Simply defined, intercessory prayer is a prayer or petition to God in behalf of someone else. A family member or a friend faces a deadly disease. Your neighbor desperately needs Jesus, but rejects the gospel. Society begins to crumble and fall apart because so many individuals embrace false gods, or self-destructive ideas such as cultural pluralism, internationalism, and political correctness. What can a Christian do?
Some Christians simply tune out and live a life of isolation, in as far as possible. The Amish communities can be very attractive.
Some Christians despair. They see no end to the political and social madness and become sad and fearful.
Some Christian join a political group in order to fight the corruption around them. In 1979, the Moral Majority arose as a civic organization under the leadership of Pastor Jerry Falwell, to crusade against legalized abortion, liberalism, and an overreaching government. Ten years later, in 1989, the organization was dismantled.
But there is something that all Christians can do and that is to learn the value of intercessory prayer, and then engage in it often as a believer priest.
The concept of intercessory prayer is well established in Scripture. Intercessory prayer was part of the ministry within the priesthood of the Old Testament. Aaron began Israel’s first formal line of priests. He was the first to wear the beautiful priestly garments and initiate the sacrificial system. One of his priestly functions was to pray for the people before God.
Intercessor prayer was the practice of the prophets. There is the prayer of Samuel. “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.” (1 Sam. 12:23)
There is the prayer of Elijah. “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? How he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.” (Rom. 11:2)
There is the prayer of Jeremiah. When the captains of the hosts came to the prophet, “Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the Lord your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you.” (Jer. 42:4)
As our High Priest, Jesus Christ engages in intercessory prayer. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:34)
To encourage the hearts of the saints, the Church remembers the practice of the apostle Paul. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” (Col. 1:9)
Because the Old Testament priests, the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles engaged in intercessory, so should every believer.
Because every Christian is a believer priest. The priesthood of every New Testament believer is taught in 1 Peter 2:9. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
But there is an even more compelling reason to engage in intercessory prayer. There are direct commandments of Scripture to pray in this manner. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” (Psalm 122:6)“Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.” (Heb. 13:18)
“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:14-15)
Intercessory prayer should be a delight as well as a duty. Prayer is pleaded for. Even Paul pleaded for intercessory prayer to be made on his behalf. “Brethren, pray for us.” (1 Thess. 5:25) And more specifically: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: 2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.” (2 Thess. 3:1-2)
To encourage our hearts to engage in intercessory prayer, we remember that Christ is the Great High Priest of the believer, and provides the example for the intercessory work of the believer.
“Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)
In John 17:9 Jesus said, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”
Now, it is true that, sometimes, God’s people are specifically commanded not to make intercession on behalf of others. “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.” (Jer. 7:16)
However, the normal practice of the Church is to engage in intercessory prayer.
When the New Testament Christian acts as a believer-priest and prays, the Holy Spirit will guide the prayer. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27)
Every believer priest has not only the right and privilege of interceding on behalf of others, but the responsibility as well.
Therefore, let us pray for one another. It is the will of the Lord.