In intercessory prayer is praying for others under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is our example for intercessory prayer. The Apostle Paul wrote:
There is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human, (1 Timothy 2:5)
Before going to the cross, Jesus prayed for his disciples:
And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. (John 17:11)
In the Old Testament we have many examples of intercessory prayer. Perhaps the best example is found in Daniel 9. The Prophet Daniel was concerned about his people returning to Jerusalem:
Then I turned to the Lord God to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying,
“Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
7 “Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our princes, and our ancestors because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, but we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
11 “All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. So the curse and the oath written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out upon us because we have sinned against you. 12 He has confirmed his words that he spoke against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us a calamity so great that what has been done against Jerusalem has never before been done under the whole heaven. 13 Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us. We did not entreat the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and reflecting on his fidelity. 14 So the Lord kept watch over this calamity until he brought it upon us. Indeed, the Lord our God is right in all that he has done, for we have disobeyed 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 your name renowned even to this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16 O Lord, in view of all your righteous acts, let your anger and wrath, we pray, turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain; because of our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors, Jerusalem and your people have become a disgrace among all our neighbors. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his supplication, and for your own sake, Lord, let your face shine upon your desolated sanctuary. 18 Incline your ear, O my God, and hear. Open your eyes and look at our desolation and the city that bears your name. We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness but on the ground of your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act and do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people bear your name!”
This prayer has all the elements of true intercessory prayer. It is in response to the Word (v. 2); characterized by fervency (v. 3) and self-denial (v. 4); identified unselfishly with God’s people (v. 5); strengthened by confession (v. 5-15); dependent on God’s character (vv. 4, 7, 9, 15); and has as its goal God’s glory (vv. 16-19).
Like Daniel, Christians are to come to God on behalf of others in a heartbroken and repentant attitude, recognizing their own unworthiness and with a sense of self-denial. Daniel does not say, “I have a right to demand this out of You, God, because I am one of your special, chosen intercessors.” He says, “I’m a sinner,” and, in effect, “I do not have a right to demand anything.”
True intercessory prayer seeks not only to know God’s will and see it fulfilled but to see it fulfilled whether or not it benefits us
and regardless of what it costs us. True intercessory prayer seeks God’s glory, not our own. The goal is to get into the presence of God and allow his Holy Spirit to pray for us. That way we not only pray, but prophesy in his name. We need to pray God’s words. He is bound to keep his word. Amen.