Guide Chapter 6: What is Intercessory Prayer?
As we mature in walking with Christ, our prayers will inevitably change. As young believers, we spend a lot of time praying for ourselves and our needs. But with spiritual maturity comes a focus on the needs of others, then we can start practicing intercessory prayer. This is apparent in the lives of many great saints throughout the Bible.
Abraham famously prayed for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, pleading with God to spare the destruction he had planned if only ten righteous men could be found there (see Genesis 18). Moses cried out to God, asking him not to utterly annihilate the rebellious nation of Israel (see Exodus 32).
The Old Testament prophets were famous for interceding on behalf of Israel as well as other nations. And even Jesus sat on a hill overlooking Jerusalem and wept, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matthew 23:37).
Why do We Need Intercessory Prayer?
Any time we see a need in the lives of others and pray for them. Intercessory prayer is a prayer for others. We focus not on ourselves but on the needs of others. This is, after all, what ‘intercession’ means.
The following are intercessory prayer points for praying on behalf of another person or global needs. You can use them as an example of your daily prayer for the needs of others.
1. For the Christian Church all over the world
2. For the heads of state and peace in the World
3. For the conversion and salvation of people around the globe
4. For those who proclaim the Gospel throughout the world
5. For suffering and deprived people around the world
6. For persecuted Christians
7. For families
8. For the sick
9. For the needs of the local communities of believers
10. For actual events and occasions
Intercessory Prayer in the Bible
According to one Bible dictionary, intercession is the “act of intervening or mediating between differing parties, particularly praying to God on behalf of another person.” 
We briefly discussed prayer for others when we talked about blessing prayer. But intercessory prayer and blessing prayer are different. A blessing prayer asks God to bless and guide a person in his will. Conversely, intercessory prayer is about going to God with a specific need in mind.
Prayers for healing, salvation, or deliverance in someone else’s life are all forms of prayer for others. We see this kind of prayer clearly in the examples of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus cited above. We can find countless other examples from both the Old and New Testaments.
Intercessory Prayer is Hard but Meaningful
This type of prayer is not easy work. It’s often thankless and exhausting. It requires that the person praying have a deep burden for others. It’s work that can go on for months and even years with little results. And yet, it’s one of the greatest needs of the world. Jesus has done the work of dying for the world and sending his Spirit. We have a task to go into the world and deliver the Gospel. But we’ll never accomplish anything until we’ve developed a real burden for the lost through tireless intercession.
The value and importance of intercession – as well as the lack of faithful intercessors – can be seen by considering what God tells the prophet Ezekiel: “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30 ESV). In this verse, we hear the heart of God. He desires for men and women who are faithful intercessors to rise and begin standing in the breach. This is the work of intercession, the prayer for others.
An Example of Intercession from Acts
There’s a marvelous account of intercessory prayer in the book of Acts. King Herod put Peter in jail and is facing the executioner. The entire Church realizes the gravity of the situation and immediately goes to the difficult work of praying for others:
Now about that time, Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church to mistreat them. And he had James, John’s brother, put to death with a sword. Then, when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter, also.
Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.
On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And his chains fell off his hands (Acts 12:1-7).
This passage tells us three essential things about prayer for others, why we should make it, and how we should make it.
Intercessory Prayer Begins with a Need
As we’ve already noted, blessing prayer, the kind of prayer for others we’ve already discussed, doesn’t require a particular need. Blessing prayers can happen every week; we don’t necessarily expect a specific event to occur. They’re much more generalized.
On the other hand, intercessory prayer is specific. And it begins with a particular need. In the example of intercession that we read about in Acts 12, we can easily see that the need that which Bible talks about is the fact that Peter is now in jail. In addition, the governing authorities are planning on putting him to death.
This is a huge need. But that’s not even all. We learn from this passage that James, the brother of John, has already been put to death. So the Church is being shaken. Her leadership is being pursued, persecuted, and even put to death. This is an actual life-and-death situation.
All intercessory prayer begins with a need. Whether this need is deliverance from temporal authorities like in Acts 12, salvation for the lost, physical healing, or something else entirely, the kind of prayer for others called ‘intercession’ begins with a need.
Only once we recognize the specific need – and the fact that God is the only one who can meet that need – can we begin the challenging work of intercession.
Prayer for Others isn’t Easy
Some kinds of prayer are joyous, like thanksgiving prayer. Other kinds of prayer are more burdensome and can even feel painful. Prayer for others is often exhausting work because it requires us to have a real burden for those we’re praying for. This burden can be incredibly weighty when we’re praying for someone who doesn’t want our prayers or is even hostile to us and our faith.
Intercessory prayer isn’t easy because we don’t know how or when God will ultimately intervene. As a result, we may pray for others for years or even decades without seeing actual, tangible results. And yet, when we have that burden, we can’t simply stop.
We see this fact illustrated in Acts 12. The entire church offers a prayer for Peter “fervently.” This is a word that indicates excellent effort. But, unfortunately, it’s the kind of prayer that will wear you out and make you feel as if you’re engaged in a great struggle. It’s tiring. And it becomes even more so when God doesn’t seem to be working.
We aren’t sure how long Peter was in jail, but we are told that the Church made intercession for him until the night before he was to be executed. After that, the church likely prayed night and day for days, maybe weeks, before God acted.
And yet, the Church didn’t give up. They persevered. And in doing so, they offer a fantastic example for each of us as we make prayer for others a priority in our lives.
Intercessory Prayer Is Often Corporate
Earlier, we noted several individuals who made prayer for others a habit, including Moses, Abraham, and Jesus. But in the New Testament, the entire Church often offers a prayer for others corporately.
 Thompson, J. W., & Butler, T. C. (2003). Intercession. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, & E. R. Clendenen (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 828). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Part 1: CHRISTIAN PRAYER – Ultimate Prayer Guide Part 1
Part 2: WORSHIP AND PRAISE – Ultimate Prayer Guide Part 2
Part 3: THANKSGIVING PRAYER – Ultimate Prayer Guide Part 3
Part 4: PRAYER OF PETITION – Ultimate Prayer Guide Part 4
Part 5: BLESSING PRAYER- Ultimate Prayer Guide Part 5