What is Intercession?
There four different types of prayer to consider and understand as listed in the second chapter of 1 Timothy.
1 Timothy 2:1 (KJV): I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
First, supplications are specific requests or petitions. Second, prayers are made with the attitude of devotional worship and involve talking things over with God. They also include speaking in tongues and whispering divine secrets with Him. We will take a close look in this article at intercession, the third type of prayer listed. Fourth, there is giving of thanks. We often combine these four types of prayer, such as making request with thanksgiving, then giving praise to God, then going back to a specific petition. Many times we include intercession in our prayers and don’t realize what it is or how it works.
Intercession should be something we all do with understanding and intention. It is something Christ does for us all the time. If we want to be more like him then we must learn about this so we can follow in his footsteps regarding this aspect of prayer.
Ephesians 6:18: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
This verse is right after the section in Ephesians about the armor of God teaching us how to stand against the wiles of the devil. It mentions supplication twice but they have two different meanings. The first is referring to making a petition or a specific request. This.is the typical meaning of the word.
In Philippians, chapter four, we see three types of prayer mentioned, including supplication.
Philippians 4:6: Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
This is prayer made with thanksgiving and specific request. We’re to put on the armor of God with that kind of supplication, asking with specific request and thanksgiving. Then it goes on to describe something further in the rest of the verse in Ephesians: “...and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication...” The “and” connects prayer and supplication with perseverance and supplication, and the second word supplication means intercession. Perseverance means to consistently keep going and not give up. So we’re to watch without giving up and we’re to make intercession for all the saints.
The armor of God is everything that God gave us in Christ Jesus. He put Christ in us, He gave us the Holy Spirit, and He gave us power to stand against the Evil One in every situation. The last key to putting on the armor of God is to pray and the last aspect of that is to continually watch and make intercession.
The first element of intercession is to keep our eyes open and watch, thereby seeing and knowing what to pray for. If I am only focused on myself and all I see are the needs in my life then I’m like an ostrich with my head buried in the sand and I can’t see what others need. But if I have my head up then I’m watchful and aware. If I’m setting my mind and turning my eyes to be observant of the needs of others then I’ll see things that need prayerful attention.
The second thing to understand is what the word “intercession” means. It comes from two Latin words: “inter” which means between and “cession” which means to move. So it means to move between. That is why people in our Christian culture today referred to as prayer warriors are intercessors because they are moving between different situations with prayer to ask God for something. But this moving between is not something we do by our own intellect.
An example is how a soldier moves with his weaponry when the enemy is approaching the camp. As believers, we have the sword of the spirit-the word of God. That is the rhema from God or the revelation word which is appropriate for the moment, and that is the sword I have in my hand. If I see the enemy attacking another believer in the family of God I move between the enemy and the believer with my sword. That is the basic picture of intercession. I move between them with the sword of the spirit and do as God reveals and directs. I don’t just decide to go stand between the enemy and that person and be the buffer in my own greatness and strength because that would be prideful. But I can do it because I have holy spirit and I have my armor on. God can reveal to me where and how to stand at the point of attack. That revelation will be the moving between. Another example is when the enemy is approaching another believer, God can reveal what to say to give warning. “Hey, watch out on the right! The enemy is coming!” That is intercession.
A simple definition of intercession is to meet with God to entreat or ask Him for something specific for another person or for yourself. The simple picture is to meet. We meet with God in prayer for a specific purpose. Using the example of the enemy attacking my friend, if I want to intercede, I have to meet with God to entreat of Him an answer to help her. I am seeking for a specific answer from God to help in a specific situation. Whenever we make intercession for someone, we are meeting with God on behalf of or in place of that person. You can· do it on behalf of yourself as well.
Some specific examples of intercession are in the Old Testament. Jeremiah was an incredible intercessor for Israel and throughout his life he tried to get them to understand how to return to God. They never really got it but he prophesied for more that forty years in many different ways. In Jeremiah 27, verse 18, he is talking to some priests who listened to false prophets. This verse exemplifies moving between people.
Jeremiah 27:18: But if they be prophets, and if the word of the LORD be with them, let them now make intercession to the LORD of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, go not to Babylon.
God had revealed to Jeremiah that the vessels from the temple were going to go to Babylon. That was the prophecy from Jeremiah and the true God. The other prophets were saying that it wasn’t true... “Oh no, no, no. It doesn’t have to be like that. They’re not going to have to go to Babylon; we’ll rescue them from out of there.” Basically, they were being very prideful in believing that they would be the intercessors. Jeremiah confronted them by saying that if they were really prophets then they would entreat God to cause something to happen so that the vessels would not go to Babylon. That’s how intercessory prayer works. When you know something detrimental is going to happen, it’s not about just praying against it. It is about moving in between and specifically asking God to show you what to do. “Father, show me what I can do to prevent this from happening.” It is beseeching Him to show you by revelation what to do or say so that it won’t happen. When something evil is already happening, it is stepping in between to stop it.
Another example is Daniel-a great intercessor as well. In the ninth chapter of Daniel, it shows how when Daniel asked for intercession, he immediately received revelation from God.
Daniel 9:20: And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God;
The word “supplication” in this verse means intercession. As he was praying, God gave him the vision from that period of time until the Messiah would come. Daniel had made this prayer for his people, for the temple and for Mount Zion. He moved in between and God immediately gave him revelation, telling him what was going to happen and what he needed to pray for. That can happen to us as well-all day, every day.
In the Old Testament it was mostly the prophets who prayed with intercession. Not everyone had the spirit in full measure. Today we each have the spirit of God in us so we can all be intercessors at any time.
Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
We don’t always know where the enemy is coming from. Many times we don’t even know what to pray for. We can’t solve problems and stop attacks but God knows what every person needs. He knows our infirmities when we don’t know what to pray for.
Do you know why it says that the spirit makes intercession? It’s because we pray and then move between, and by way of the spirit there is an answer that will stop the enemy. By way of the spirit there will be intercession.
Romans 8:27: And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
So we don’t have to be concerned about whether or not we are praying for the right thing because if it’s by revelation by way of the spirit, it’s going to be according to the will of God. That’s what makes this whole concept of moving between really exciting. It’s not our own ideas or determination that provides the solution. We choose to stand between but it’s God by way of the spirit that gives the revelation of the answer that will help.
Romans 8:34: Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
In this verse the word “for” means on behalf of. Christ moves between with prayer, standing at the right hand of the throne of God and asks for specific things on behalf of us. Christ does this all day long every day. What is most fantastic is that he does this for every believer around the world all the time. He gave us the right to carry that out here on earth so it is just as powerful when we do it as what Christ does at the throne of God.
In Hebrews 7 it describes what Jesus is doing as our high priest at the throne of God.
Hebrews 7:25: Wherefore 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.
Once Jesus offered up himself he became a high priest for us so that he could give life to us. “Wherefore he is able also to save them” means to give his life. He’s able to give life to the uttermost to those that come unto God by him. If we come to God by him then he will give life and he will pour out revelation.
Consider the phrase “standing in the gap.” There was a men’s prayer gathering in Washington that was called “Standing in the Gap” and their idea was that men should rise up to become strong in prayer for their families and the country. Well, if I just say to you to stand in the gap, it gives a picture of filling in something that is missing. The explanation of what standing in the gap really means is found in Ezekiel 22.
Ezekiel was a prophet who many times physically demonstrated what God was trying to show people. There was even a time when Ezekiel laid on his side for more than 365 days because God told him not to move. During that time he must have been doing a lot of intercession because to lie there and not move while saying the same prayer over and over would be quite difficult. So people would come up to him and ask him, “Why are you lying there?” and then he would get to tell them what the prophecy was.
In Ezekiel 22:23 the prophecy begins and it talks about how the priests had violated God’s law and that the land was going to be destroyed. Verse 28 describes how the prophets who claimed to be speaking for God were speaking lies. Then it says that He sought for a man to stand in the gap among all those people who were speaking lies and who were oppressing the land.
Ezekiel 22:30: And 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.
Let’s look at the words and phrases in this verse. The words “make up” mean to build and “hedge” is like a wall or fence. “Stand in the gap” means to become a servant in the middle of the broken wall, and “before me” means before my face. “For” is on behalf of. So putting it all together it reads, “I sought for a man among them that should build up the wall and become a servant in the breach-in the gap--before my face on behalf of the land, and I couldn’t find one.” This depicts the intercessor. The enemy approaches; there is a breach or something broken in the wall; the man who comes is a servant. He comes to stand in the breach and he stands there with the sword of the spirit seeking revelation for how to rebuild the wall. What should he do and how should it be done? He seeks these things before God’s face with a petition. He meets with God and doing so, he is standing in the gap being an intercessor.
Consider if the situation is personal. At times it’s easier to see if it’s happening to someone else. A simple illustration is one that happened to me. I had gotten a tooth drilled and prepared for a crown. The temporary crown kept falling out so I kept it out all day. It kept getting more and more painful because it was open and sore. I couldn’t eat with the crown but I couldn’t keep it in place. Bu the end of the night my whole mouth was throbbing but I went to bed thinking it would just get better. We prayed but it didn’t get better. I got up around midnight and went out to the living room and just sat and prayed. I said, “Father, you have to show me what to do because I don’t know. I don’t understand how this tooth will be healed but I need to sleep.” I was begging him to show me something. He told me to put the cap back on even if it didn’t fit because it would at least protect the tooth. So I did that and right away the pain subsided and I was able to sleep. The next day I had it in all day and all of the pounding pain was basically gone. I was able to endure until I could get the permanent tooth. That kind of a prayer was an intercession because it was a seeking for revelation for what to do for myself. This illustrates that we can be intercessors for ourselves as well.
Another example is with a lady who really wanted to get married and have a partner. Prayer was made for her and instantly there was a revelation about how she should let go of her fear because her fear of someone not being good enough or not being able to do the work with her was holding her back from even being able to look for someone. And immediately she was saying, “You’re right! You’re right! Oh, I’ll let go of my fear right now!” That is what we do for each other when we speak that specific rhema word; it’s like we move in between to give some help. “Hey, the enemy is on your right! Why don’t you turn this way and try this?” It’s not our own ideas that we speak but God, by way of the spirit within us, makes intercession for us according to His own will, and then the answers and deliverance come.
There are a number of verses in Psalms where the word “supplication” is actually intercession. Here is an example in Psalm 119.
Psalm 119:169-170: Let my cry come near before thee, 0 LORD: give me understanding according to thy word. Let my supplication [intercession] come before thee: deliver me according to thy word.
Understanding this helps us realize we make intercession many times when we are inspired to pray for people. Oftentimes when we lay hands on people to minister it is actually intercession because we receive the revelation of what they need and speak it forth. As they believe those words, they are healed. So we have used these four types of prayer but by understanding the differences, we can practice them. When we pray with a specific request, we pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. But when we make intercession, we put that person in front of us and entreat God to show us by revelation what they need to hear or do. That is done with the sword of the spirit. The giving of thanks and the praising comes after intercession because as we see people healed and delivered, we can’t help but praise!