"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." James 5:16
Thus saith Adonai tz'vaot, the LORD God of hosts, "My army fights on their knees." The Lord deposited this revelation in my heart as I looked in my Hebrew Bible at the first letter of the phrase, "Lord of Hosts." In Hebrew, Lord of Hosts is Adonai tz'vaot – Lord (Adonai) of hosts (tz'vaot). Tz'vaot is a plural form of tz'vah (Strong's #6635; pronounced tz-ah-vah) and is generally thought of as the angels (hosts) of Heaven. However, we are part of that group too, let me explain.
Tz'vah (host) speaks of those that dwell in Heaven (1 Kings 22:19), of celestial beings (Deuteronomy 4:19), and even refers to the heavens, earth, and all the host of them that were finished (Genesis 2:1). It has the primary meaning of: to go forth, wage war, to fight and to serve. In the Bible, it speaks of any organized army arrayed for battle, human and/or superhuman (Joshua 4:13; 5:14-15). God alone is the Creator and Sustainer of all hosts under Heaven thus His name, Lord of hosts, Adonai tz'vaot.
The revelation of the "interceding army" comes from the first letter that spells tz'vaot in Hebrew. Tz'vaot begins with the Hebrew letter tzadai. The letter tzadai (also called tz'addik) means "righteous man" and the form of the letter looks like a person on their knees with their hands up lifted in prayer צ. This reveals to us, spiritually, that God's army (tz'vaot), is comprised of righteous (tz'addik) men and women who are on their knees interceding at the command of the Lord of Hosts. We are a portion of the mighty army of God that fights on their knees.
Effectual Prayer and Intercession
I don't know about you, but there have been times in my walk with God when I wondered just how effectual prayer really is. Let's take a look at what Scripture reveals. In Greek, the phrase for "effective, fervent" prayer is energeo (Strong's #1754; pronounced en-erg-eh'-o.) Energeo means: work, to be in work, to be effective, active, operative, to energize or be energized. Interestingly, it also speaks of showing yourself at "effective" work, i.e., putting forth power to accomplish what you are doing. It doesn't speak of force but rather reveals why the prayer of the righteous man avails much. It avails much because we are righteous in Christ Jesus and God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. This is the power that worketh (energeo) in us!
Our prayer avails much! Say it out loud and declare this truth over yourself, "My prayer avails much." The Greek word for avails in James 5:16 is ischuo (Strong's #2480). It means to be strong in body and in health, to have power and strength to overcome. It is the same word that is used in Philippians 4:13, "I can DO [ischuo] all things through Christ who strengthens me." We can avail in all things through Christ who strengthens us. He strengthens us so we can do all things, so we can avail in all things.
The Bible is clear from cover to cover that we are all to pray. Scripture reveals that intercession releases the power of the Holy Spirit into the lives of men and women. You know the Scripture, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Through His intercession and in His name, we have access to the Throne of Grace and can boldly speak our petition. The Hebrew word for intercession is paga (Strong's #6293 pronounced pa-gah). Paga means: to encounter, meet, reach, entreat, make intercession. It also has military overtones with shades of meaning like: to make attack, to strike upon, and to reach the mark, to strike or touch a boundary.
I can't think of any single passage in Scripture that more clearly identifies intercession as something that God has called us to than Ezekiel 22:30, "So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one." A gap is a break in the protective hedge that surrounds whatever it is protecting. If there is a gap in the wall, it is weakened and the enemy has an entrance. Used here, "standing in the gap" is a metaphor for intercession.
Throughout the Bible, intercession is often used synonymously with prayer, however, there is a subtle difference. In a nut shell, prayer is dialogue between God and man and intercession is the act of intervening or mediating between two different parties. This subtle difference is revealed by the spiritual pictures each word paints.
In Hebrew, the middle letter of a word has been likened to the "heart" of the word. Keeping that in mind, if we were to look at the Hebrew letters for the word prayer (Palal Strong's # 6419; pronounced pah-lahl) we would see that it begins with the letter pay, which is a pictograph of a mouth, symbolizing dialogue. The middle letter, or the "heart" of the word, is a lamed, which represents reaching to/towards God.
Now let's look at the Hebrew word for intercession, paga. Like our word for prayer (palal), the word for intercession (paga) begins with the same letter pay, which symbolizes articulation. The next letter, or the "heart" of this word, is the letter gimel, which is a pictograph of a camel, a beast of burden, symbolizing bearing a burden.
In other words, spiritually speaking, the heart of prayer is to connect with God and communicate with Him. Whereas, the heart of intercession is to bear someone else's burden. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
Your prayer is effectual – it avails much! You may think, "But I don't see any changes, sister Tiffany." It doesn't matter if we see it or not, the Bible says that it IS effectual and it DOES avail much! Let's consider Daniel, Scripture reveals that he prayed and fasted for 21 days after receiving a great revelation. Did he see any changes through these 21 days? Did his circumstance change? No, but his prayer was effectual. Scripture reveals that from the first day that Daniel sought the Lord through prayer and fasting, God dispatched help. The prince of Persia was hindering the help that God sent, but nevertheless, it got through. Hallelujah! (See Daniel 10:12-13).
Can you imagine if Daniel stopped praying simply because he wasn't seeing any results? Oy vey! Similarly, can you imagine what might happen if we stop?
Intercession is not passively praying as we pass through the day, it is much more than that. Intercession comes with a cost; the cost of time, sleep, energy, and maybe even in some cases, the cost of our reputation. Are you willing to be part of God's army of intercessors and stand in the gap? Beloved, the Lord of Hosts is searching for someone to stand in the gap because what is most precious to Him is under attack – His beloved Bride, "I am a wall..."(Song of Solomon 8:10a).
We are God's righteous army and there is a mighty war going on in the spiritual realm. May we respond to the Captain's call and stand in the gap, whether it's a good time for us or not, whether we understand it or not, whether we see the answer or not, whether we know the person or not. May we pray with Him and intercede for what is precious to Him and "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
Amen and Amen.