Meaning of intercession
What is intercession?

Intercession is prayer on behalf of others. The word is derived from the Latin word “inter” which means “between” and “cedere” which means “go”. Therefore intercession literally means to go between two parties. The following verse is a clear reference to intercession.

Ezekiel 22:30 (NIV) “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.

Spiritual warfare in intercession

Intercession is not just requesting for things on behalf of other people, it is also engaging in spiritual warfare on behalf of other people. This is necessary when you know that a particular person may be undergoing particularly difficult trials and temptations.

Colossians 4:12 (NIV) Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

The word “wrestling” is also translated “fight” in other verses of the Bible and talks about intense fighting , striving, wrestling.

John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

This old testament example shows how Moses fought the war by his intercessory prayer.

Exodus 17:8­13 (NIV) The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” 10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up­­one on one side, one on the other­­so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Intercession is as much a responsibility as it is a gift

1 Timothy 2:1 (NIV) I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone­­

James 5:16 (NIV) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

1 Samuel 12:23 (NIV) As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.

Why is intercession so important?

The Almighty God would do nothing on earth except in response to prayer.

God wants to forgive the people of their sins but He will not do it unless someone intercedes for them.

Ezekiel 22:30 (NIV) “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.

God is very willing to forgive Job’s friends but will only do it if Job prays for them.

Job 42:8 (NIV) So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.

Non-Christians do not and cannot pray to our God. The only way for them to receive God’s blessings or forgiveness is when Christians intercede on their behalf.

Ezekiel 22:30 (NIV) “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.

There is no one in Sodom or Gomorah who will pray to God even though God is on the verge of destroying them. A Christian must come in to plead for them.

If nobody practises intercession, we will have the case of everyone praying for himself. But if we all intercede for one another, we have many people agreeing on the same prayer. There is power in numbers.

Mat 18:19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.

If the next verse can be used to illustrate the power of numbers, then there is definitely more leverage when we all intercede.

Lev 26:8 Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.

Young Christians do not know how to pray and mature Christians should intercede for them so that they can get what is best for them.

The Bible is full of examples of Paul praying for his spiritual babies.

Ephesians 3:14­19 (NIV) For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge­­that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

(Phil 1:9-11) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, {10} so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, {11} filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.

(Eph 1:17-19) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. {18} I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, {19} and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,

Colossians 1:9 (NIV) For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Colossians 2:1­2 (NIV) I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,

1 Thessalonians 1:2 (NIV) We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.

1 Thessalonians 3:10 (NIV) Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

We need to intercede especially for spiritual leaders because their prayers alone may not be sufficient to ward off all the attacks of the devil.

They are often the target of the most intensive attacks by the Devil. The reason is obvious. If the leader falls, a lot of people will fall with him. In America, we hear of evangelists falling into immorality which led to a lot of Christians being disillusioned and leaving the faith and non-Christians taking the excuse to rebuke Christianity. Even in the war time, armies will send snipers to assassinate the leader of a troop in order to throw the whole troop into confusion and cause them to loose their objective.

Mat 26:31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

Paul appeals to his Christian brothers to pray for him.

Romans 15:30 (NIV) I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.

Likewise Jesus realises that intercession for the leader is of utmost importance. When Satan requested permission from God the Father to destroy all the disciples, Jesus specifically prayed for just one person, Simon Peter, who is going to be the leader of the disciples when Jesus died.

Luke 22:31­32 (NIV) “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you (this “you” is plural referring to all the disciples) as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you (this “you” is singular referring to Peter alone), Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Principles of intercession
Call on the character of God

Genesis 18:20­26 (NIV) Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”……Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing­­to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 26 The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham called on the righteous character of God, asking if God would “slay the righteous with the wicked” (Gen. 18:25).

Call on the reputation of God
Call on the promises of God

Exodus 32:9­14 (NIV) “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff­necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” 11 But Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'” 14 Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Moses prayed for God’s mercy, calling on God to remember His reputation among the nations and His promises to the patriarchs.

Exodus 32:31­32 (NIV) So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin­­but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

Identification with the people

We have to identify with the people we intercede for and God will honour a humble prayer.

Moses sought to make an atonement for sin, identifying himself so completely with the people that he asked to be blotted out of God’s book if God would not forgive the people’s sin. In essence, Moses is saying that he is in the same boat as these people and if God cannot forgive them, God should not forgive him too.

On the DAY OF ATONEMENT, the priests had to make atonement for himself first before he does it for the people (Lev. 16:3,6,24). Likewise, it is presumptuous to assume that when we intercede for others, we do not need to first come to God with our confession. God will honour a prayer that is made in a position of humility.

Exodus 34:9 (NIV) “O Lord, if I have found favour in your eyes,” he said, “then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff­necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”

Appeal to God based on your relationship with God

Moses appealed to God to answer his prayer based on his right relationship with God.

Is Moses being too proud? I don’t think so. God himself shows Moses that He works on that basis. Remember that a righteous man’s prayer is more effective.

Exodus 33:17 (NIV) And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

Intercession is not manipulating God

Intercession was not always effective. God told Jeremiah to forsake the prophetic duty of intercession: “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). Even the great heroes of intercession would not succeed in such situations (Jer. 15:1; compare Ezek. 14:14).

Jeremiah 15:1 (NIV) Then the LORD said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go!