Intercessory Prayer – What is it?
Intercessory prayer is prayer for others. An intercessor is one who takes the place of another or pleads another’s case. One study Bible defines intercession as “holy, believing, persevering prayer whereby someone pleads with God on behalf of another or others who desperately need God’s intervention.”
Intercessory Prayer – The Biblical Foundation
The Biblical basis for the New Testament believer’s ministry of intercessory prayer is our calling as priests unto God. The Word of God declares that we are a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:4), a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:8), and a kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:5).
The background for understanding this calling to priestly intercession is found in the Old Testament example of the Levitical priesthood. The priest’s responsibility was to stand before and between. He stood before God to minister to Him with sacrifices and offerings. The priests also stood between a righteous God and sinful man bringing them together at the place of the blood sacrifice.
Hebrews 7:11-19 explains the difference between the Old and New Testament ministries of the priest. The Old Testament Levitical priesthood was passed on from generation to generation through the descendants of the tribe of Levi. “The Melchizedek priesthood” spoken of in this passage, is the “new order” of spiritual priests of whom the Lord Jesus is the High Priest. It is passed on to us through His blood and our spiritual birth as new creatures in Christ.
Intercessory Prayer – Our Model Intercessor
Jesus Christ is our model for intercessory prayer. Jesus stands before God and between Him and sinful man, just as the Old Testament priests did: For there is one God, and one mediator (intercessor) between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34). Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus brings sinful man and a righteous God together at the place of the blood sacrifice for sin. No longer is the blood of animals necessary as it was in the Old Testament. We can now approach God on the basis of the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross of Calvary for the remission of sins. Because of the blood of Jesus, we can approach God boldly without timidity (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Jesus was an intercessor while He was here on earth. He prayed for those who were sick and possessed by demons. He prayed for His disciples. He even prayed for you and me when He interceded for all those who would believe on Him. Jesus continued His ministry of intercession after His death and resurrection when He returned to Heaven. He now serves as our intercessor in Heaven.
Intercessory Prayer – Effective Intercession
In intercessory prayer, we follow the Old Testament priestly function and the New Testament pattern of Jesus – standing before God and between a righteous God and sinful man. In order to be effective standing “between” we must first stand “before” God to develop the intimacy necessary to fulfill this role. Numbers 14 is one of the greatest accounts of intercessory prayer recorded in the Bible. Moses was able to stand between God and sinful man because he had stood “before” Him and had developed intimacy of communication. Numbers 12:8 records that God spoke with Moses as friend to friend and not through visions and dreams as He did with other prophets.
As New Testament believers, we no longer sacrifice animals as in Old Testament times. We stand before the Lord to offer up spiritual sacrifices of praise (Hebrews 13:15) and the sacrifice of our own lives (Romans 12:1). It is on the basis of this intimate relationship with God that we can then stand “between” Him and others, serving as an advocate and intercessor in their behalf.
Peter uses two words to describe this priestly ministry: “Holy” and “royal.” Holiness is required to stand before the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). We are able to do this only on the basis of the righteousness of Christ, not our own righteousness. Royalty is descriptive of the kingly authority that is delegated to us as members of the “royal family,” so to speak, with legitimate access to the throne room of God.
Seven Steps for Intercessory Prayer
Since it is the prayer of the righteous that is powerful and effective (James 5:16), examine your conscience before you pray, and repent of any sin or harsh feelings you may have against other people.
Spend a few minutes in silence, to quiet your mind and come into God’s presence.
During this time, ask the Lord to give you a sense of the things God wants you to pray for. Put aside your own agenda, concerns, and desires and unite yourself to Jesus’ heart. You may want to write down the things that God places on your hearts.
Briefl y refl ect on what you wrote down. What do you think God is leading you to pray for?
Pray for the things on God’s heart—for those who have no faith; for those who have fallen away from Jesus; for renewal and unity in all the Christian churches; for respect for all life; for all the lost, abandoned, or forgotten children of the world; for those under the power of addictions or bound by depression, anxiety, or bitterness; and for prisoners and service men and women. And, of course, pray for your own intentions and those of your loved ones.
As you pray, take confi dence in God’s power to overcome any obstacle. Stand fi rm in faith, and wait to see God work in power.
In your prayer journal, keep a record of what you prayed for, and of the ways God answered those prayers. Thank him and praise for all the ways he has worked through your prayer.
Jesus promised: “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). One of the most powerful ways we can pray as intercessors is together with others. Consider forming an intercessory prayer team.
The final chapter of the Book of Habakkuk gives us a glimpse into the heart of an intercessor, both in praying for a mighty outpouring of grace, and in his abandonment and trust in God’s provision. Let us take Habakkuk’s prayer as our own as we intercede for the many needs of the church and the world:
O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)