Defining intercessory prayer
Perhaps the best definition of intercession according to the Word of God is to describe the intercessor as “one who stands before God on behalf of persons or situations that either cannot or will not come before God on their own.”
– Penetrating the Darkness, Jack Hayford
The concept of intercession can be summarized as mediating, going between, pleading for another, representing one party to another for, but not limited to, legal situations
– Intercessory Prayer, Dutch Sheets
Previously we talked about the word pagah, the Hebrew word for intercession. “To impinge” or “encroach or advance beyond the usual limit.”
Pagah also means “to strike the mark.” When God releases His light, causing it to flash forth from His presence like lightning, its striking the desired target is likened to intercession.
Job 36:32: He fills his hands with lightning bolts and hurls each at its target.
We are like a magnifying glass in one sense. No, we don’t magnify God’s power, but we do let the Son shine forth through us, directing His light to be desired situations, allowing it to strike the mark.
Intercession is a different kind of praying than our devotional prayer time with the Lord each day. The doing of intercession requires that we:
- Understand what we are seeking to accomplish in prayer
- Learn how to hear the voice of the Lord
- Respond in obedience to His promptings and know our place in the partnership
- Make the long-term commitment to intercede for people and circumstances
Three points that will help us better understand intercession:
- Intercession has to do with praying for somebody else. The “somebody” may be a nation, someone you know or someone you do not know. It can be a family member or your congregation. Intercession has to do with praying on behalf of.
- Intercession relies on the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help.
- Intercession challenges humankind’s helplessness to deal with the largest issues of life. We are powerless in our own abilities to make changes of destructive patterns in our own lives and in the lives of the world. It is only through the power of the cross that we can see change.
Romans 8:26-27: And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
He will also prompt us, reminding us of people or circumstances that need to be carried in intercessory prayer. Relying on the Holy Spirit goes further than simply letting Him enable our prayer; it also requires us to listen for, hear and obey His voice as never before. The Lord has things to say to His people. He calls us to prayer and instructs us of things to pray for. A person will come to mind: a sense of need and urgency. The summons is to prayer, recognizing that all consequences depend upon it.
The redeeming work of the cross bring hope to the hopeless.
Christ’s coming, reconciling us with the Father, reversing the death process by His resurrection— all of these are statements to us by the Father that nothing is beyond redemption. Nothing in your life, nothing in my life, nothing of anything we face— nothing is beyond redemption.
The scope of this intercessory privilege can be summed up in three words: intersection, intervention and interception. Let’s look at each one to see how it defines and broadens our understanding of the action we can take to penetrate the darkness of our world.
Intersection is used in the sense you might expect: a crossing of two roads.
You may know someone facing a difficult choice, or co-workers who are deciding what they will choose regarding salvation. There may be a major vote in the state where you live or the possibility of layoffs where you work. All of these examples represent people or circumstances coming to a crucial moment — a decision point — and what is brought to bear upon that moment in prayer determines which way things go.
The intercessor’s privilege is to bring to that crossroads, to that issue, what Christ has accomplished at the cross.
Esther 4:13-17: Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
These Jews were at a critical intersection. They were going to be wiped out if Esther did not intervene. Mordecai recognized that God had placed her there at such a time as this!
Esther called for a time of fasting before she approached the king.
The intercessor, then, intersects the issue at hand with the triumph of the cross. We stand before the Father praying for those who are at the crossroads, interceding for the turning of people to a new way of life. It is wrapped up in the words “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
When we intercede, we are asking for the entry of Jesus’ Kingdom rule into that situation. We are asking for God’s original intention for that person or that circumstance to come to fruition. We are contending for the rout of the enemy who would still seek to make some believe that he has power. We are exercising the privilege of intersecting situations with the promised power of the cross.
Intervention has to do with stepping in. For example, two sides are fighting and someone steps in, or intervenes, to bring peace.
Esther 5:3: Then the king asked her, “What do you want, Queen Esther? What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half the kingdom!”
Intervention is that aspect of intercession where a person recognizes he or she has been given the right through Jesus Christ to invade a tough situation. We are given the privilege of moving into that situation in prayer, recognizing that someone needs to step in on behalf of the Kingdom.
Matthew 28:18-20: Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus has given us ALL AUTHORITY to do His will. This means he wants us to intervene for those whose lives are heading towards destruction. We cannot force people to change, but we can pray for God's love and power to be revealed to them. Only God can truly change people.
The third word, interception, is what you see in an athletic competition, like football. The quarterback steps back and hurls a pass downfield to his receiver. Suddenly, in a flash, a backfield defender crosses in front of the intended receiver, seizes the ball and begins to work his way upfield — in the opposite direction. What has happened is not only an interception, but a complete reversal in direction. An action that was intended to for defeat of one team has become victory instead.
Esther 7:1-7: So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet. On this second occasion, while they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “Tell me what you want, Queen Esther. What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half the kingdom!” Queen Esther replied, “If I have found favor with the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my request, I ask that my life and the lives of my people will be spared. For my people and I have been sold to those who would kill, slaughter, and annihilate us. If we had merely been sold as slaves, I could remain quiet, for that would be too trivial a matter to warrant disturbing the king.” “Who would do such a thing?” King Xerxes demanded. “Who would be so presumptuous as to touch you?” Esther replied, “This wicked Haman is our adversary and our enemy.” Haman grew pale with fright before the king and queen. Then the king jumped to his feet in a rage and went out into the palace garden.
Haman thought he was going to the banquet to be honored. It was his idea of how to honor this guest. He had to publicly honor a man that he despised and then he was killed instead of Mordecai.
This is how interception looks. The enemy thinks he is about to win, but through prayer we turn things in favor of God's ways.
Colossians 2:15: In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
Through His death Jesus divested all powers of hell of their capacity to sustain their program whenever they are confronted by the power of His cross. Hell knows that it is defeated, that this is a lost cause, yet our Adversary has not given up the fight; we still face warfare.
Decades after World War II had ended, Japanese soldiers were being discovered on remote islands still fighting for their country. Some had not received word that the war was over; others simply refused to surrender. Victory in the Pacific was declared in 1945, and the last soldier discovered still holding out was in 1974.
Our enemy operates in much the same way — refusing to surrender even though his defeat has been accomplished and our ultimate victory assured.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8: No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord.
Satan thought he had defeated Jesus at the cross, but the cross is what ultimately defeated Him.
Acts 13:1-3: Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.
“The place of the intercessor, then, in perceiving himself or herself as a person who has large potential in prayer and ministry is fundamental to what the Church is to be. This is the reason that the Church in Antioch, having been well taught, could receive the Lord’s word that He was going to change the world around them and through them. They recognized that this change would involve three things:
People who worshiped ("as they ministered to the Lord")
People who interceded ("fasted and prayed")
People who obeyed the commission (willing to go wherever the Holy Spirit directed them)
Make no mistake, such people make history. In the case of Antioch, it is fully verifiable that the spirit of worship, prayer life and obedience of the Lord’s people in that church in Syria nearly two thousand years ago literally set the westward flow of the Gospel. The transforming power of the Spirit of God flows through praying people like us— beginning with Paul and Barnabas, and continuing to this day — and has brought the Church to this hour, approaching the climax of history.”
- Penetrating the Darkness, Jack Hayford
If we are going to reach this city we need to be a church that lifts up Christ through worship. We need to be people who intercede for those in our city. We need to be people who walk in the great commission. We have to know that we are sent people. We must be willing to go where the Holy Spirit leads us. We need to send others out as we make disciples.
As we involve ourselves in spiritual warfare, it is imperative that we remember we are not trying to defeat the devil. He is already defeated. We do not re-defeat — we re-present — the victory of the Cross. All that we do in our praying intercession must be an extension of what Christ did through His work of intercession.
Ezekiel 37:1-14: The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.” Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ” So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’ ” So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army. Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’ ”