The Gift of Intercession

Intercessory prayer is perhaps one of the most important types of prayer that a believer can engage in, particularly when used as most frequently illustrated in scripture on behalf of our fellow members of the Body of Christ. By definition, intercessory prayer is “a pleading with one party on behalf of another, usually with a view to obtaining help for that other”[1]. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all people . . .” He goes on to give specific instruction concerning prayer for leaders and so, Paul’s admonition is not only a directive for Timothy (as a leader in the church) in how to pray for the Body, but also clearly instructional for the Body of Christ as a whole. It is Paul’s letter to Timothy that caused me to evaluate my understanding of what intercession is and how it is being used in the church today. Every leader can probably name a number of individuals within their church, ministry and/or sphere of influence who calls themselves an “Intercessor”. There are many within the church who see themselves as operating in the gift of intercession, however, some have either directly or indirectly elevated this gift to a point at which they consider it more of an “office of intercessor”. My concern in writing this article is that such a view of intercession can weaken its value to the Body of Christ rather than strengthen it. If intercession is a gift, then supplication, prayer and thanksgiving are also gifts. If intercession is elevated above other gifts, then supplication, prayer and thanksgiving must also be elevated. I believe that intercession is a vital part of Kingdom life (as are prayer, supplication and thanksgiving), but it can also be unintentionally elevated to the point that the way it is “used” becomes an idol and thus, a tool in the arsenal of our adversary rather than a weapon of warfare on behalf of the saints. The sad, but true, reality is that intercessory groups (particularly within churches) have often done more to create division than they have to promote unity. I pray that you have never had this experience and that most of you reading this article find these words disturbing because it has never been your reality, but I am conscious that most will reluctantly find their selves in agreement. Before you read further (and perhaps so that you will continue to read), let me be clear that I might not be misunderstood: I BELIEVE IN INTERCESSION and I feel that it is imperative for the church to understand it and to intercede, but I believe it is something for all believers and not the call of a select few. This does not detract from, nor do I intend to belittle those who sincerely feel a call to intercession, however, I see those as individuals who have reached a place of maturity in regard to their understanding of prayer that allows them to utilize intercession as an integral part of the other gifts they have also been given by God. It is time for the same level of character and integrity to be restored to the “Gift of Intercession” that the church has begun to expect from the “Gift of Prophecy”. The Hebrew word translated intercession (though used far more frequently than it is translated in this fashion) is paga (paw-gah’) and it means, “to encounter, to meet, to reach, to entreat, to make intercession”.[2] In the New Testament the Greek word used for intercession is entugchano (en-toong-khan’-o), meaning “to light upon a person or a thing, to fall in with, to hit upon, a person or thing” or “to go to or meet a person, especially for the purpose of conversation, consultation, or supplication”.[3] Scripture is filled to overflowing with examples of intercession (in many cases without directly calling it intercession) that changes lives, nations and the course of history. Prayer, in all its forms, really does change things. The unique challenges associated with Intercession begin to become apparent when we examine the origin of the English word used to describe this Biblical concept. The English word intercession “is derived from Latin intercedo, ‘to come between,’ which strangely has the somewhat opposed meanings of ‘obstruct’ and ‘to interpose on behalf of’ a person”.[4] When intercession begins to obstruct rather than to uplift and build up, then it is no longer of value to the Kingdom. All too often intercessory prayer groups become a hotbed for lawlessness, instead of igniting the fires of sincere prayer. It almost seems that leaders could paraphrase Paul when they visit intercessory prayer groups and say, “I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish – that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20). It seems that the enemy has often created a disconnection or a gap between “leaders” and “intercessors”. Ezekiel described this gap in connection with the land when he wrote, “I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30). Let it not be said in these last days that the Lord sought for a man or woman among us who would become a hedge and fill the gap for the church and they could not be found. When believers, especially those who identify with the Gift of Intercession, see what they believe to be injustice, failure, error or sin, their first inclination should NOT be to share what they see with others (including their “prayer partners”), but rather it should be to petition heaven to save those in whom they see it. Our perfect example of intercession is the Chief Intercessor himself, Jesus, and “. . . He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). If true (as opposed to perceived) injustice, failure, error or sin exists, then it is the obligation of the Intercessor to cry out to God on behalf those in whom it is seen, NOT to decry them before others, even in the form of asking for agreement in prayer. This is particularly true when intercession is made on behalf of leaders, as we are instructed to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). How can those who allow their words to drag them into gossip, slander and evil speaking expect that their lives could be seen by others as peaceful, quiet, godly and dignified? The gifts of God, including intercession, are given to build up the Body of Christ. Intercessory assignments that truly come from God are designed to plug holes, fill gaps and create hedges that protect and preserve. For those who consider themselves intercessors, it is time to “. . . walk worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). For pastors and leaders who work with those who consider themselves intercessors, it is time to “. . . pray for [them], that our God may make [them] worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in [them] . . .” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).

We live in a day when prayer, especially intercessory prayer, is often the difference between life and death. This is no longer solely a metaphorical description of prayer, but rather, as the days grow darker, it is more frequently a literal one. God is in the business of restoration and I believe He is restoring the sincere heart of intercessory prayer to the church today. I believe He is raising up Psalm 24:4 intercessors whose hearts are pure, whose hands are clean and who will ascend the hill of the Lord, stand in His holy place and petition Heaven for the equipping of the saints, the empowerment of God’s people and the transformation of a generation. In order for these types of prayer warriors to arise, we must value Godly character over giftedness and live upright lives such that integrity becomes our guide (Proverbs 11:3).

[1] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised edition, Copyright © 1979 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[2] OT:6293 paga` (from The Online Bible Thayer's Greek Lexicon and Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Copyright © 1993, Woodside Bible Fellowship, Ontario, Canada. Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research.)

[3] NT:1793 entungchanoo (from Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2000, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

[4] INTERCESSION (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

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