By Ashley Hooker, Crosswalk.com
I was at Bible study on Wednesday night just after Russia invaded Ukraine. We were all talking about how awful this was and thinking about what we could do to help. One member of our group said we need to put Russia and Ukraine on our prayer list. As Christians, we needed to stand in the gap for all the people involved in this terrible chain of events.
After that meeting, I began to think about what standing in the gap meant. Where did this idea come from? I wanted to understand how I was going to stand in the gap for a situation I knew little about. Did it mean I was just to pray or was I to do something too?
Where Does This Phrase Come From?
Through the many years I have been a Christian, I have heard the phrase “stand in the gap.” It was not until that recent experience mentioned earlier had I truly thought about what it meant. I must confess, I was not even sure where in the Bible it stated, “stand in the gap.” After some digging, I found it.
I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. Ezekiel 22:30
The prophet Ezekiel heard these words from God at a time when the kingdoms of Israel and Judah had been exiled. Ezekiel was from the southern kingdom of Judah. When the Babylonians attacked, they placed a vassal king in charge. The king Jehoiakim is placed on the throne but rebels against Babylon. He and the first wave of Jews are exiled. Ezekiel is a member of this first group, and it is while in exile, he begins sharing what God is telling him.
While the Jews were living in exile, they were making idols for themselves and murdering one another (Ezekiel 22:1-6) Further on in chapter 22, we find God’s people committing adultery, fornication, lewdness, and pornography. Incest, usury, and murder for hire were common (Ezekiel 22: 7-12). The people had turned their eyes from God. Even the priests were violating the law.
It is precisely at this time God is looking for that person who will stand in the gap for the people. He is looking for the Abraham that stood in the gap for Sodom. He is looking for the Moses who will plead on the Israelites behalf. What God finds is no one and He brings down his judgment upon his beloved people.
What Does it Mean to Stand in the Gap?
In biblical times, there was a wall built around cities. This wall was a fortification; used for protection. When a hole was found in the wall, it was of grave importance it be repaired. During battles, defenders would have to swarm a hole, or breach, in the wall to protect the citizens of the town. A breach in the wall that was not repaired or defended would mean the city would fall.
God’s people had a hole in their wall. Sin had breached the wall and the people were falling. When Ezekiel shares the words, God has spoken, he is telling the people that God is prepared to send down his wrath and destroy Jerusalem. Judgment was coming.
In the modern world, we do not have walls surrounding our cities. We have spiritual walls. The wall of protection for the people is God’s love. When we stand in the gap for others, we are asking God to help them when they cannot help themselves. We are asking God to protect, care, and assist others when all seems lost. When we stand in the gap, we are working to accomplish God’s will for His people. No Christian wants to see others hurt, scared, or hopeless. We desire, like God, to see people come to know the saving grace of our Lord. We want no one to spend eternity in hell. Accomplishing this goal means we must protect the breaches in the wall.
Standing in the gap means we are working for the kingdom. We are planting the seeds so the Holy Spirit can work in hearts. We are tending the field, so that no one leaves this earth without Jesus. We are preparing others for a harvest that will gather in heaven.
3 Ways We Can Stand in the Gap
Because standing in the gap is so important in our walk of faith, it is important that we understand how we can do that. Let me share three ways you can stand in the gap for others.
1. Intercessory Prayer
Praying for others is the best way to stand in the gap. There are people all over the world living in crisis or in opposition to God. People in our workplaces, communities, churches, government, and institutions all need prayer.
God was looking for someone to stand in the gap for his people and He is still looking for people to stand in the gap today. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
When we answer the call to pray, we follow the command to intercede.
“I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” Romans 15:30
2. Serve Others
A man in my community was having some financial troubles. He was having to make a choice between paying his bills and buying groceries. Our church began praying and felt God leading us to help this man. We delivered a load of groceries to his home. I don’t share this to brag. I share this to show how when we serve others, we can help breach their wall. He was able to pay a bill because he didn’t have to buy groceries.
There are people all around us that need a helping hand. When someone is struggling in your community, pray about how you can help and then act on God’s instruction. When you help someone in need, you are giving them a chance to work out the kinks in their lives. You also are sharing the love of God with them.
3. Be Vulnerable
It may seem strange to discuss a personal characteristic of us when talking about standing in the gap for others, but it is important. Standing in the gap for others can only happen when we are vulnerable to the Spirit. Our personal relationship with God must be good before we can hear the call to help others.
Author Brene Brown said, “If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper, and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. We cannot hold anything back from God. To be vulnerable is to allow yourself to be seen heart, soul, and mind. We find our deeper purpose when we lay everything at the foot of the cross. There will be nothing clouding our discernment of God’s plan for our lives.
When we are vulnerable, we see the greater good in sharing our pain with others. We can be an encouragement. Others will know they are not alone in how they feel. Someone has or does feel the same way they do!
In Ezekiel we read the words that express the sadness of God when he found no one willing to stand in the gap for his beloved Israel. What these words tell us today is that God is still seeking people to stand in the gap for his people. He still wants us to pray, serve, and be vulnerable to the needs of His people.
Let us always strive to keep our senses open to hearing the instructions of God and stand in the gap for others, not letting Satan enter the wall of our hearts and minds.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/LoveTheWind
Ashley Hooker is a freelance writer who spends her time homeschooling her two children, ministering alongside her husband as he pastors a rural church in West Virginia, and writing about her faith. Currently, she is a contributing author for Journey Christian magazine. She has taken part in mission trips with the NC Baptist Men during the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey in Mississippi and Texas. In her local church, she has served on various committees focusing in the area of evangelism along with traveling to West Virginia and Vermont to share the Gospel. Her dream is to spend her time writing and sharing the love of Christ with all she meets.