I think of an odd letter I received many years ago. Petitions and prayer requests were anything but unusual to me back then. In fact, they were quite the usual thing. I was working in a religious publishing house at that time, and my job involved reading and answering the assortment of letters that came every day from all sorts of people who followed all walks of life. But I was never to forget a letter containing such poignant request—of someone; a total stranger, a man I’d never seen in my life begging me to intercede for him before God, for His forgiveness. It was this man’s hope that perhaps God would listen to me.
I didn’t know what kind of a person he was, or what kind of a life he walked, but it was obvious to me that this man desperately needed a Savior. His letter made it evident he was tormented by the burden of sin that he was carrying. He knew that the Bible makes it clear that God is omniscient—that He sees everything, hears everything, and knows everything. He knew God was aware of the kind of life he was leading, and believed that God would not hear him; nor could forgive him.
Paradoxically, he was running away from the only true source of peace. He found himself addicted to sinful habits from which he couldn’t free himself. He yearned for forgiveness and an opportunity to get right with God, he knew he needed to live a different life, but though he tried, he couldn’t change. The reality of his sinfulness crippled his faith and alienated him completely from God. He had nowhere to go to ask for help, no other way of reaching out to God than through this letter—his last hope of salvation. Thus he begged.
I remember how my heart ached for this man back then as I read his feelings of worthlessness and despair. He desperately needed to reconnect with God, yet he couldn’t approach heaven for himself. How miserable he must had felt!
Unfortunately, this man was not alone in his despair. Thousands, if not millions wander the world today bearing the burden of condemnation. That strain of that burden has drained them of peace, and reduced them to living in constant shame and fear. If only they knew the truth. If only they knew that the Son of God had died for them and was ready to intercede for them before the Father! I could only imagine how different his life would have been. Certainly, this man’s fear that God would reject him would have disappeared instantly had he heard the Son of God praying for him. And Jesus did! The Son of God prayed for this man long before he was born.
I am so humbled by this thought—that Jesus prays for me; that He asks His Father that I might not fall short of His glory. I like to use imagery to fully grasp the concept. I like to think of Christ looking through the pages covering the millennia of human history; looking down the ages. I like to imagine Him looking through the names written in the Book of Life, tracing names with a finger, making plans for eternity. And then He comes upon my name, and His mouth curves up in a smile, and He speaks my name out loud. And then the verdict is delivered—by the grace of God, I am saved! Jesus says that even before I was formed in my mother’s womb, He saw me and wanted me to be saved. “And that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me” (John 16:26, 27).
Can you imagine Christ praying for you? If you find that hard to believe it, take a look at John 17. There you will find the wonderful prayer He prayed for His people. In that dark night in Palestine when the whip and the crown of thorns were already foretending His destiny, we find Jesus down on His knees in a shadowed garden praying for the lost of humanity.
I can almost see Him clenching the damp ground as He prays in agony. If I listen carefully, I can even hear His voice above the murmur of night breezes tumbling through the leaves of a nearby olive tree. His tones are not those of triumph, but only of human anguish. For a moment, time stands still, awaiting a decision. The moon casts gloomy shadows, leaving what had been a peaceful place in total darkness. The humanity of the Son of God trembles as He struggles to decide the fate of the world. Suddenly, a cry for mercy is heard—a cry coming from the incomprehensible depths of a love that seeks the redemption of the world. Christ’s pleading to His Father in our behalf drowns every other sound.
Despite His agony, Christ was able to look beyond the further torture and the death that awaited Him at Calvary. He fastened His thoughts on the destiny of humanity, and with a deep intensity of emotion pleaded with the Father for our salvation. That prayer is saturated in the most pure form of love ever known. “Father, I pray for them. . . . My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. . . . My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message. . . . Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am” (John 17:9–24).
What powerful prayer! We need have no hesitancy about coming to Christ—He will never reject us. Knowing that Christ desires our salvation, that He prayed for us long ago, in that garden—prayed that we might be saved—should reassure us. He intercedes even for such as we are.
As long as you can hear Him pleading for you, you will never fear that Christ will cast you out.