Home Monthly Prayer Focus June: Intercession Prayer (Part 1)

June: Intercession Prayer (Part 1)

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For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” (Col 1:9-12) 

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:1-4) 

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (Jas 5:14-16) 

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” (Rom 10:1) 

Our June 2024 Contending in Prayer Guide is focused on Intercession Prayer where we specifically pray not for ourselves but for others. Intercession prayer involves asking God to actively do something that we hope for and believe is best for those we are praying for. Intercession prayer raises many questions about how God’s amazing sovereignty over history makes space for our feeble prayers where we “do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Rom 8:26). Philip Yancey’s provocative book title Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? gets at a key question that all believers must wrestle with.  

There are at least two possible answers to the question whether intercessory prayer makes a difference. The first is that prayer changes the one praying. Soren Kierkegaard is famously quoted as saying: “A man prayed and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became quieter and quieter until, in the end he realized prayer is listening.” Praying prayers of intercession can lead us to greater openness so the Holy Spirit changes our hearts and prompts us to participate with God toward the fulfillment of the very prayers we pray. The Spirit may prompt us to visit the lonely person we prayed would be relieved of their loneliness; to share resources with the poor person we prayed would have food or money for rent; or to share Jesus with the spiritually lost person we prayed would hear the gospel story.  

But changing the person praying cannot be the totality of intercession prayer since this would limit prayer to a very small circle of impact. We are told by Paul to pray “intercession and thanksgiving [for] all people — for kings and all those in authority” (1 Tim 2:1-2). We want to pray for Christians facing persecution halfway across the globe and for people far from us living through war and environmental disasters. While we may have some ability to impact these situations by donating money or even serving through Multiply, MDS, MCC, etc., we believe that God is doing something for the recipient of the prayer far above the ability of the person praying to do anything to assist in the fulfillment of the prayer.  

This second response then is that God does new things in response to the prayers of believers across the globe — but it is difficult to explain the mysterious ways God interacts with those prayers. It is clear that our prayers (no matter how coordinated and filled with faith) do not force God to do things that conflict with God’s ultimate will and character. Unlike the TV evangelist who sent me endless testimonies of people receiving economic and physical blessings in response to his prayers for them (as long as they sent their “best gift” to God with the TV evangelist’s ministry name on the cheque of course), our prayers are not somehow magical and manipulative or else we ultimately become gods ourselves and the Triune God our servant. We must pray in faith but also in a posture of worship, surrender, and submission to the ultimate will of God in the world. 

Even though we cannot adequately explain how prayer “works,” we commit ourselves to pray because we want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus (cf. John 17), obey the New Testament writers when they command us to pray (1 Tim 2:1-4; Jas 5:14-16), and join the long history of faithful praying believers who have gone before us. Intercessory prayer must be a key part of our prayer lives. 

Here in our June prayer column, we are focusing specifically on the kind of intercession prayer that asks that people would come to a healed, restored, and reconciled relationship with God through Jesus. This kind of intercession prayer must grow out of a deep sense of love and compassion — knowing that this is also God’s very heart for the whole world (John 3:16). We intercede because we want all people to experience the fullness of God’s salvation and the true life that results from it — knowing that our God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).  

When we pray for people to come to know Jesus, we do not know exactly how God answers this sort of prayer. While God has “hardened” people’s hearts in history (cf. Exod 4:21; John 12:39-40), God can also “soften” people’s hearts (Jer 24:7; Ezek 36:26). While we are praying for people’s hearts to be softened toward Jesus, there is a mystery here between God’s ultimate control/sovereignty and God’s gentle and noncoercive gospel invitation to each human image bearer (Rev 3:20). But we pray into that mystery with faith, hope, and trust in the God who holds the future.  

So we pray for those in our families who are not followers of Jesus that they may respond to Jesus and experience the salvation and life that Jesus offers. We pray also for friends and neighbours, for political leaders and social influencers, and for enemies and those presently living out hostility to us and/or the gospel. 

Prayer for people to be reconciled with God is our most fundamental intercession prayer. All other types of intercession prayers are subordinate to this type of intercession because we believe that it is in responding to the gospel that everything changes — “the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17). People who respond to the gospel become children of God, citizens of the Kingdom, and members of the body of Christ. This kind of intercession prayer is certainly Kingdom prayer! 


      • Who do you know (family, friends, neighbours) that is living a life without forgiveness and salvation through Jesus? (You may want to make a list of these individuals so that you can more effectively pray for them.) 
      • As you pray, is there a way for you to be part of the answer to this prayer for each person you are thinking of — gently, winsomely, and non-coercively encouraging them to consider the reality and claims of Jesus?  

Intercession Prayer: Praying in Response to Romans 10:9-15

Romans 10:9-15 declares truths that are behind our intercession prayers for reconciliation with God. Read this section of the biblical text in italics and then add your own prayers for people you know who do not seem to have experienced what the text talks about. After you have prayed these prayers of intercession, be attentive to God’s Spirit through the next hours and days. God may be speaking to you about how you can participate in the prayer that people would respond to Jesus in faith. 

Pray these words out loud: 

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  

God, I pray now that you would soften the hearts of the following people whom I believe are in need of your great salvation. I pray that your Holy Spirit would soften their hearts and straighten out the thoughts of their minds so that they would indeed declare that you are Lord, believe and be justified, and become followers of you. I give all the glory to you for what you are doing and will do for each of these people. 

I pray specifically for (speak out each person’s name)_________________________________ 

I also pray that you would reveal to me what I can do to bless, encourage, and invite these individuals to you. May I be receptive to the opportunities you bring my way. May I live in a way that draws others to you and your salvation.  

May your Kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven. Amen! 

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