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Intercession Part One

Protecting the Walls

One of the greatest needs in the Church today is an understanding of the ministry of intercession. This study is designed to heighten our awareness of what intercession is, and why it is needed.

A poignant illustration of intercession is the story of Gideon. As we know, the Lord gave His people the land of promise. In Judges 6, the boundaries for the specific territory had been set, but rather than possess the land, the Israelites were living in caves. Why? The chief reason is the Midianites were really causing them problems. They would not let Israel harvest their crops, for example; about the time of the harvest, the Midianites would drive their animals through the crops, destroying them.

The scene opens with our hero Gideon hiding in a wine press, thrashing his wheat so the enemy will not get it. He is apparently very fearful because it is about time for the Midianites to come. At that moment, the angel of the Lord comes to him and says, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior"—6:1. Gideon's response is essentially, "Huh?" The angel knew, however, what Gideon did not know: that he and his people had a right to all the land. All they had to do was intercede in prayer, act in faith, and claim their property. It was promised to them by God!

This story illustrates how the gap between God's promises and our needs are bridged through prayer. Many are living in less than ideal circumstances and/or their friends and family are not experiencing God's solutions and promises, because they have not learned the importance of intercession.


[h1heading]The Priority of Intercession Illustrated[/h1heading]

1 Timothy 2:1-4—"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—2] for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3] This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4] who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

This is what Paul wanted Timothy to do first. Whatever we might think about prayer, we must see that Paul thought it was a priority.

Who should we pray for?

  1. "everyone..." All the people we know can potentially be on our list.
  2. "kings..." This can be governments—local and national; e.g., our President.
  3. "all those in authority..." These words can refer to whoever is in authority, no matter where. By the way, this includes government officials you do not like.

Why should we pray?

There are five reasons to intercede mentioned here in 1 Timothy 4:1-4.

  1. First, that we would live quiet lives on a personal level—v. 2. God wants our lives to be quiet and peaceful, not overly busy and stressful.
  2. Second, that we live our lives in all godliness and holiness. God wants us to be like Him. Why godly, holy, peaceful and quiet? The next three reasons gives us the answer
  3. Third, this is good—v. 3a (see Romans 14:17).
  4. Fourth, this pleases God—v. 3b.
  5. Fifth, this will create a climate where people can share the gospel of Christ by their lifestyle and words—v. 4.
[h1heading]The Definitions of Intercession[/h1heading]

With the above reasons in mind, what does it mean to intercede? This word is very elusive to nail down because it has so many applications and definitions. A common understanding of intercession is "a spiritual groaning," and if you are really mature, you intercede all night.

When I was a young Christian, I had no concept of what it meant to intercede. Every once in awhile, in my home church, we would have an all night prayer meeting. I decided to go once. I was the youngest one there by far. I tried to mimic the tone and intensity of those who were praying around me. I prayed around the world for every missionary I knew. I prayed the Lord's prayer and any other prayer I had heard! I prayed for every aunt, uncle, and cousin...

and in 15 minutes I was finished. I didn't know what to do...and the more I thought about it, the sleepier I got. I finally fell asleep. (Here is a little clue: you can always tell the people who fall asleep in a prayer meeting because they have big red marks on their foreheads.) I went home that night frustrated, because I realized I did not know what intercession was all about. It took many years before I understood what it meant to pray on behalf of someone else.

The correct definitions for intercession are threefold. First, it means "to push against." As far back as we can go, that was its primary meaning. Second, in the classical Greek and Hebrew, the word came to mean "to send an official petition to the king or ruler." This was a particular kind of petition, one of complaint. The word is often used in extra-biblical material as a petition to complain about an enemy encroaching on the king's territory. For example, in the outpost of the kingdom, when the enemy would begin to encroach upon the boundary, an official petition would be written up and signed by the king's representative in that area. The petition would be sent directly to the king.

In most other circumstances, problems would be handled by the king's ministers. A petition like this, however, was so important that the situation was not to be discussed by the king's ministers or any lesser member of his cabinet. It was taken by courier directly to the king and brought immediately to his attention. It is already easy to see the implications this word has for us.

A third definition for intercession is "to stand against, or in between, or on behalf of, someone else." This means a person would go with us, or for us, to speak to another person. It speaks of pleading a cause for someone else, by personal conversation or a letter. This is seen in the letter to Philemon. Paul is pleading Onesimus' cause to Philemon, or interceding as an intermediary between the runaway slave and his owner.

This third definition is the one used to describe the intercession of the Holy Spirit and Jesus—Romans 8:26-27,34.

26. In the same way, the Spirit

(Note: This is a capital "S"—which Spirit is it?)



  1. to come and minister in the nick of time
  2. to buy up a share in
  3. to move in and give support.)
us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

This can mean prayers of the Spirit:

  1. prayed through us in a spiritual language we don't understand
  2. directed by the Spirit we do understand
  3. prayers without the knowledge or participation of an individual.)
27] And he who searches our hearts [that is, the Father—1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Cor. 4:5] knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

34] Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

These three verses in Romans remind us that intercession, petitioning, representation on our behalf is being made to our King and Father in heaven.

Mark it down! There is never a time when we are not being interceded for. The interceding ministry of the Holy Spirit and Jesus is taking place for us constantly. Also, we can join in and participate in the groans/intercession of the Spirit by letting HIm lead and prompt our prayers.

Romans 8:26—We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
Jude 1:20—But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit."

Remember, Satan is studying the game films, so intercession is critical for us because He will attack us where we are most vulnerable! It is standard procedure in any sports contest for opponents to try to figure out each other's weakness by studying previous games/contests. The enemy of our soul, Satan, does the same thing; he designs his attacks to our weaknesses. As we understand, however, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are interceding on our behalf. This should give us confidence to follow their examples and enter into a ministry of intercession for others even though we are a target of the enemy's plans.