Praying for others, either an individual or a group is known as intercession. In our human condition distractions, busyness, and competing priorities inhibit our ability to maintain or sustain the practice of effective intercession.
Intercession: Following The Image
As believers, we are called to follow the example of Christ to do what He did while He was here on earth and to do what He is doing now. Jesus ‘always lives to make intercession’ means that He interceded for us, He intercedes for us today, and He will continue to intercede for us.
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:23-25 ESV
As image bearers of God, we look to Jesus to see the embodiment of our perfect example. We are greatly blessed to have a great High Priest one who ever lives to make intercession for us before the Father.
Because of Christ’s sacrifice and His eternal intercession for us before the Father, we can draw near to God through Christ on behalf of others. And join into the Father’s love by expressing our love to God and to others by advocating, interceding, or praying for the people that God loves.
For Whom do we intercede?
Scripture is filled with injunctions to pray for others. If we were to make a list of all the people that Scripture calls us to cover with our prayers, we would quickly find that the list includes everyone.
As a starting place, I recommend narrowing ‘everyone’ down to five, in what I refer to as the rule of grace. Ask the Father to give you five names, one name per finger on one hand. Five names for you to hold up in your hand before the Father.
There is so much more to learn about intercession, who to pray for, and what to pray. However, today I am focusing on some practical ways life to maintain focus for effective intercession. My study on prayer Time to Pray expands on this teaching.
Knock and Keep Knocking
Another Biblical example of sustained praying is found in Daniel. Three weeks after his prayers began, the angel told Daniel that he had been dispatched from the throne of God on the first day of his prayers (Daniel 10).
Twenty-one days of praying without a response? I confess that if I remember to pray for someone, often I find it hard to intercede for more than 21-minutes on a good day and often a quick 21-second breath prayer is all the energy I choose to give.
So how do we truly knock and keep knocking? The LORD called me when to the life of intersession when I was a young girl. While reading the passage in Luke (2:36-38) about Anna, the prophetess who served God with fasting and prayers night and day.
The LORD told me that is who I was, His Anna. While I was hoping to be His fabulous singer, God blessed me with intercessor. Over the years, He has trained me in this calling through His Word, teachers, and mentors.
Intersession Training and Focus
Intercession is best viewed as a marathon type activity. If our only running activity is to get to our car in a rainstorm, we would be foolish to attempt a marathon.
Likewise, if we have never before sat still to pray longer than a pre-meal blessing, it is rash to believe we should be able to engage in long or sustained prayer and intercession times.
Don’t get me wrong, the Holy Spirit can fall on us and gift us the strength and endurance; however, most of us began our intercession experience much like the Disciples on the night before Christ’s crucifixion.
They could not stay awake, even when Jesus asked them specifically to stay awake and pray. We as the followers of Christ, His holy people, need to stop believing the lie of the enemy telling us we are not effective intercessors or we do not have the gift of intercession.
Just because we tend to fall asleep before we can even finish saying the person’s name. This does not mean that we are not to pray for others or leave the work of intercession to the ‘gifted’ ones. It just means we have not trained our body, mind, or spirit for the activity of intercession.
Yes, we are to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and pray as He moves us. But I have found that when I have and keep my scheduled, planned times of prayer, I am able to hear and respond to more promptings of the Holy Spirit than when I do not set aside time.
Even our example, Jesus Christ the son of God, set aside time to get alone and pray. Keeping an in-training mindset with our time of intercession will allow us to give ourselves grace in our training. Celebrate the small victories.
Going from zero minutes to one minute is a significant victory in this spiritual warfare. Just getting to that minute required a full-scale battle against the forces of the prince of the air. He does not want us to enter into true effective intercession.
Satan will allow us to engage in wishful thinking and empty ‘sending prayers’ for as long as we want. However, joining with Christ in contending for the promises of the Word of God over someone means war. Following our four practical ways to be intentional in the practice of intercessory prayer.
Four Ways to be Intentional in Intercession
1. Set Markers
When someone’s name keeps returning to my mind, I receive that as a Holy Spirit prompt to pray for them. Since my physical body and mind are very prone to distraction, I set out markers or reminders.
I write their name in my Bible next to the scripture I am praying over them. I put their name and scripture reference on a sticky on my mirror or in the kitchen. I cannot express the comfort and encouragement that came from receiving the simple text message, “I have your name on a sticky on my mirror, I’m praying for your healing”.
Another marker I use is scheduling a recurring meeting in my electronic calendar with their name and the location is prayer closet. I have been asked several questions about this concept including, “how do you know you are supposed to pray for them?”
I am very confident that the enemy would not be bringing their name to my mind for any good reason, therefore; the only reason they are repeatedly coming to mind is that I need to forgive them, I need to ask them to forgive me, I need to intercede for them, or I need to take them a meal (in which case they would now require intercession).
The other question that I am often asked, “how long do you continue to pray for someone?” This is a more difficult answer to define because ‘until I am released’ is not really very definitive. For me, I just know that I know.
One time the LORD called me to pray for someone while I was in college. I wrote her name and the year in my Bible next to the scripture I was praying over her. At first, I was praying for her weekly and after a year or so not so often. However, whenever I saw her name in my Bible, my heart would be burdened to pray and intercede for her.
This went on for over twenty years (yes twenty years). After twenty years, we met at a conference and the LORD graciously revealed how all my prayers and intercession had been answered. It could be for two days, two weeks, two months, two years, or two times ten years. The burden of the intercession is to know that I would have sinned if I had not prayed for them.
2. Wear Glasses
As we intercede for others, we need to put on the rose-colored (or blood-covered) corrective lenses of the Word. For us, as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve born into sin to join with Jesus in His effective intercession, our human eyesight needs the corrective glasses of Christ Jesus.
I start by asking Jesus what He is interceding over this person before the Father. While I can’t truly confirm, I am pretty confident His prayers don’t sound like this: “Well, Dad, look here is Lisa and she has kicked the dog once again.”
What do His prayers sound like? I figure that is why we have prayers recorded in scripture including the prayer Jesus taught us, the prayer of Jesus the night before He was crucified, and the prayers of the Apostles. As such, I have found that praying along with Paul from Ephesians 3:17-19 will be a far more effective for Lisa’s heart and life
Father, I ask that Christ may dwell in Lisa’s heart through faith and that Lisa will be rooted and grounded in love. That she may have power, together with all believers, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of Christ’s love and that Lisa may know the love of Christ and that she may be filled with all the fullness of You, God our Father.
And I’m pretty sure being knowing the love of Christ and being filled with all the fullness of God will go a long way to preventing her from kicking the dog again. As I pray for people such as my children that I am in close relationship, I tend to keep a prayer journal of the scripture prayers.
During one of those famous explosive conversations with one of my teenage daughters, she quipped “you will have to get a lot more journals to record all my junk.”
At that moment I was able to stop and hand over her prayer journal and say, “none of your junk is recorded here only the promises of God’s redeeming love.” After she read some of the prayers she tearfully asked “how?” I responded, “When I pray for you, I put on the rose-colored glasses of Christ’s love.”
3. Create Something
God spoke creation into being. His Word has creative power. To help me focus and persevere in prayer for someone, I like to channel the creative power of God’s Word that I am praying into a physical creation.
This is the idea behind prayer shawls but it is not limited to knitting or crocheting. In the Old Testament, God gifted the artisans and craftsmen both the idea and the skills necessary to make the tabernacle (Exodus 31).
As you build with wood, sculpt with clay, hammer with metal, weave with yarn, draw with pencil, or sew with thread pray God’s word over them and praise God declaring who He is.
When the creation is finished, it can either become a gift for the person being prayed over or serve as a reminder to continue to pray for them. There is something powerful about the prayers over these objects. In scripture, we are told that people received healing from the touch of the hankies of Paul (Acts 19:12).
In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring the character Pippin equates the result of this kind of work as magic asking if the gifted cloaks made by the elves were magic. The elves answer, “we put the thought of all we love into all that we make.”
As we create while putting in the thought of our love of God, His love for the person we are praying for, and our love for them the object becomes set apart for God’s use, i.e. holy. Not only have I been on the giving side of these creations, I have been blessed to receive. After the death of my sister, the prayer shawls I put on my shoulders literally held my grief like the very arms of Jesus.
After my stroke, I received many such items including shawls and two handmade crosses. One cross watched over me in my hospital room and the other stands as a watchman in my front garden. When I see these items now, I am reminded of the love of God, the love that flowed from God through someone just for me. And that continues to bring great healing.
4. Receive Reward
Before we as intercessors can receive our reward, we must comprehend the true nature of our reward. It is easy to view answered prayer as the payment for our work of effective intercession.
While there is great joy when we see the exact answers manifested before our eyes, if we continue to view this as our main goal then when two days stretches into two years and longer, we easily become burned out.
Additionally, as our results-oriented attempts to develop the right method, the exact length, the correct location, the perfect body position, or necessary number of prayers fail; our hearts will become weary. Should we even be looking for a reward? Does the thought of recompense somehow diminish the self-sacrifice service of intercessory prayer? What is the reward?
I trust scripture is true when it says that God Himself is our reward. “Do not be afraid, …. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1).
When my focus shifts from looking for an earthly reward or circumstance to being in God’s presence, then the Holy Spirit is able to bring down all the barriers within me and open the floodgates for the love of the Father to flow from His throne room, through me, to others.
Privilege of Intercession
True intercession is prompted by the Holy Spirit, facilitated by Jesus Christ, and in the very throne room of God our Father. Where we then speak the Word of God back to God and it moves His heart.
And as we allow the love of Christ to envelop us, we become filled with all the fullness of God and transformed in our inner being by the Holy Spirit. What an amazing privilege to serve others in throne room intercession.
 Both name and story are fictitious.
 Tolkien, J. R. R. The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part. Ballantine, 1987. p386.