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What Is Intercession?

Intercession is the action of intervening or saying a prayer on behalf of another.

Since the beginning of time, God is searching for godly men and women who are willing to intercede on behalf of others.

Isaiah 59:15-16
15 So truth fails,
And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him
That there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.

Ezekiel 22:30
So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.

Nevertheless, throughout the Bible, there were some examples of intercessors who mediated in prayers for others - Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus not only stood in the gap for us, He also closed the gap between us and God by dying on the cross. However, at times when we wander away from God, our Risen Christ is always there to make intercession for us!

Romans 8:34
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,

In the Old Testament, there was a wonderful intercessor, Daniel, who interceded for Israel while he was in Babylon.

Daniel 9:1-19
1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—
2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
3 Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments,
5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.

6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.
7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.
8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.
9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.
10 We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.
11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him.
12 And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.
13 “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth.
14 Therefore the Lord has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice.
15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!
16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us.
17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate.
18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.
19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

Daniel was taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He served the king and his successors with wisdom and loyalty until the time of the Persian king Cyrus. Throughout his captivity, he remained faithful and true to the God of Israel. Besides being a prophet, Daniel was also a man of prayer. He prayed regularly, and very often privately alone. There are many lessons we can learn from his intercessory prayer.

Firstly, Daniel was greatly beloved by the Lord (Daniel 9:23). His relationship with God was intimate and sweet through times of prayers and intercessions.

Secondly, Daniel knew the Word of God. Besides being well-known for his wisdom and capabilities in administrating his civil office in government, Daniel knew the will of the Lord according to His written Word. As he read the Holy Scriptures, the Lord moved Daniel to intercede for the repentance and restoration of the Jewish people back to their Promised Land (Daniel 9:2).

As he carefully studied the Word of God, he understood the seventy years of Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the captivity of Judah would soon be over.

Jeremiah 25:11
And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

Daniel interceded not according to his own will but according to the will of the Lord! He was asking the Lord to fulfill what He had promised through the prophecies spoken by His prophets, and also His eternal covenant He had made with the forefathers of Israel. Daniel's intercession was effective because he prayed according to the revealed will of the Lord in His written Word.

Thirdly, Daniel was fervent in prayer (Daniel 9:3). By setting his face to seek the Lord, he was dedicating and having a season of prayer. He humbled himself before God. He came with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. He was not presumptuous in exerting power, dominion and authority, and demanding the Lord to do this and that. His heart was broken and contrite, exceedingly sorrowful and remorseful over the sins of his people.

The Bible didn't tell us how long he prayed, but he continued fervently right up to the time he received the answer from the Lord. Just like Jacob wrestling with the angel, Daniel did not give up praying until God assured him that He would fulfill His covenant and promises to Israel in spite of their sins and transgressions.

Fourthly, Daniel focused on the Lord more than on Israel (Daniel 9:4). Daniel began praying by worshipping God in the beauty of His holiness. He knew God, His attributes and His divine nature. He acknowledged His sovereignty, faithfulness, love, mercy and grace. He knew that God would keep His covenant even though His people had forsaken Him and abandoned His laws. The Lord remained faithful even though His people were unfaithful to Him!

2 Timothy 2:13
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.

Fifthly, Daniel identified himself with his own people (Daniel 9:5). He did not distance himself from the sins of his people even though he was not guilty of those sins committed by them. On the contrary, he confessed those sins with them and for them. Daniel was an intercessor who loved his people, and stood with them even though they had sinned and were sinning against the Lord.

Finally, Daniel’s motive was to bring glory to God (Daniel 9:17). The name of the Lord was more important than the restoration of Israel. Daniel prayed, “Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate."

Daniel did not ask for freedom, prosperity and health to be restored back to Israel. He appealed to God because of His great mercies, and not according to the righteous deeds of his people. Daniel prayed that God would be glorified by restoring Israel again (Daniel 9:18). Daniel desired to bring glory to God!

2 Chronicles 7:13-14
13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,
14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

True intercessors will humble themselves and come before God on behalf of others. Their hearts are broken over sins, and their attitudes are meek and repentant. They know and recognize their own unworthiness and human limitations.

True intercessors do not demand this and that from God. They do not brag that they are one of God's special, anointed and chosen prayer warriors and generals. They are the servants of God, serving God and others.

True intercessors know that they were once sinners, saved by grace through faith. They do not have any rights to demand anything from God. But if the Word of God says so, it will be fulfilled in His perfect timing. We cannot pressurize God to do our will or fit into our calendar and schedules. We must fit into His appointed times and His calendar according to His written Word! We must seek Him in His written Word and know His will! His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

True intercessors seek to glorify God, not themselves. After knowing the will of God, they seek and intercede that it will be fulfilled regardless of whether it is beneficial to them, and regardless of what it is going to cost them.

Today, there exists a special class of super-Christians who are performing a specific ministry of intercession. This erroneous idea that intercession is the privilege and calling of only some elite Christians is without any Biblical basis. Worse, it often leads to spiritual pride, and a false sense of superiority, power, control and influence over others.

According to the Bible, all Christians are called to be intercessors.

Romans 8:26-27
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

All of us have the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Just the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will, we are exhorted to intercede for one another.

Intercession is not a privilege limited to an exclusive few. God commands us to pray and intercede. In fact, not to intercede for others is sin.

1 Samuel 12:23
Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.

When Peter was in prison, the church interceded on his behalf. Everyone was involved. The whole church prayed for him, not just those with a gift of intercession.

Acts 12:5
Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

Paul sought prayer on his behalf from all the Roman believers.

Romans 15:30
Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me,

God has called all Christians to be intercessors. He desires that all of us are to be active in intercession, praying regularly whether privately or corporately.

One last thing about intercession is that the answer may not come as we have desired or requested but something more important will result as we pray and intercede. We will look at two examples; one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.

The Old Testament example is King David (2 Samuel 11-12). David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. As a result, the woman conceived. To cover up his act, David murdered Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba.

God sent a prophet Nathan to expose the sinful deeds of David.

“I have sinned against the Lord,” David confessed to Nathan.

Then Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. But you have given great opportunity to the enemies of the Lord to despise and blaspheme Him, so your child shall die.”

After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord made Bathsheba’s baby deathly sick. David interceded, asking God to spare the child. He fasted and prayed, laying all night before the Lord on the bare earth. The leaders of the nation pleaded with him to get up and eat with them, but he refused. Then, on the seventh day, the baby died. David’s aides were afraid to tell him.

“He was so broken up about the baby being sick,” they said, “what will he do to himself when we tell him the child is dead?”

But when David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the baby dead?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “he is.” Then David got up off the ground, washed himself, brushed his hair, changed his clothes, and went into the Tabernacle and worshipped the Lord. Then he returned to the palace and ate.

David interceded for the child even though the prophet Nathan had told him that the child would die. His intercession seemingly didn't bear any good results. But upon closer examination, imagine what would happen if David didn't intercede. Would he still be a man after God's own heart? Would there be Psalm 51? Would there be Solomon, the second born son of David and Bathsheba? Would the Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon be written?

In this case of the intercession of David, the situation didn't change as the child died but God changed the heart of the intercessor. God still looked at the heart. Not looking at the prayer agendas but at the heart of the one who prayed.

Psalm 51:10-12, 16-17
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—

These, O God, You will not despise.

The New Testament example is Jesus and His disciples in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-56). Jesus brought them to the garden. He told them to sit down and wait while He went on ahead to pray.

Then Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him, and began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.

So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

Imagine what would happen if Jesus didn't intercede. Would He be able to do the will of the Father? Would He have the strength and endurance to go through all the shames, sufferings, pains and agonies of the cross? Would He be able to carry the sins of the whole world upon His shoulders?

His disciples didn't tarry with Him in the hour of prayer. They fell asleep. As they didn't watch and pray, they entered into temptation. Upon the arrest of Jesus, all the disciples deserted Him and fled. Peter even denied Him thrice!

As the disciples didn't pray and intercede, they didn't have the strength to do His will. But praise be to God, the Day of Pentecost changed everything! The disciples were now praying together in the upper room. The Holy Spirit descended. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And now the same Spirit is teaching us how to intercede according to the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

To intercede or not, the choice is still ours. And God is still looking for men and women to stand in the gap to intercede on behalf of others. Are we willing to watch and pray, lest we fall into temptation in perilous times like ours?

1 Peter 4:7
But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.

Written on: 30 November 2017