Some may say that to be part of a prayer ministry you have to be especially gifted at prayer or be called to this ministry. Well, I want to tell you that we are all gifted at prayer and we are all called to the prayer ministry. That wasn’t always true, but it is true for all believers now by virtue of the fact that we are all priests.
In the Old Testament, beginning with Moses, only the Levites were priests; therefore, all those who weren’t priests, their power with God in prayer was limited. In fact, even David had to use the priest’s ephod to find God’s answers to his prayers (1 Sam. 23:2-6). But now all believers are priests. And, as we will see, a priest has the gift and calling upon him to be a prayer minister. Hence, the participants of the prayer ministry, according to the appointing of God, are His priests. In this section we will first talk about the Levites as God’s priests, then about the Church.
The Levites. The Levites were God’s special servants chosen as priests to intercede before God on behalf of all of Israel. Here are four points of distinction among these Levites that set them apart from others.
1. They had a delegated authority. The Hebrew term priest (Kohen) means one who officiates. They were not chosen by people but were called and chosen by God to lead people and intercede for People (Heb. 5:4).
2. They were called to be holy—set apart for God. They wore special garments, made according to God’s specifications, to signify their holiness (Ex. 28).
They were commanded not to touch anything dead and defiled so that they would remain pure and clean, free of corruption and disease (Lev. 21:1).
They had to have perfect bodies, symbolizing that they were perfect as the perfect High Priest to come (Heb. 7:26). Therefore, when they were chosen as priests they could have no bodily defects or blemishes (Lev. 21:16-23).
Moreover, they were to be completely separate from the world, having no dealings with other tribes. Andrew Murray said, “The priestly tribes were to have no inheritance with other tribes. God was to be their inheritance. Their life was to be one of faith—set apart unto God; they were to live on Him as well as for Him
3. They were to be gentle and compassionate. Though every priest had a high office and was regarded as someone great and holy, he was trained to realize his own human frailty and weakness so that he could understand the weaknesses in others. Hence, he was required to be gentle and compassionate in his dealings with those who were ignorant and sinful (Heb. 5:2).
4. They had special duties. The duties or services of the priests were generally two fold: to minister to God (Deut. 10:8), and to minister to man (Heb. 5:1). The way he ministered to God was through his constant obedience, which included his loving service to man. The way he ministered to man was mainly though his work to intercession. As an intercessor he was responsible for the people and was accountable to God for them. Hence, he brought their needs and sins to Him in prayer as he offered sacrifices for their sins, as well as for his own sins (Heb. 5:3).
He also did the work of a prophet; he brought God’s Word to the people and represented God among the people. He thus showed them what God required and desired of them (Mal. 2:7).
I said earlier that, beginning with Moses, only the Levites were priests. That is true; however, the priesthood did not originally begin with the Levites, nor has it remained only with the Levites. God’s original plan was that all of Israel, and eventually anyone who believed Him, would be a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:4-6).
And so that is how it started. But when Israel broke their covenant with God by failing to obey Him (Ex. 19:5) they lost their rights to the priesthood; and so God at that point instituted the tribe of Levi as priests (Nu. 3:5-13).
Well, the Levite priesthood continued to be in existence for about 1500 years. But then, when God brought forth His Son, the Levite priesthood ended and the priesthood of all believers began. For Jesus Christ, by His obedience unto death and according to His deity (Heb. 5:8-9; 7:22-25), became the first perfect priest; and now all who believe in Him and have their life in Him have entered into the priesthood. Hence, we the church of Jesus Christ are now (and have been for over 2000 years) a kingdom of priests and a special treasure to God.
The Church. 1 Peter 2:9-10 says of the church, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
In Revelation 1:5b-6 John writes, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Yes, we are not only priests but also royal priests. We are kings and priests to God. We therefore have a special royalty that is even greater than what the Levites had. In fact, we have the power and royalty of Christ. He lives in us and reigns in us and through us. Likewise, when we serve others and intercede for others we experience the power of Christ in us, flowing out to others.
Now at this point, it seems fitting that if we are going to talk about the priesthood of the church we really need to back up and consider the Old Testament priests again. Why? Because they were a type of the church; they undoubtedly in many ways give us a picture of what the church should look like. Yes, God had the church in mind all along when He instituted the Levitical priesthood.
So what we will do now (next post) is look at the Levites along side of the church. We will view six different features of the priesthood, which, as we will see, applies both to the Old Testament Levites and to us as New Testament believers. As we consider these things let us ponder the fact that we really are God’s priests. Let us also think about how these priestly features qualify us for and aid us in the prayer ministry.