on behalf of men, we are so slow and so lukewarm in our use of it.

There were four great intercessors in Old Testament history, and they were highly honoured of God. They were Abraham, Moses, Elijah and Daniel. It would pay us well to mark what manner of men they were. Abraham was the first of the mighty race that had power with God. He grasped the fact that it pleased God to have him near Him as a suppliant on behalf of others. But it was he and not Lot who had this knowledge. He was one to whom the word of God came and HE OBEYED. What folly it would be to imagine that God could listen to those who are disobedient to His word. He speaks first, and if we listen and obey then may we speak to Him and He will hear us. He was A CONTENTED MAN, he was contented with what God gave him. He let God choose his inheritance for him, and refused to be enriched by the king of Sodom, who stood for the world. No discontented, grasping man could be an intercessor. HE BELIEVED GOD, indeed this was the basis of all, but he continued to believe God in every crisis in his life; it was the great feature of his life. And those who would be intercessors must come to God BELIEVING that "He is and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." He knew that God was as good as His word, so that his expectation increased as God's revelation of Himself to him developed. When God said to him, "Fear not. Abram; I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward" he answered at once, "What will Thou give me?" He knew how to ask for himself and to have his request answered, so that when the time came he was able to ask for others. And the time did come when the clouds of judgment hung over guilty Sodom.

God spoke of Abraham as "My friend"; and of no other man did He speak thus. May not it have been that memorable pleading on behalf of Sodom that gave him the title to that designation? The sins of the cities of the plain were great, and cried for judgment, but judgment is God's strange work, and He willeth not the death of any, and in Abraham He found a man after His own heart. So Abraham pleaded. He had a care for God's honour for he had no doubt that the Judge of all the earth would do right. His plea was that the cities might be spared for the sake of the righteous in them. How gladly would God have shown mercy if there had been fifty righteous men in them, or forty-five, or forty, or thirty, or twenty, or even ten. And as long as Abraham interceded, God answered and stayed the judgment. It was not to be. The intercession ceased and the judgment fell. And it is significant that when the intercession ceased we read "The Lord went His way as soon as He had left communing with Abraham."

May we not take this example of intercession — the first in the Scriptures — as a pattern and guide for us. If the nations of Europe and this favoured Britain had even become as debauched and godless as Sodom and Gomorrah, we might still intercede for them. If we know God as Abraham knew Him we shall. Thank God, He has His faithful witnesses in all these lands, many who are suffering for their faith and for Christ's sake. His church is still in the world, and for the sake of His church, His children, we may plead that His hand will bridle and restrain the passions and ambitions of men, that they, His own, may "lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty." And knowing His compassion we may also plead for men in their misery and fear. Men are the work of His hand and He views them with pity, and "is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." This is the day of grace and not of judgment, consequently it is the day for intercession.

The intercession of Moses was more successful than that of Abraham, he continued his prayer until it was answered. For forty days, night and day without food and drink, he pleaded; it is a moving story. Israel had sinned a great sin, but Moses went to the Lord on their behalf. Hear what he says. "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold," — we can almost feel the shudder of horror that passed through the soul of Moses as he confessed that sin — "Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin — ;" and there he stopped. Read the passage as it is given in Exodus 32:32. It seemed an impossible thing to ask, but the faith of Moses rose above the impossibility, for he knew the God with whom he pleaded. Then he continued, "And if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of the book which Thou hast written." The spirit of self-sacrifice was in him. He had surrendered the wealth of Egypt for these people and now he was prepared to sacrifice his very soul for their sakes. It was the spirit of Christ that was in him that made him plead thus with God. He could not have given himself on behalf of them, only Christ could do that, and it is on the ground of His great and efficacious sacrifice that we can plead with God for men. Yet the true intercessor is the man in whom there is this spirit of self-sacrifice. The prayers of the selfish man will be centred in himself and bound by his own interests, he will not have the heart to think of and pray for others.

We have been saved to be God's representatives on the earth. He has chosen us "a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people: that we should show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9). And how shall we answer to this grace and be that for which God has chosen us? Chiefly by prayer and intercession. Being in contact with the tremendous needs of men, the darkness and tyranny of the world, its fears and its sorrows, and knowing the compassion and love and mercy of our God, we shall plead and plead, and God will hear and answer.

Prayer and the need of it may be a great mystery to us, but it is the way that God takes to bless. In His ways with men and in His moral rule in the universe the blessing comes down as the prayers of the saints ascend. Hence it is His "will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (1 Tim. 2:8). Mark the conditions — personal rectitude, holy hands; no unchristian feelings towards others, without wrath; and faith in God to whom we pray, no doubting. "Ask and ye shall receive."