The Power of Intercessory Prayer
There are many ways to love one’s neighbour, but intercessory prayer—praying on behalf of other people—has got to be one of the most powerful.
Prayer is the most potent force known to humanity. Because we have been made partakers in Jesus’ victory over sin and death (1 John 4:4), we have the authority as sons and daughters of God to pray for others, pushing back the darkness of sin and oppression. In prayer, we have a weapon that has “divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
That kind of weaponry—the power of prayer— is something God invites us to use as we seek not only personal transformation but the transformation of the world as well. An intercessor is one who takes up a “burden” that goes far beyond his or her own needs and intentions.
And those who take up the call to intercession come to learn in a deeper way that the sufferings of the present time cannot compare to the joy that will come as God’s purposes unfold. They learn to trust in the Lord, because they have experienced in prayer how infinitely compassionate God is. Intercessors participate in God’s magnificent plan to raise humanity to share in divine life. This insight moves them to engage in a spiritual battle against the forces that seek to destroy God’s plans.
The Letter of James tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16), and there is no one more righteous than Jesus—the most powerful intercessor whoever walked the earth. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, rightly declared, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22).
The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that because Jesus’ priesthood is eternal, “he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25). Imagine that: right now, Jesus is in heaven interceding for you, even as he intercedes for the entire world. He also invites us all to join in his priestly intercession so that a might flood of prayer will ascend to the Father’s throne.
So ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to pray in union with the mind of God. Take to heart St. Paul’s words, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes . . . for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). And above all, ask God to give you confidence that he hears your prayers and longs to answer the deep needs of those around you.
1 Since it is the prayer of the righteous that is powerful and effective (James 5:16), examine your conscience before you pray, and repent of any sin or harsh feelings you may have against other people.
2 Spend a few minutes in silence, to quiet your mind and come into God’s presence.
3 During this time, ask the Lord to give you a sense of the things God wants you to pray for. Put aside your own agenda, concerns, and desires and unite yourself to Jesus’ heart. You may want to write down the things that God places on your hearts.
4 Briefly reflect on what you wrote down. What do you think God is leading you to pray for?
5 Pray for the things on God’s heart—for those who have no faith; for those who have fallen away from Jesus; for renewal and unity in all the Christian churches; for respect for all life; for all the lost, abandoned, or forgotten children of the world; for those under the power of addictions or bound by depression, anxiety, or bitterness; and for prisoners and service men and women. And, of course, pray for your own intentions and those of your loved ones.
6 As you pray, take confidence in God’s power to overcome any obstacle. Stand firm in faith, and wait to see God work in power.
7 In your prayer journal, keep a record of what you prayed for, and of the ways God answered those prayers. Thank him and praise for all the ways he has worked through your prayer.
Jesus promised: “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). One of the most powerful ways we can pray as intercessors is together with others. Consider forming an intercessory prayer team.
The final chapter of the Book of Habakkuk gives us a glimpse into the heart of an intercessor, both in praying for a mighty outpouring of grace, and in his abandonment and trust in God’s provision. Let us take Habakkuk’s prayer as our own as we intercede for the many needs of the church and the world:
"O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy." (Habakkuk 3:2)