When we weep in intercession, it’s a surrender of self and full identification with the heart of God and the unsaved. The work of Christ must continue in us, and part of this is to lay down our lives as we live the love of God for others.
Thus says the Lord: “Refrain your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, And they shall come back from the land of the enemy. (Jeremiah 31:16)
Jeremiah is a remarkable example of the compassion of God. As a prophet, he watched as the Jews were carried into Babylonian captivity and wept. On one level, he could justifiably say that he had failed in the work he was called to do – to warn God’s people and turn them back to true worship and obedience. Yet instead of anger and frustration, and even lashing out at those who rejected his prophetic messages, he laments. Beyond his own pain and grief is the larger compassion for God’s people in bondage. It reminds us of Jesus weeping on the hill above Jerusalem, or asking God on the cross to forgive those who crucified Him. How many times have we wept to see others reject the cross and choose the captivity of sin and the kingdom of darkness? To weep in intercession is to share God’s heart.
What it means to weep in intercession.
Our perfect example is Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. His struggle there was not only against temptation and the knowledge of the unbearable suffering that lay ahead of Him. It was also a struggle between His own frailty and His heartbreaking compassion for those who would perish in sin. This was the evidence of the heart of God. To weep in intercession is to fully identify with those for whom we pray. These aren’t cursory or surface prayers that this or that person will be saved. It’s a place of deep and terrible mourning for the inevitable eternal damnation and suffering that awaits them. Just as Jesus wept on that hillside and in the garden, every believer is called to this level of identification with those who do not know Christ. It is an intrinsic part of the ministry of Jesus which continues in us.
Identification is a powerful principle. It breaks down barriers and destroys separation. We can no longer pray from a distance but must immerse ourselves in the condition of those for who we pray. The distinction can be explained by the difference between sympathy and compassion. Sympathy means that we have pity but from a distance. It’s an emotion that does not require us to participate and which doesn’t impact us individually. We don’t feel the other person’s pain or problem, we see it and pray without becoming involved. Compassion, though, pulls us right into the situation. We experience it as if it were our own. We feel what the other feels or will feel. Through identification, we stand in their shoes. Compassion allows no separation or distance. When we come to a place where we truly weep in intercession, we discover the heart and compassion of God.
To weep in intercession is part of our ministry.
In all things, as believers, we must follow the example of Jesus. What this means is that we don’t do things ourselves but allow Him to work through us. It means that we are gradually transformed into His likeness – that we manifest His nature and character. Our ministry is to continue the work of Christ on earth, and that includes His compassion. Like Jesus, we must be prepared to weep in intercession. We must identify with the unsaved as He did – to the point of laying down our lives. True intercession is never a comfortable or ‘feel good’ calling. It’s a down and dirty kind of prayer where we grieve and weep and mourn for others before God. When we do this, we remind Him of His heart and compassion. We reach His mercy and grace as Jesus did, because self is no longer relevant.
Most of us will find it in us to weep in intercession for those we care about. We will readily bring our loved ones before God with weeping and groaning for their salvation. But today’s verse reminds us that our intercession isn’t limited. It has to be universal – for everyone who has turned away from God. This includes our problem boss or nasty colleague, and even those who openly reject Him or mock our faith. It includes those who persecute us or revile our message. And this is where the real challenge comes in. Each and every one of those will perish unless they turn to God. We may be the only person to pray for their salvation. It may take years, but we are required to identify with them as Jesus did with us and to grieve with the heart of God.
What happens when we weep in intercession?
We must realise that compassion is also identification with Christ. The very definition of intercession is to stand in the middle. We identify with both sides. We feel the pain and suffering the unsaved face and the terrible heartbreak of Jesus over them. To weep in intercession requires absolute commitment and surrender of self, but it opens the way for powerful intervention. The moment we identify with Christ in this way, He presences Himself in our prayers. When we share in His suffering through intercession, He releases His own intercessory ministry into our prayers. What this means is that we no longer pray on a natural level but on a supernatural level. We are in Christ and He is in us, and our prayers unite with His to effect supernatural results. We may never see them ourselves, but God always responds to the manifestation of His own heart.
The other awesome truth is that we remind God of His own will. We must never underestimate the will of God. It took Christ to the cross, the grave, and the resurrection to make a way that all might be saved. The harsh reality is that many will continue to reject the truth. Many will turn away from God and will not listen. But today’s verse gives pause for thought. Jeremiah’s weeping and his tears called forth a powerful promise from God. The lost would return. His work would be rewarded and the people would return from captivity. This challenges us with a powerful question. How many might be saved if we were willing to weep in intercession as Jeremiah wept? If we had the courage to identify with them and with Jesus so completely that we grieved in agony of heart, how many could turn to God?
To weep in intercession is to lay down our lives.
Comfortable Christianity acknowledges the need for prayer. It will call prayer meetings and even set aside certain days or times. Believers gather and pray earnestly, then everyone goes home until the next time. To weep in intercession is a way of life, not weekly attendance at a prayer meeting. It’s ongoing, not a few hours here or there. There is a constant cry of a heart wholly surrendered to Christ. This demands that we lay down our lives as Jesus did and live His commitment to those unsaved. It’s the kind of prayer that remembers that we were once like them. Not living in condemnation but rather living in identification. The ability to weep for others is God given, but cannot coexist with self. This is the principle behind the two greatest commandments. When we truly love God, we cannot help but love others, we love with His love.
To love with God’s love is to feel what He feels. That is the power when we weep in intercession. It is a heartbroken prayer from God’s heart to His heart. Little wonder, then, that those in captivity will return.
Lord, we are humbled as we glimpse the measure of Your love and compassion. Change our hearts and lead us to the place of surrender. Grant us the grace to weep in intercession as You did, to identify with the lost as You did, and to cry out to You for their salvation with the heart of Jesus in us.