One of the earliest and best examples of intercession in Scripture occurs in Genesis 18, where Abraham speaks to God on behalf of Sodom. His plea is compassionate; it is concerned with the well-being of others rather than with his own needs. Such selfless concern is the mark of all true intercession.
Christ is, of course, the greatest intercessor. He prayed on behalf of Peter (Luke 22:32) and His disciples (John 17). Then, in the most selfless intercession of all, He petitioned God on behalf of those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). But Christ’s intercessory work did not cease when He returned to heaven. In heaven He intercedes for His church (Heb. 7:25). His Holy Spirit pleads on behalf of the individual Christian (Rom. 8:26–27). Finally, because of their unique relationship to God through Christ, Christians are urged to intercede for all people and intercession is expected of all believers (1 Tim. 2:1–3). Christians should pray—and pray often about all things for God is the source of our effectiveness in this life. [Source: Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary.]
This might sting, so take a deep breath: is it possible that the quality and quantity of our prayers of intercession is intrinsically connected to the quality and quantity of our love for others? You know what this might mean, don’t you? If we pray little, sadly, it may well be because we love little. Sure, we are busy, we are tired, we are doing lots of good things and we are pretty decent people. But let’s take this one on the chin and seriously consider that our minimal prayer lives of interceding for others might simply reflect minimal love for others.
There may also be a second reason for our lack of intercession: unbelief. We deep down just don’t believe sitting in a room by ourselves, or with others, and asking God to do things actually has much effect. So often in the life of faith, we do things out of simple obedience. Interceding for ourselves and others is one of those things. No condemnation here, but join me in repentance and let’s change this by God’s grace.
There are some principles we need to appreciate concerning intercession.
- Regular prayers of intercession are a command and duty of every believer.
- Intercession is that practice and act in which we accept God’s gracious invitation to become partners in his work of renewal and restoration in this world. God could do everything himself, but he invites us to be co-heirs with Christ and to participate in his kingdom work.
- Intercession requires faith on our part and the leading of the Holy Spirit on God’s part. We must do this and believe in the efficacy of intercession, but we do so reliant on God and enabled by his wisdom and power.
- Intercession must be cultivated and undergirded by our love for God and for others. It is hard work; but then again, love is often costly…
Click here for an intercession “starter kit” Let us pray!