What is intercessory prayer? How does it work? How are Christians supposed to pray this type of prayer?
Because of Jesus’ death we have access to the throne of heaven and to God the Father and “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:14-16). Our King and Savior tells us “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). The point here is that Jesus is our Intercessor and when we pray for anything we should always pray in Jesus’ name because that allows us to enter into the heavenly sanctuary and petition God the Father directly. Christians must pray through the authority of Jesus’ name. This is the first part of how prayer works. We are heard by the Father because the Father receives Jesus and Jesus says that we must use His name in praying to the Father.
The Holy Spirit, Our Prayer Partner
Paul said that the “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). The Holy Spirit sometimes brings things to our minds that we should pray for and even our groanings during intense trials, pain, or suffering the Holy Spirit is able to communicate these thoughts and feelings to our Father, even when we can’t express them in words. In fact the Holy Spirit “searches [our] hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27). So the Holy Spirit actually intercedes for us in a way and is an Intercessor for us in how to pray and to pray according to the will of God. Praying in accordance to the will of God is always the best thing to pray for because God’s will is infinitely better than our will and God is pleased to do His will in our lives. We know for example that we should “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship [and we should] not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of [our] mind, that by testing [we] may discern what is the will of God [and] what is [the] good and acceptable and perfect” will of His (Rom 12:1-2). The will of God then is something we should pray for and His will is that we be conformed to His image and not the world’s and that our minds be transformed as we make our bodies (our lives) a living, breathing sacrifice.
Praying in Secret
Jesus told us that we should never pray to be seen of men but “when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt 6:5-6). Praying in secret and not for show is the most effective prayer for it is harder to pray for outside motives if no one is looking than in private where God alone sees you. I like the idea of praying in private and in a place where I can pray out loud. I believe God loves to hear our voice when we petition Him. If your child came up to ask you something, would they not clearly and plainly speak their needs to you? So too does your Heavenly Father seek to hear your petitions from your own lips but this doesn’t mean that we can only pray out loud because I try to pray throughout the day when I am driving, waiting for something or any time I have a free moment and this might be what Paul meant when he said that we should pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17).
Christians should be praying for one another, for God’s glory to be made known, and for His will to be done. We are commanded to pray for each other and for the sick and this intercessory prayer is interceding on behalf of the needs of others and for God to be glorified in us by our actions, words, and thoughts. The definition of interceding or being an intercessory for someone is; the act of petitioning God in earnest for someone needs or something to be achieved or done. You may be praying for a sick aunt and when you do you are interceding for her and petitioning God to heal her but this healing must be in accordance to His will. Many years ago I was an intercessor and acted as an advocate for someone who could not speak for themselves. This was done in a court of law. They had a lawyer but I offered some eyewitness testimony about this person and told them that they had a sterling quality character and that I could vouch for them. I was interceding on their behalf to the judge. I was being their intercessor in a sense. The word “pray” was frequently used when petitioning or requesting something in a court of law or in the old British House of Commons. The word pray meant to petition or to seek an answer or question so when you pray for others you are interceding for others and this is what is called intercessory prayer. I love this acrostic to help me remember what the order of my prayers should be. It is JOY; J for in Jesus’ name, O in praying for others first, and finally Y for you, praying for yourself last for your own personal needs or situations.
Did you know that Jesus intercedes for us? He actually prays for us just as He did the disciples. In John 17:20-21 Jesus said “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Imagine that! The God of the Universe, Jesus Christ, prays for you! Jesus prayed for the disciples “but also for those who will believe in me through their word” and if you have believed on Jesus that means you! In Jesus today, “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5) and this “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom 8:34). If you are His, then He prays for you today and He is interceding on your behalf. If not, he is against you because if you are not for Him, you are against Him (Matt 12:30). He desires to save you and you can be saved today (Rom 10:9-13) and if you are saved today then He will prays for you right now. If you’re not saved, while you are reading this you can know that I have prayed before that whoever reads this might be saved. As I conclude writing this, I am going to intercede for you in His name on your behalf that you too might be saved after reading this. I am going to have an intercessory prayer for you because that is what intercessory prayer is all about; praying for others on their behalf that they might be saved, that God will be glorified and that I might do His will in my life.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon