“”Therefore, since, we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with out weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15, 16
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission…and was designated by God to be a high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 5:7-10
Jesus is, “the apostle and high priest of our confession.” Hebrews 3:1
(Ok, with Paul, the apostle, i want to pray, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be TAKEN forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation…” Hebrews 6:1 Yes, Lord, take us further into You!)
I’m looking, in this essay, at how the concept of priesthood in Jewish religion transferred into Christianity. Jesus is, as a continuation and incarnation of the Jewish metaphors, the High Priest. “But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time He waits for his enemies to be made his footstool…For by one sacrifice, he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrew 10:12) Paul goes on to say, through His Body and sacrifice we can draw near to God, and Paul starts using the language of temple priestly ritual as something now within us-something He has placed “within” His People. This is new covenant thinking! Here, we have “become” the temple (I Cor 3:16). For, “since, we have a great priest (Jesus) over the house of God (which we now are), let us draw near to God..having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” He is our priest and we ourselves are His Temple where He performs His priestly activities. That’s the shift from old to new covenants. He, as High Priest, does His priestly activities within us. One of these would be intercession. So to pray in Christ, is to know Him as Priest-to know Him in His Priestly activities in us, and in His Body.
To know Christ in His Priestly roles, is a part of entering into His fuller Life. For He has embodied the entire priesthood in His Being. The force and intensity of this aspect of His Being-both in His humanity and heavenly nature- is atomic, spiritually! And, it is essential to know Him as priest if we are to have His authority in our prayer lives. His Divine Nature and His humanity are both present as He ever lives to make intercession for us all.
In the patriarchal period, the heads of houses, did priestly actions by making altars and sacrifices before The Most High God–Noah(after the flood, first thing he did!), Abraham (upon arrival in Canaan, builds an altar at Shechem), Job, and Moses–all offered sacrifices to God repeatedly, but especially at key moments. There was this need to offer sacrifices for sin in almost every ancient culture. That to appease or placate God or the gods, one must have this role of someone who was meant to deal with God on society’s behalf–to offer priestly services for the corporate, is ubiquitous throughout human history. Within Jewish culture in almost every area–the one person, can represent the whole. The individual represents and effects the corporate. If one is saved, the whole household is saved.
Paul teaches that the Mosaic period’s priesthood foreshadowed the priesthood of Christ-so prepared a symbolic way for it; and burnt it in the consciousness of humanity, as a “way” of God. Jesus, just as in the case of the law, was the incarnate perfect fulfillment of the priesthood! That is Paul’s point throughout Hebrews. That Jesus is and was a superior priest, for He was a sinless priest who was by His Nature consecrated and able to consecrate by the sprinkling of His Own Blood on His Own altar.
The way we enter Him as Priest! We are told to draw near, get our hearts sprinkled by His Blood for our sense of right and wrong (our conscience) to be awakened, then to be washed by water (could be baptism, washed in The Word etc). Jesus priesthood is unchangeable, eternal–it is a part of His Being. Perhaps, there will come a point, when it is not longer in suffering; but there will still be a priestly function of coming to the Father for the whole of all creatures in Him. This is part of who He is–His Core Identity. So when we come to know Jesus as priest, we are getting to know an eternal part of who He is; not just a dispensational aspect, or one part which will no longer be needed in the new creation. Jesus IS a priest, and He IS the highest of all priest. For He is closest to the Father, and can speak on behalf of the whole of all creation forever.
Jesus as Priest is VERY close to The Father. The other gods, and those who serve them–“priest from other religions etc” are very jealous of Jesus proximity with The Father. That intimacy, makes them jealous; so these beings, including those human figures who serve them on earth, have been very jealous of His Body entering into this priestly aspect of Jesus. They are jealous of it. But that is where His Authority dwells, for in that space and orientation as The High Priest is the freeing of all humanity. So, the church has also had much warfare and blocking around knowing Jesus as priest, because this is the aspect of Christ that the enemies of God are most jealous of. So we have had doctrinal confusions, as well as just simple demonic blocks here. But He wants us to know Him as Priest, and in doing so, participate in His Priesthood-His priestly activities!
So when we enter into true prayer, and join Jesus as High Priest, we are entering that zone of combat, or warfare, where anything that is in rebellion, or is waring against, or jealous of, this One who can draw so close to the Father that He can be the go-between of all of creation; anything that lifts itself up against the Head, will, and has already been overcome by His Cross. And this is our strength in prayer! That spot is the sacrificial intimacy space. That is why His Name is Highest in Heaven and on earth! Jesus continues to serve-for that is His Nature, despite the warfare and accusations against Him and all those He is interceding for. All that murmuring, and yet, He continues to “ever live to make intercession”–now that is an impressive hero of our faith and this Son of God, is truly also our High Priest, who, if we enter in, we are privileged to serve along side Him in this particular aspect of His Life in Heaven! His very nature is to intercede for those He died for- and to do so, ongoingly! This is one of the privileges of the church to enter into this part of His Ministry before His and Our Father! The insights into our cities and nations should be motivation enough, but the higher motivation is to know Him in this area of His Being! Now, there is something else to be aware of in prayer. The position in Him of intercession, makes other rebellious creatures jealous.
The enemy is jealous of Jesus-especially in His proximity to The Father in prayer! And we, in Him, are then able to experience this jealousy aimed at us also–as those who are linked into His Life. The enemy’s warfare is against Jesus ultimately. And that is where we claim our ground. For He already has overcome His enemy, because He has done so on His Cross! So as we pray, we experience His Victory over darkness and all the forces which would interrupt our prayers in Him! This is another way to know the power of His Cross in prayer with Him. If we do not know that He has overcome, we only need to pray with Him to experience it, and make it an existential fact in our own spiritual lives.
Corporate power in Prayer:
In Jewish culture, the part represented the whole; so you have early priest and prophets going up and offering sacrifices and prayers for the whole corporate group. Samuel being an early example, and David later etc. If the church as a whole serves a priestly function for society, then we see that as we pray, we pray both “in Him” and in union with His Whole Body. There is great corporate power in this, for it crosses time and types of spaces. For the saints who have gone before us–the great cloud of witnesses, also joins us in our fervent prayers in Christ. For through Him, we are connected to all that it is in Him! So we pray not as isolated individuals, but we pray as a whole, joining in the whole saintly force in history to bring about God’s Heart into a situation.
The role of church as priest has always been under attack. One attack says she is not pure enough to be the go-between for humanity. This of course is true. But we do not approach God based on our merits, but we enter in through the life and actions of The Son of God! So we boldly approach the Throne, and speak in His Spirit before God.
By joining with the whole Body of Christ, we enter the powerhouse of prayer; for we also enter the wisdom of the ages. For men and women have been praying to Yahweh forever. The force of prayer is a tidal wave pouring out through all the saints past and present, who are praying in and with Christ. When we tap into this reality, our prayers will have an intense efficacy. As we join with all those in His Body who are interceding in Christ, we move in another level of might and power in our prayer life. For we pray also with all the apostles and those who helped download the church, and can then have them standing with us in our pleadings. Jesus Himself while on earth, prayed with tears and groans, and we too, as those in and becoming like Him will share in the force of His Own Prayer Life.
Saint Paul, prayed often for those he spiritually parented. He travailed for them, and rejoiced in The Spirit for those He was allowed to serve. And as he prayed, he gained insights into their struggles and victories, and was able to offer counsel from that revealed knowledge. Many of his letters pour out from his prayer life. For as we pray, we gain God’s perspective on others, and can see what areas, He is concerned with in their lives. As we enter into prayer, we often think we know what the situation needs; but The Spirit teaches us otherwise. For, as scriptures teach, we don’t even know what to pray, but the spirit shows us what Christ is praying, and how He is praying into situations. I personally, am often surprised by what The Spirit is praying. I head in thinking of one area to pray into, and come out in an entirely different part of the issue. That is the adventure of prayer, for really we are listening and agreeing with what we hear His Spirit speaking! So prayer, really is communion in this sense, and should lead to greater intimacy with Christ. That is one of the fruits of prayer, and is why, i think, Jesus prayed so often to The Father. He was being intimate with God in those hours. He was drawing near.
There is a relationship between prayer and prophecy also, in that prayer informs prophecy. We can hear God for another person in the moment and prophecy what we hear; but as we pray, we gain larger insights into that person’s situation-we gain a vision of the spiritual context of that person’s life, and so can offer more wisdom, in applying the prophetic words of God. We can offer counsel and words of wisdom with our prophetic ministering of His Word. Often, when I get a word for someone, i will ask God for a fuller word, until I understand why He is giving that person that word. And if I have the time to pray, i can get a fuller picture of His intervention, which ends up teaching me about His Ways more–not just what He does, but who He is!
So prayer is also a place of getting to know and appreciate God’s Ways. I used to just get the words and give them to that person. But then a friend challenged me to ask God why He was offering that word, as a way of getting to know The Father. It made the process longer, but much deeper, and I left having come to know more of who God is. That was a growth point for me in ministering. Ministry itself is one way of coming to know God. It is not just about helping others, but ultimately also about coming to know how God helps others, and what that reveals about who He is. For the first commandment is to love and know God with all your heart. Even ministering in His Spirit, is firstly about this command.
When I get a word for someone, i usually ask God: is this for prayer or prophecy? I usually go into prayer to see if it is something He desires to download directly into the situation, or whether it is something to move in solely in His Spirit above. If it is just prayer, it is usually about gaining more insight into the situation. Often, later, He will then let me speak into that situation directly. But prayer is where the laboring is. So once we have labored with Him, we can move more directly in His Authority in “giving” His words, or offer a word of prophecy.
Lastly, in terms of prayer. Christ is also interceding for cities and nations. This is another aspect of His prayer life. I often go into that part of His praying. He sees them like corporate people-like a person with complexities. It often takes longer to access His Full Thoughts and Feelings for a city or nation, as there are many parts-each of which He is discipling (calling into wholeness) uniquely. One city, may be healing, another in turmoil or rebellion; while, in the same nation another area may be holy, humble and interceding with Him for the whole. There are priestly cities! This was true in biblical times as well. They have specific callings. Each city has a unique calling and unique aspect of God to reflect. And there are different battles against each city. In the book of Joshua, we see that the Israelites conquered each city using unique means which addressed the root problems of that city. Jericho, struggled with the ways of prostitution; Ai with deception etc. In their case, the time of judgment had come; but judgement was unique to each city. Interceding for cities and nations is intense, but offers so much insight into the nature of God, that it is an exciting addition to our own spiritualities!
Enjoying meditating on Christ’s priesthood, and it’s relationship to His Prayer Life, hope it brings fresh energy into this area of your personal communion with Him in this particular aspect of His Personality and Ministry before The Father. There is so much to know of Him, and His Life, and each aspect brings more love and respect for Him, and potential for what our own lives could become through His!