And I’ll Pray For You
Intercession is one of the greatest acts of love. Just like the love I have for my wife moves me to help her around the house or give her gifts, the love I have for my friends and family moves me to pray for them. To intercede for someone else is simply to pray on their behalf. It’s an act of love. And it’s a function of a priest.
The New Testament calls the church the priesthood.
1 Peter says we are being built into a spiritual house, able to offer sacrifices pleasing to God.
Revelation 1 says we have been made a kingdom and priests.
The role of the priest was to mediate the relationship between God and His people through offering sacrifices in the Old Testament; as God’s priests today, we look to our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who has done the work of mediation on our behalf. Our role, therefore, is one of interceding in prayer for one another.
This is why Jesus’ prayer for his disciples and for us in John 17 is called his high priestly prayer. Jesus also explained to his disciples in John 13-17 that when he went up to be with the Father, they would do greater works than he did. One of these greater works, I believe, is prayer. As we abide in Christ, as He is in the Father, we enter into the communion of the Trinity and are given power in prayer. Our prayers of intercession for others are effective because of our relationship with the Great Intercessor.
We all get asked to do several things each day. Our kids need something. Our bosses need something. Our spouses need something. We see the need in our world on the news as well. We all know that if our day is full of responsibilities, when someone unexpectedly asks us to do one more thing—no matter how big or small it is—we push back and at least hesitate. The challenge of intercessory prayer is to say that someone else’s needs are no less important simply because I am swamped by the myriad of need around me. The challenge is to say that my relationship with the person is so important that I have to pray.
I have a theory: One of the reasons why Christians fail to practice intercessory prayer is that they have too broad of a scope of interest. They know too much about our world and too many people who need prayer, but know very few things intimately. The earliest Christians were sometimes challenged to pray for other Christians (Paul asks some churches to pray for other churches or messengers). But in large part they prayed for one another, for the 20-30 people they worshiped with. That’s it.
I wonder what would happen if we narrowed our focus in prayer? I wonder what would happen if we chose to pray for less things and went the distance with less people? Maybe as God found us faithful in a few things, he would encourage us to expand the scope of our prayers. And we would have the spiritual stamina and love capacity in us to expand our prayer lists.