Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up. But in this post, we are focusing on intercessory prayer.
The Meaning of Intercession
The Hebrew “paga” means “to fell,” or “attack,” but also “meet” or “make supplication.” The Greek was translated as “petition” and “intercession.” Our English word “intercession” is derived from the Latin for “to come between,” which means both “obstruct” and “to interpose on behalf of” someone. Christ stands between us and the Father. That’s why we pray “in Jesus’ name” because it’s by His sacrifice that we are made righteous and can approach the throne of God.
A modern understanding of “intercession” can include “mediation” or “standing up to” someone. This understanding makes God sound like the playground bully. Christ would be the hero, defiant towards an unloving Father, not part of the Trinity fulfilling the Father’s plans for his people. But God is love, and Christ did not defy him. Christ is one with God (John 10:30).
Furthermore, mediation suggests compromise or middle ground. However, God is right, and we are sinful. He is Sovereign, we are his creation. We owe him everything and we deserve condemnation, but by his grace we are free. Believers are able, by this gift alone, to bring the needs of other people before God through Christ.
Intercession in Scripture
Paul exhorted the church to pray that he would boldly declare the gospel (Ephesians 6:19). He told the church to pray for one another with “supplications […] and thanksgivings,” (1 Timothy 2:1), and he prayed for them too. “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfast hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2). We all need intercession, even believers. Paul was moved and encouraged by prayer on his behalf.
Paul demonstrated that the most pressing needs and desires among God’s people start with God’s glory. Paul gives “thanks to God,” and finds hope “in our Lord Jesus Christ.” He asks for prayer to do God’s will, not for an easy life.
Paul was following the standard set by Christ, who petitioned God for the sake of others even as he hung on the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He spoke up for everyone: Believers who followed and then abandoned him; Pharisees, Roman soldiers, and spectators.
The model of intercessory prayer is Christ’s ministry as a whole. He physically threw himself across the chasm that would have separated man and God forever, at the cross but also during his ministry. He stood between the Pharisees’ stones and the woman caught in adultery. Christ came between man and creation by calming the storm.
He restored unclean people to their communities and forgave sinners so they could be reconciled with God. Jesus invited the lost into communion with the Father, such as the tax collector and the Samaritan woman. Intercession is active and risky, and by Christ’s life, we know how intercessory prayer should look.
Christ “bore the sin of man and makes intercessions for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Christ was frequently rejected. We can pray, but not everyone wants to be prayed for. And when we pray for the abused, we might be abused along with them.
A need for intercession implies that someone is weak, but not Christ. We are strong in him; not impervious to harm physically and emotionally, but able to direct the gaze of sufferers to Christ by keeping our eyes fixed on him ourselves.
Even if those we stand up for reject our help, there is the chance their oppressors will see God at work in our lives and be changed. Matthew 8:5-13 describes the heart of a Centurion who, on another day, might have been among those to beat Christ and nail him to the cross. In Matthew’s account, he was drawn by Jesus’ willingness to help the weak by meeting their physical needs before offering what they really needed — forgiveness of sins.
Is Intercessory Prayer Necessary?
Intercessory prayer is not only a privilege but a command. “Continue steadfastly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2) is an “imperative.” “Persistence in prayer is not an option for the Christian” but “an order from the Lord Himself.”
Jesus “means for us to understand and take seriously the fact that our prayer is a major factor in advancing God’s kingdom in this world”. We aren’t necessary to God’s work but living life in the Spirit can and will inspire others to seek God.
Leave us a comment and let us know about your experience of prayer and its problem. Is there something we can pray about with you? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to pray with us? We host two online prayer gatherings each week. Tuesday morning at 10:00 am Eastern time and on Thursday evening at 9:00 pm Eastern time. We are happy to have you join us and we will send you the Zoom link if you ask for it. Send an email to email@example.com or give us a call at 800-784-7077.