Intercessory Prayer

1 Samuel 18:6-9;19:1-7

In the midst of his greatest trial, facing his own death, Jesus prayed fervently, not only for himself but for his disciples and the rest of us. With that in mind, I believe that God has a special appreciation for people who pray for, and act on behalf of, others who are facing trials.


In the first reading today, we see intercession in action, as Jonathan interceded for his friend David, the man his father Saul tried to kill out of jealousy.  Despite the fact that defending David would undermine any aspirations that he might have to become king himself, Jonathan comes to David’s aid, pleading for David’s life to be spared.


Opportunities for this kind of dramatic, life-saving, intercession don’t present themselves to us in our humble little lives very often, if ever. But the opportunity for intercessory prayer on behalf of others is plentiful. Two things: 1) Why should we engage in intercessory prayer? And 2) How can we do it effectively, in accordance with God’s will?


Why do intercessory prayer? Because God says so.  He gives us instruction to pray for others in several places in the Bible. The apostle James tells us to “pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Jesus himself commanded, “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.”


Why does God want us to pray for others?  Because intercessory prayer reflects God’s own character of outgoing love and mercy. God wants us to think like he does, and praying for others helps us to think beyond ourselves and to grow in compassion for others. 


There was a renowned Baptist preacher from England in the 1800’s by the name of Charles Spurgeon, who wrote a lot about intercessory prayer.  He said, “Intercessory prayer is the sweetest prayer God ever hears.  Now you do not doubt but that Christ's prayer is the most acceptable of all supplications.”


“Very well, my brethren, the more like your prayer is to Christ's, the more sweet it will be.  And while petitions for yourself will be accepted, your pleadings for others, having in them more of the fruits of the Spirit, more love, perhaps more faith, certainly more brotherly kindness, they will be as the sweetest oblation that you can offer to God, the very fat of thy sacrifice.”  I think that quote says it well!


God's love is at work in each of us today. So we know that his love will induce us to care about others, enough to pray for their strength, their healing, and well-being. 


That’s the “why” of intercessory prayer. Here’s a few notes on the “how” of intercessory prayer (4 things):


1) We need to be persistent in our prayer, which means we need to “hold fast to” God’s promises, and know that he is in control.


2) We need to be aware that we’re never really praying alone. For when the love in each of us for other people causes us to ask God to act- to strengthen, heal, defend, change, or bless those we are praying for, there is someone else praying with us: the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is leading us to pray. We need to listen for those promptings.


3) Prayer must change as needs change. The intercessory prayer we first pray on someone’s behalf may not be what God wants us to pray for. For example, we might be praying to lift a burden from someone, but the Lord might be using that burden as a tool to prepare that person for something else. Then again, our prayer might be spot on. So we are to pray listening for the Spirit, and pray that God's will prevails however it is manifested.


4) Prayer may lead us to a call to action.  We shouldn’t be surprised if the Spirit starts tugging on our heart to take some sort of action about a matter we're praying about.  Clearly, this happened in Jonathan’s case in the first reading.  What if we may be the answer God sends into that person’s life?  That's not a license to be a buttinski, stepping into everyone's private lives like some sort of conquering hero.  But the Spirit might be calling us to be more than a bystander. We need to be ready for it, and open to it. When we intercede in prayer, we need to be prepared to bring forth our knowledge, gifts, abilities, attention and energies before God and say, 'Lord, use these, if that's what it takes to set this situation right'.


So as we start another day, let's ask ourselves, "How can we be a blessing for someone else today?  How can we intercede for them in love as Jesus has interceded for us in love?"  We pray today that Jesus' intercession on our behalf will allow us to see ourselves, and others, as his children, who depend on him completely, and through his grace and mercy we can find the confidence to live out our role as his intercessors for each other!


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