I awoke suddenly out of a vibrant dream that was filled with lightning. (Although this happened years ago, I remember it as if it were yesterday.) One lightning bolt after another exploded before my eyes—continual, splintering, powerful lightning bolts from heaven to earth. No people. No words. Just incessant light, action, sound.
When I woke up from this intense, Holy-Spirit-saturated dream, the whole room still crackled with God’s electric presence. I lingered in that presence for twenty minutes or so before it dissipated. As I lay there musing, What in the world was that about? I saw “Job 36:32” spelled out in large, illuminated letters that were two or three feet tall. I turned on the light and found Job 36:32 in my Bible. I remember thinking dubiously that I rarely seemed to get anything out of the book of Job, but then I read this: “He covers His hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the mark” (Job 36:32 NASB).
Lightning-fast, I made the connection. Lightning was “striking the mark,” just as our God-directed intercessory prayers do. And everything fit together even better when I considered the huge role that such prayer had been playing in my life at that time. For starters, the dream occurred while I was staying in a suburb of Toronto on the last night of a Vineyard church conference called “Fire on the Altar,” at which I was teaching about intercessory prayer. Prior to that, God had put me through ninety days of prayerful seclusion during which I had prayed in tongues for six to twelve hours a day. I had been sequestered in my home for three months straight, not doing any public ministry, but rather focusing on praying and singing in the Spirit. By the end of that time, I had grown so accustomed to praying in the secret place that I did not know whether I wanted to come out and engage in typical ministry again.
Another connection did not become clear until a few weeks later, when what is now known as the Toronto Blessing began. Yes, the first evidence of that special outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred at the end of the very next month following my dream. I am convinced that what happened in Toronto could not have happened without the persistent, intercessory prayers of many, many people around the world, including mine.
Collectively, I believe our intercession had released the flashing forth of God’s “glorious lightning” and directed it to hit specific targets of need. It really happened just as the verse from Job says: “He covers His hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the mark.”
The verse that follows is also interesting. It comments on the response to what has happened in verse 32: “Its noise declares His presence” (verse 33 NASB). Prayer creates lightning strikes from heaven—and thunder is the corresponding “sound” of that lightning. Prayer creates a thundering noise that declares God’s presence. Thus, prayer produces a sound—more than that, a combination of sounds. In chapter one of this book, we will see how prayer is like the harmonious music of an orchestra.
A Place of Meeting
People of prayer often work behind the scenes. While others in ministry work in plain view, they work in the “back room,” in secret. Their prayerful intercession creates a place of meeting between God and men and women. In the midst of intercession, God lights upon the person praying and moves them from the natural to the supernatural. Empowered by God, the intercessor has the ability to cut down enemy forces and pick out targets for God’s lightning bolts of glory. Prayers that “strike the mark” are prayers authorized by the Holy Spirit and endowed with divine power to accomplish the will of God.
In other words, intercession is our invitation to call forth the glory that is on God’s hands in heaven and invite it to invade our space on earth. It is a high privilege to pray prayers that strike the mark. You and I have the great honor of being called to “paint targets” on our cities, on our churches and ministries, on our family members, on the modern-day Sauls in our lives (our persecutors), and even on ourselves. In prayer, we may target the United States government, the state of Tennessee, the city of Los Angeles, particular missionary and relief organizations, people we hear about in the news, people in authority, and much more.
I keep using the word target, both as a noun and as a verb, because it is part of the definition of the Hebrew root word paga, which English-speakers often translate as “intercede.” Paga generally indicates “to meet,” but its shades of meaning include “to light upon by chance,” “to fall upon,” “to attack,” “to strike down,” and “to cut down”—as well as “to strike the mark.” The word paga does not relate only to prayer, but the various nuances of its meaning can help us understand the dimensions of intercessory prayer.
The meaning of paga is very similar to the English word intercede, which comes from the Latin and means “to go between” (inter: between; cedere: to go), to act between parties with a view to reconciling those who differ or contend, to plead in favor of another, to interpose, to get involved in solving a problem, to step into the gap when needed, to meet with, or to mediate.
In a real way, you could call intercession “extreme prayer,” because it brings together extreme needs with the extraordinary power of God—bridging those two extremes. By inserting ourselves into the gap between God and a need, we help to bring about a work of grace, calling upon the Holy Spirit, our Helper, who is standing by ready to move us from finite ability to infinite ability, enabling us to take hold of situations and help accomplish the will of God.