Intercessory Prayer – What is it?
Intercessory prayer is prayer for others. An intercessor is one who takes the place of another or pleads another’s case. One study Bible defines intercession as “holy, believing, persevering prayer whereby someone pleads with God on behalf of another or others who desperately need God’s intervention.”
Intercessory Prayer – The Biblical Foundation
The Biblical basis for the New Testament believer’s ministry of intercessory prayer is our calling as priests unto God. The Word of God declares that we are a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:4), a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), and a kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:5).
The background for understanding this calling to priestly intercession is found in the Old Testament example of the Levitical priesthood. The priest’s responsibility was to stand before and between. He stood before God to minister to Him with sacrifices and offerings. The priests also stood between a righteous God and sinful man bringing them together at the place of the blood sacrifice.
Hebrews 7:11-19 explains the difference between the Old and New Testament ministries of the priest. The Old Testament Levitical priesthood was passed on from generation to generation through the descendants of the tribe of Levi. “The Melchizedek priesthood” spoken of in this passage, is the “new order” of spiritual priests of whom the Lord Jesus is the High Priest. It is passed on to us through His blood and our spiritual birth as new creatures in Christ.
Intercessory Prayer – Our Model Intercessor
Jesus Christ is our model for intercessory prayer. Jesus stands before God and between Him and sinful man, just as the Old Testament priests did: For there is one God, and one mediator (intercessor) between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). 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 (Romans 8:34). Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus brings sinful man and a righteous God together at the place of the blood sacrifice for sin. No longer is the blood of animals necessary as it was in the Old Testament. We can now approach God on the basis of the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross of Calvary for the remission of sins. Because of the blood of Jesus, we can approach God boldly without timidity (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Jesus was an intercessor while He was here on earth. He prayed for those who were sick and possessed by demons. He prayed for His disciples. He even prayed for you and me when He interceded for all those who would believe on Him. Jesus continued His ministry of intercession after His death and resurrection when He returned to Heaven. He now serves as our intercessor in Heaven.
Intercessory Prayer – Effective Intercession
In intercessory prayer, we follow the Old Testament priestly function and the New Testament pattern of Jesus – standing before God and between a righteous God and sinful man. In order to be effective standing “between” we must first stand “before” God to develop the intimacy necessary to fulfill this role. Numbers 14 is one of the greatest accounts of intercessory prayer recorded in the Bible. Moses was able to stand between God and sinful man because he had stood “before” Him and had developed intimacy of communication. Numbers 12:8 records that God spoke with Moses as friend to friend and not through visions and dreams as He did with other prophets.
As New Testament believers, we no longer sacrifice animals as in Old Testament times. We stand before the Lord to offer up spiritual sacrifices of praise (Hebrews 13:15) and the sacrifice of our own lives (Romans 12:1). It is on the basis of this intimate relationship with God that we can then stand “between” Him and others, serving as an advocate and intercessor in their behalf.
Peter uses two words to describe this priestly ministry: “Holy” and “royal.” Holiness is required to stand before the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). We are able to do this only on the basis of the righteousness of Christ, not our own righteousness. Royalty is descriptive of the kingly authority that is delegated to us as members of the “royal family,” so to speak, with legitimate access to the throne room of God.