There’s nothing casual about intercession, the Lord whispered to me one day last week. Intercession is more than just praying for people.
“It is?” I replied, surprised. Up until that point, if you’d asked me to define intercession I would have said it meant exactly that: praying for other people. I would have said that intercession isn’t about praying for your own needs, it’s about praying for the needs of others.
I learned that I was only partly right.
God reminded me about two of Scripture’s most well-known intercessors: Abraham and Moses. These two didn’t merely pray for things people needed, such as healing, wisdom for decisions, or jobs. They prayed for God to relent from judging people who were at odds with Him. Unless God relented, the people they cared about would be toast (remember Sodom and Gomorrah?). But God did relent. Because of his Uncle Abraham’s intercession, Lot was spared the holocaust at Sodom. And because Moses interceded, the rebellious Israelites escaped being completely blotted from the earth.
When I looked up intercede in the dictionary, I learned that it means to plead on another’s behalf; to mediate a dispute; to attempt to reconcile differences between two people.
In other words, intercession is about intervening in a serious conflict where, if nothing changes, somebody is going to suffer serious consequences.
I realized that intercession is what Jesus does for us. We used to be God’s enemies, destined for hell, but Jesus took up our case. As Romans says,
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (8:34)
And as Hebrews explains,
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (7:25)
When God initiated that discussion with me about intercession, I realized that giving me an invitation. He was inviting me to take up the cases of people I care about who have walked away from God or who never knew Him in the first place. They are choosing paths that, if they don’t turn around soon, could send them plunging over steep cliffs—but God wants to show them mercy. And He wants me to mediate for them.
By teaching me about intercession, God instilled hope in me. God is on the lookout for intercessors. When He can’t find them, He is stunned. Isaiah 59:15 says that He was “was astonished that there was no one to intercede.”
Intercession is crisis prayer, intervention prayer, life-and-death prayer for peoples’ very souls. God wants us to plead with Him to give mercy to people who don’t deserve it. He’s waiting for us to speak on their behalf.
I don’t know about you, but I have several of those folks in my life. What if it’s my intercession that God is waiting for to turn these folks from death to life?