When someone we care about is going through hard times, we want to help in whatever way we can. Oftentimes that means practical acts of service, such as bringing food, running errands, or providing childcare. But the most powerful thing we can do for others is pray for them. All our efforts are limited by our abilities, but prayer accesses the almighty power of God.
“We never know how God will answer our prayers, but we can expect that He will get us involved in His plan for the answer. If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf of the people for whom we pray.” —Corrie ten Boom
Let’s read Deuteronomy 9:25-29:
“So I fell down before the Lord the forty days and nights, which I did because the Lord had said He would destroy you. I prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord God, do not destroy Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or their sin. Otherwise the land from which You brought us may say, “Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which He had promised them and because He hated them He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.” Yet they are Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have brought out by Your great power and Your outstretched arm.’”
Moses repeatedly pleaded for Israel by reminding the Lord of His promises to them and His faithfulness to uphold His great name among the nations. But prayer isn’t reserved for spiritual superheroes. There are dozens of promises in Scripture, each detailing what God desires to do in the lives of others, and we can use those passages as a guide to pray according to His will for people in need (1 John 5:14-15).
Definitions of Intercede
- The Hebrew word is palal, which means “to intervene” and “make supplication.”
- The Greek term is the compound word huperentugchanó. The root word means “to meet a person for the purpose of conversation or supplication.” It’s the technical term for approaching a king to petition him.
Characteristics of an Intercessor
“Intercessory prayer is a benefit to the man who exercises it, and is often a better channel of comfort than any other means of grace.” —Charles Spurgeon
Awareness. Everyone’s needs and situations are different, and being sensitive to that fact is essential. Reading God’s Word is the best way to discover how He would have us pray for someone else.
Availability. If we truly desire to dedicate our whole self to praying for others, we’ll be willing to give whatever it takes—our time and sometimes even sleep—in order to faithfully bring that person before the Lord.
Advocate. When we pray, we stand alongside the people we’re pleading for. We are in their corner as an advocate. This word comes from the Greek term paraklétos, which means “called to one’s aid; an advocate.” And that’s exactly what an intercessor does.
Acceptance. We are quick to pray for loved ones or those whom we like, but Jesus tells us to also pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:44). This means that as we intercede, we must accept the person as someone God loves.
Abandonment. Praying for others means that we lose all self-interest, because what we desire may not be what the Lord wants to do in that person’s life. Like Christ, we must be able to say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
Colossians 4:12 describes intercession as “laboring earnestly” in prayer. The Greek word for this phrase is agónizomai which means “to contend for a prize, struggle.”
Two of the most important aspects of intercession are perseverance and faithfulness. Praying for others won’t always be easy, and sometimes we’ll be tempted to give up, especially if we see no results. But when God lays someone on our heart, we have a responsibility to pray with persistence and faith.
- Which characteristics of an intercessor are the most difficult for you? What can you do to begin cultivating them in your life?
- What motivates you to pray for others? What obstacles hinder you in your efforts to intercede?