What is an Intercessor?
Most people regard intercession as just a form of deeper or more intense prayer. But, what makes intercession different from everyday prayer is altogether so much more.
An intercessor is one who gives himself to God in prayer to bring down the power of God on earth; one who is alert and sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. An intercessor devotes himself to pray for others and answers the call for persistence and perseverance in prayer for requests such as this one Paul expressed in Colossians, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned (Col. 4:2-3, NASB).
An intercessor carves out the time to present himself before God and listen. He has learned not to pray for selfish needs, but has had his heart enlarged. We simply do not see blessings to others in prayer like we should because selfishness is the death of prayer. Becoming an intercessor takes you to a place where you are genuinely more concerned for others that yourself.
Christ the Intercessor
In Christ we see the perfect example of an intercessor. “Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors” (Is. 53:12, NASB).
Christ attained the position with the complete authority to call down God’s power. In His intercession He gave His life for those whom He plead. He plunged Himself into their needs with great urgency and took their place. He had no self-interests. Christ crucified the flesh.
Intercession is one of Christ’s greatest works on earth. Christ came in human form so that He might intercede for us. And as Christ left this world He gave this work of intercession to us. “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you” (John 15:16, NASB).
Christ’s desire to see His kingdom established in our midst is only restricted by the intercession of the saints. Even now, as He is seated at the right hand of the Father, He continues to be our High Priest, interceding for us. He battles in heaven for our completion, perfection, and fullness of faith. “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25, NIV).
The Father always seeks intercessors
God seeks them, but rarely finds them. Can you feel the surprise, and even alarm of the Almighty when He exclaimed through Isaiah “And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him” (Is. 59:16, NASB). Then, His regret through Ezekiel, “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one” (Ez. 22:30, NLT).
But there are very tangible examples of those who have sacrificed their lives to find that place of intercession. Men and women whom God called to reject all natural reason, crucify their flesh and follow Him in intercession. These examples are as astounding as they are inspiring and scandalous to our carnal thinking.
• Moses He interceded for Israel following their blasphemy and idolatry in worshiping a golden calf. The Lord was so angry with Aaron and the people that he wanted to destroy them. However, after Moses fasted for forty days and nights the Lord spared them. “Then once again I fell prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the LORD’s sight and so arousing his anger. I feared the anger and wrath of the LORD, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the LORD listened to me” (Deu. 9:18-19, NIV).
• Isaiah “And the LORD said, “Even as My servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush,” (Is. 20:3, NASB). Who could believe such a thing? A recognized prophet dressing so scandalously so that compared to other he might be said to go naked. Can we even begin to understand the contempt and ridicule that he would encounter? I am sure many would write him of as a fool or madman. Nonetheless, God had him do it to show his obedience to God, and to shame the disobedience of his people. The people’s hearts were hardened to what they heard, so Isaiah was called upon by God to intercede and be a visible sign. He was to signify that the Egyptians and Ethiopians would be led away by the king of Assyria, stripped of their fine clothes and be led off into captivity.
• Hosea “The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes” (Hosea 3:1, NIV). Hosea was directed by God to stay married to an adulterous wife in order to intercede and show Israel a living picture of their relationship with Him. Though Israel was repeatedly unfaithful, they were chosen of God and yet loved by Him. God promised to redeem them and always love them because they were His covenant people.
• Paul, over many years, offers himself as a living sacrifice in order to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. Hear the depth of his intercession for his kinsmen, Israel, as he laments that he would subject himself to be cutoff from the church if it would bring the Jews to Christ. “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3, NASB).
The list of intercessors goes on and on. Those who stood in the gap for their generation and found a place of abiding in God to move God, and yes, even cause Him to change His mind. Their sacrifices are inspiring and their intercession world changing.
• John Wesley, who moved across Ireland, Great Britain, and America discipling and training evangelists to intercede for the masses. Under his care, and intercession, many of the great social issues of the day were addressed, such as the abolition of slavery and prison reform.
• William Booth, who interceded for the poorest and most needy, including alcoholics, criminals and prostitutes. He would bring this message of hope through Christ to the hopeless in fifty-eight countries.
• Hudson Taylor, as he interceded for China, founding the China Inland Mission in the 19th century that led to thousands of conversions and hundreds of missionaries giving their lives for China.
• C.T. Studd, the famous English Cricketer, who interceded for the unenvangelized in China and Africa. He gave away two fortunes in his lifetime to follow Christ completely. In founding the Worldwide Evangelism Crusade, he brought Christ to many parts of Africa.
• Dietrich Bonheoffer, standing in the gap for Germany, left the safe confines of American to return to his homeland and fearlessly resisted Hitler. He stood almost alone in his vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews while he discipled and encouraged many in the underground church. His martyrdom was predictable.
• Mother Teresa, the intercessor for India. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, which is today active in over 133 countries. They run hospices and homes for those with leprosy, HIV/AIDS, dispensaries and mobile clinics, orphanages, schools, and so many more outreaches to the poorest of the poor.
This power of the Holy Spirit in intercession is not something for just a special few. Don’t think for a moment that you are disqualified or inadequate for interceding for others. This same Holy Spirit that enabled these men and women to stand in the gap for nations, people groups and individuals is standing at the doorstep of your heart today. The Lord makes this spirit of prayer and intercession available for all who desire to be filled with His Spirit. For God’s purposes to come forth in the earth, each one of us must find his place in intercession. It is the power of intercession that will see Christ’s prayer He gave us fulfilled, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Intercession can be as real as standing in the gap for one person today. Don’t let the foreboding thought of becoming more concerned for someone else more than yourself keep you from crying out for this spirit of intercession. Yes, there is a cost, and it is a divine reality, not some ethereal, unseen sacrifice. The cost is personal to you. The Holy Spirit will direct your life in this.
My most frequent times of intercession have been for specific needs. Personally, I am “in process” in expanding my faith and possibilities for intercession.
Two personal examples: Please read these in the spirit with which they are written, brokenness and humility. I am regular person, flawed from my upbringing, worldliness, and sin. I have intimacy issues. I could go on. But, none of my failures are greater than the Lord’s forgiveness and redemption. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Why pray if you can’t believe the Lord may answer your prayers?”
I was drawn in to praying for a young teen I had never met. She was the daughter of a friend’s friend. It was explained to the elders at our church that she previously had respiratory issues and now had contracted pneumonia in both lungs and was in ICU. Over the course of the next few days her situation became so dire it was life threatening. I don’t understand why, but the Holy Spirit began to weigh heavenly on me with a burden for intercession. It was one of my first occasions to feel this invitation.
The situation worsened to the point that the girl was critical and not expected to live. The immediate family was called to be with her in ICU. I had some time off from work and was in the process of doing work in a house where it was quiet and by myself. I decided to hunker down in prayer. I remember asking the Lord, “What do you want to do?” Out of the abyss came this thought to me, “Cry out to me 10,000 times for this young girl, and I will glorify myself through her.” My immediate thought was I am conjuring this up or having a hallucination. I settled down and put pen to paper and calculated I could cry out to the Lord X times per minute and hour and could reach 10,000 in approximately eleven hours. I had the time, gall, and faith. After approximately 7,500 cries out to the Lord I was worn out, had no more tears, and no voice. Feeling defeated, I stopped and waited patiently on the Lord to speak. As clearly as you have probably had the Lord speak to you on occasions through His word, dreams, or others, the Lord said to me, “This isn’t about you, I just needed someone to stand in the gap.”
The short of it is, the girl made an almost immediate turn around and in a few short weeks was out of the hospital completely healed.
One of the marvelous women of prayer in our church was fighting for her life with stage 4 cancer. Many were praying and interceding. She and her husband had been rejected for treatment at one of the major cancer facilities in the U.S. Her oncologist had told her she was too advanced for further treatment. She was withering in pain and they didn’t know where to turn.
A particular morning I had blocked out about three hours to pray, read, study, and meditate on the word. My wife was out of the country on a mission’s trip so I had time to myself and wanted to spend it in my favorite pursuit, intimacy with Jesus. I even got up early that morning to start, and I had no sooner started than the Spirit of the Lord whispered to my heart, “Lay everything aside and pray for this woman.” Honestly, I fought the thought, skirted around it, and stalled for almost an hour before I gave in, set everything aside and interceded for a few hours for her. It was only a matter of a few days that miraculously, through an unexplainable turn of events, the woman was admitted and whisked off out of state to the cancer treatment facility where she was evaluated and started on rigorous course of treatment.
Qualities of an intercessor
The most outstanding quality of intercession is to see the need at hand as more important than your own need. It is a severe challenge to be so identified with someone to the point that the other person’s need outweighs yours. This is the beginning place of intercession—identifying with the one you are interceding for, being their authentic representative, crucifying the self and becoming consumed in their need.
This place and possibilities of intercession develop as a person allows the Lord to touch everything in him that loves the world. Affections, appetites, the love of money, reputation, He leaves no stone unturned as He prepares one for intercession. So, one of the great qualities of an intercessor—little a part of this world. It is no happenstance that in Jesus’s final discourse in John 16:16-21 He made the disciples clearly aware of the riff between Him and the world and them and the world. Jesus even went as far to say that the world would not recognize the Helper that He was sending the disciples. “He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you” (John 14:17, NLT).
The final characteristics of intercession I would highlight are courage and authority. An intercessor has the courage to continue in persevering, believing prayer. He does not waver. And all of these workings of the Holy Spirit in a person: identifying with others, being crucified to the world, and having the courage to persevere, they all lead to one place–authority. The source of the power and authority in prayer comes from abiding in the vine. We are crucified with Christ and now live by faith. There is a place of intercession that can be gained in the spirit where the Word of the Lord will come and the Holy Spirit will teach us how and what to pray. Our thoughts and prayers come into agreement with His.
For God’s purposes to come forth in the earth, each one of us must find his place in intercession. It is the power of intercession that will see Christ’s prayer He gave us fulfilled, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.