Summary: A message focusing on praying for others.
INTRO: As I was visiting with the family of someone in the hospital recently I asked, “Is there anything we can do for you?” She replied, “Just pray for us.” After a service recently, one of the ladies of the congregation said to me as she left the church, “Pastor, I just want you to know that I pray for you every day.”
The technical term for the kind of prayer described in each of these experiences is intercession. Because inter-cession is one of the deepest mysteries and dearest privileges of prayer we need to come to a deeper understanding of what it is.
What is intercession? The actual word intercession appears several times in the N. T. The word originally meant “meeting someone” or “bumping into someone by chance on the street.” Later, the word was used to refer to an arranged meeting, an appointment with someone to speak about another person.
When used as a description of prayer, intercession means an arranged meeting with God to talk with Him about someone else.
For what do we pray? An answer can be found in the example of Moses. Moses said to the children of Israel, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up unto the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin” (Ex. 32:30).
The specific purpose of Moses’ intercession was atonement. The word means to cover and is related to an act of grace by which offences were covered and fellowship was restored between an offender and the one offended. That is, Moses intercession was for the purpose of restoring the Israelites to fellowship with God. That is always the purpose of intercession. Intercession means to pray for someone for the purpose of securing God’s grace and restoring once again a useful relationship with Him.
From beginning to end, the Bible is filled with demonstrations of intercessory prayer.
In Genesis 18: 23-32, Abraham, the father of Israel, interceded on behalf of Sodom. The prophet of the compassionate heart, in Jeremiah 9:1, prayed for the decaying nation of Judah. The states-man with the courageous faith, in Daniel 9:17, prayed for the Revelation of God to His people. Paul, the dynamic missionary, in Ephesians 1:1e-19, prayed for the congregation of Aphesis.
Even more important is the demonstration of intercessory prayer seen in the life of Jesus. Jesus continually prayed for others. He prayed for the children in Matt. 19:13. He prayed for the sick in Mark 7:34. He prayed for His disciples in Luke 22:31-32. He prayed for His enemies in Luke 23:34. He prayed for us in John 17:20.
If you want to know what intercessory prayer is, saturate your heart and mind with the demonstrations of Scripture. Then, duplicate that pattern in your own life.
Read the N. T. closely and you will discover that intercessory prayer is more than an elective activity for the Christian; it is a demand.
Jesus demanded intercessory prayer in Matt. 5:44 when He said, “But I say to you, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you” (NASB).
Paul demanded intercessory prayer in Romans 15:30 when he wrote, “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me” (NASB).
The writer of Hebrews demanded intercessory prayer in Hebrews 13:18 when he declared, “Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things” (NASB).
James, the brother of Jesus, demanded intercessory prayer in James 5:16 when he declared, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another” (NASB).
What do these verses tell us? Praying for one another is not an elective in the Christian life. It is a required course. Every believer must give himself to the ministry of intercession. It is a command of the Lord and of the Scripture.
This scriptural demand does not, however, remove our difficulty of understanding how intercessory prayer works. No simple answer will completely solve the riddle of intercessory prayer. Three ideas, however, may help: 1. A theological truth. 2. A sociological fact. and 3. A biblical analogy.
1. The theological truth is the love of God. The Christian gospel is the message of a God who desires the welfare of all people everywhere. To pray to such a God is to get caught up in and carried along with Him in His desire for all our good. Intercession, then, is a means of aligning our dominant desires with God’s and thus becoming an effective channel by which His power is released in the world.
2. The sociological fact is that we are all a part of each other. In the social context in which we have our being, everything we say and do affects those who are around us. It is in the context of that sociological interdependency that intercessory prayer operates.