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Faith & Wisdom

Intercessory Prayer: Meaning and Examples From The Bible

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When someone we love is going through a hard time, we often feel an urge to pray for them. But why do we have this urge, and where does it come from? 

The answer lies in God's design for us. When God created us, He provided us with family, friends, and a community. As we progress through our lives, He expects us to pray for each of our loved ones. This commandment for us is even expressed in Galatians 6:2, which reads: "bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

When you feel the urge to pray for another person, that urge is called "intercession." But what's an intercessory prayer, and how do you say one? That's what we'll cover in this article.

What is intercessory prayer?

To understand intercessory prayer, you first need to understand the Biblical definition of "intercession." 

Today, we understand "intercession" to refer to the act of intervening or acting on behalf of a person, animal, or entity. This definition comes from the Latin word "intercessio," which roughly translates to "mediate," "come between," or "interpose on behalf of others."

The Biblical definition of "intercession" carries a similar meaning but more spiritual weight. When the Bible references intercession, that intercession works on both the intercession's subject and humanity. 

The best way to visualize Biblical intercession is to picture a long metal chain. Each notch in the chain represents a person, and like the chain, we're connected. When you say an intercessory prayer for another person, the entire chain becomes stronger in Christ. 

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Why we say intercessory prayers

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Although God watches over each of us from heaven, He expects us to care for one another here on earth. Intercessory prayers are a vital part of God's vision, as they allow us to seek His help for someone else.  

There's no single reason we say intercessory prayers, as there are many circumstances in which we need to use them. 

That includes:

  • To ask God to support a loved one through a hard time 
  • To ask for a family members salvation
  • To ask for God's mercy or help during a disaster 
  • To pray for humanity's salvation
  • To ask for forgiveness for another
  • To ask God to help you uplift another person in Christ 

We also say intercessory prayers at work, school, and Church at times of prayer, including on the National Day of Prayer, during Holy Week, and over Christmas.

The Bible commands us to act as intercessors several times. 

That includes in:

  • Colossians 4:2: "continue in prayer and watch therein with thanksgiving," 
  • Job 42:10: "the Lord released Job from captivity when he prayed for his friends. Also, the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before."
  • Ephesians 6:18: "pray with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."

Of course, those aren't the only places God's word references intercessory prayer.

Intercessory prayer in scripture

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The most well-known intercessory prayer in the Bible is the prayer Jesus said on the cross. As we see in Luke 23:34, Jesus said an intercessory prayer to God to ask for our forgiveness. 

He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Of course, Jesus's sacrifice for humanity is also an act of intercession — as he died for our sins. 

The word "intercession" even appears in references to Jesus's sacrifice in the New Testament in Romans 8:34, where we are told, "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." 

Isaiah 53:12 also confirms Jesus's intercession, explaining that Christ, "bore the sin of man and makes intercessions for the transgressors." 

Jesus's prayer to God on the cross isn't the only intercessory prayer he gives in the Bible. The night before his crucifixion, Jesus said a long and heartfelt prayer known as the "Farewell Prayer." 

The Farewell Prayer includes a long intercessory prayer that you can find in John 17. 

As the Farewell Prayer is quite long, we won't include the whole thing here. Instead, we'll draw your attention to crucial moments where Jesus intercedes: 

  • John 17:6-19, when Jesus prays for his disciples. Notably, he says in John 17:15, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from evil."
  • John 17:20, when he prays for all believers and says, "neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe in me through their word,"

As you can see from the intercessory prayers in the Bible, intercessory prayers take many forms. So how should you say one?

How to say an intercessory prayer

There's no "right" way to say an intercessory prayer, as long as your prayer is sincere. 

However, if you are looking for some direction for your prayer, you could structure it like this:

  1. Start with an address to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit (for example, "O Lord,")
  2. State the reason for your prayer (for example, "I ask today that you grant my mother relief from her knee pain.")
  3. Offer an elaboration to explain why you need intercession (for example, "she has suffered greatly after twisting her knee last week, and we can't relieve her pain.")
  4. Give praise and thankfulness to God (for example, "I know you look out for the needs of others, both here on earth and above in heaven.")
  5. Finish with a supplication for intercession (for example, "I give myself to you and ask you to grant my Mother mercy in Jesus's name.")
  6. Say "Amen"

Alternatively, if you were praying for someone's salvation, you might draw inspiration from this intercessory prayer sample instead:

"Dear Lord Jesus, 

Today, I crossed paths with one of God's people.

Lord, they don't know you and your son Jesus Christ. Please work through me and guide them to salvation. 

Let them understand God's power, love, and glory, and let the will of God touch them.

In the name of God's kingdom, Amen." 

While many people say intercessory prayers with the person they are interceding for, this isn't strictly necessary. God will still hear your intercessory prayers if you pray by yourself, with a loved one, or with your church community. 

How to lead intercessory prayer in Church

Each prayer handles intercessory prayers differently. However, if you want to say an intercessory prayer for someone or something, you can usually put in a prayer request, ask the person leading the service, or pray during group prayer time. 

To lead an intercessory prayer successfully, make sure you: 

  • Write down your prayer in advance (so you don't forget anything)
  • Explain why you are praying before you start your prayer 
  • Follow it up with a request for help if appropriate. You can ask for donations, volunteers, or items (depending on the cause). 

And, of course, if you are going to say an intercessory prayer for someone, make sure you check with them first. Some issues are very personal, and you may accidentally reveal private information if you don't check with your prayer's subject in advance.

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Prayer warriors always intercede for others

When we say an intercessory prayer, we uplift everyone and make the world a more loving and compassionate place. We also live out God's design for our lives, as saying prayers for others is part of our duty as Christians. 

To learn more about God's design for your life, listen to our meditation "Sustained Faith" or discover our other content here. You can also access our meditations by downloading our app from the iOS app store or the Google Play store.

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