God is at work in heaven and on earth. He works in heaven through Christ who sits at His Father’s right hand, and He works on earth through the Holy Spirit in us.
God’s work in heaven. The work of Christ in heaven is His intercession, of which, according to L. Berkhof, the following elements are found: (1) the offering of Himself as the perfect sacrifice having been completed; (2) the appearing of Himself now before God as a representative of his people (Hebrews 9:24); (3) the perpetual presence of the completed sacrifice of Christ before God—being a constant reminder of His perfect atonement; (4) Christ’s appearing before God now as our Justifier—and He is constantly reminding God that we are justified in Him; (5) Christ’s appearing before God now as the sanctifier of our prayers and our services; (6) Christ’s loving care for His people, helping them in their difficulties, trials and temptations (Hebrews 4:15); and finally (7) it is prayer for all believers: for all our spiritual needs, for protection against dangers and against the enemy who constantly threatens and accuses us, that our faith will not cease, and that we will be victorious in the end.4
The prayers and intercession of Christ is absolutely necessary, both for our help on this earth and for our completed salvation; for though His atoning work on earth has been completed, He now and forever must remind God of that former work and be our Representative and our Justifier. This of course is no problem for Christ, because He is God—He is perfect and lives forever. As Hebrews 7:24-25 states, He abides forever, holding His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, he is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
God’s work on earth. On the whole, God’s work is to get people to believe in Jesus so that they might live forever with Him; for as Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn. 6:29).
Now if we were to briefly describe the work of God on earth, we would start with the work of His Son Jesus Christ. The work of Christ while on this earth was to die for our sins in order that He might bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18). That work has already been accomplished. And so, having completed His work on earth, He returned to His Father in heaven. And there, He is working as our advocate to complete our salvation through His intercession.
But God sent another advocate to help us here on the earth—the Holy Spirit, who abides with us forever (Jn. 14:16). He is the one who continues God’s work on this earth—that of helping people to believe in Jesus (John 16:8-9), guiding them into all truth (Jn. 16:13), and dispensing grace to them whenever they need it. For He being the Spirit of Christ is full of grace and truth (Jn.1:14).
Now, one of the ways in which the Holy Spirit helps us is by interceding for us as we pray—since we do not know how to pray as we should. He tells us what to pray for and how to pray for those things. He shows us the will of God and how to pray according to His will (Rom. 8:27). He also makes us believe how necessary it is for us to pray for certain things, and then urges us on in prevailing prayer.
Here are three elements of God’s work, in terms of prayer, that we should be involved in:
1. Prayer for workers. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38).
2. Prayer for Faith. When Jesus came into His own town, among His own people, the Bible says, “He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13:57-58). We must conclude by this that the reverse is also true—that where there is faith many works of God will be done.
In order for the works of God to be done in your town you must pray for faith. In fact I suggest that you saturate your town with believing prayer. Then, as God begins to work, you will see the power of God become unleashed causing many to believe.
3. Prayer for deliverance and victory. Satan will do everything he can to discourage us. Prayer is necessary for our deliverance and victory. When Peter was arrested and put in prison, while he was held there to be mistreated and killed, the church of God was fervently praying for his deliverance. And on that very night when prayers were made, an angel miraculously delivered him (Acts 12:6-17).
4 L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), pp. 400-404.