Never stop praying, especially for others. Always pray by the power of the Spirit. Stay alert and keep praying for God's people. - Ephesians 6:18
Intercessory prayer is simply prayer for other people. "If you have sinned, you should tell each other what you have done. Then you can pray for one another and be healed. The prayer of an innocent person is powerful, and it can help a lot." (James 5:16) In this sense everyone is called to be an intercessor as we pray for one another.
There is a further level of intercessory prayer in which God lays a particular burden on certain people to pray. This burden might be for a person, a church, a community, or a particular event. Paul speaks of continuing the suffering of Christ. After telling the Colossians that he has not stopped praying for them (Colossians 1:9) he continues to urge them to be deeply rooted and firm (verse 23) in the faith. Paul has an intercessory burden on behalf of the Colossian church. Intercessors should read all of Colossians 1.
I am glad that I can suffer for you. I am pleased also that in my own body I can continue the suffering of Christ for his body, the church. - Colossians 1:24
If everyone is called to some form of intercessory prayer, why do we call some people "intercessors?"
An intercessor is someone who is especially called and equipped by God through the Holy Spirit to spend time in earnest prayer for others. You become an intercessor simply by receiving such burdens from God to pray for others. You learn from the Holy Spirit how to pray for certain people or groups. "Ask me, and I will tell you things that you don't know and can't find out." (Jeremiah 33:3)
At many times in history God has searched for certain righteous people during times of judgment. In the time of Noah, only one family was found (Genesis 7:1). In Sodom, only Lot and his family were found. In Jerusalem God searched for anyone who was "truly upset and sad about the disgusting things" being done (Ezekiel 9:4).
And I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. - Ezekiel 22:30 (NRSV)
Intercessors must be listeners. Intercessory prayer is prayer guided by the Spirit. We are not on our own in prayer.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. - Romans 8:26 (NRSV)
Paul says, "Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance; for you felt a godly grief, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death." - 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10 (NRSV)
Some of the signs of worldly sorrow are:
Stay joined to me and let my teachings become part of you. Then you can pray for whatever you want, and your prayer will be answered. When you become fruitful disciples of mine, my Father will be honored. - John 15:7,8 You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last. Then my Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name. - John 15:16
And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. - Nehemiah 8:10 (NRSV)
You can have joy even in intercession because you are in a victorious army. You can see the fruits of your prayers by faith even through the gloom. "Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1) We can see the light even from the deepest suffering: "Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge." - Isaiah 53:11a (NRSV)
A good guideline for intercessors is that they spend three times as much time in praise and worship as in intercession.
. . . you love [Jesus] and have faith in him, and no words can tell how glad and happy you are to be saved. That's why you have faith. - 1 Peter 1:8
Intercession is one of the giftings God has given to strengthen the body. Intercessors work under the authority of their pastor and church leaders just as anyone else in the church does. They should review 1 Corinthians 11-14, Titus 2, and Ephesians 4.
Christ has generously divided out his gifts to us. -Ephesians 4:7
All scripture quotations taken from the Contemporary English Version, Copyright © 1995 American Bible Society.
Copyright © 1998, Henry E. Neufeld
Taken from the Participatory Study Series