Remembering the power of intercessory prayer
May 6, 2021, has been set aside as the National Day of Prayer in the United States. A day to focus on prayer—what an amazing and powerful thought! Many of us know and have experienced the power of God in our own prayers, and perhaps we have even experienced God’s power in some collective or group prayers that we have been involved in. We can come to our Lord with boldness and joy because He has called us to participate in calling upon His power. His own promises give us this boldness. Psalm 50:15 encourages us to “call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”1
Another Bible promise that always touches my heart is Psalm 91:15: “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” The Lord will save me when I am in trouble and then honor me? This thought is too incredible for me to comprehend.
There are times when we may come to our special place of prayer and wonder, “Lord, do you really hear my prayer?” This is the question that usually comes when we do not see an answer to our prayers. Even when the outcome is not what we wanted or even expected, we can still have the assurance that God always hears our prayers.
His Promises Are Sure
God’s Word contains many promises that offer us assurance of this. Take for instance the promise in 1 Peter 3:12: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers.” God leaves no room for doubt. He told Israel and He also tells us, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you” (Jer. 29:12).
It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to ask for help and guidance whenever we are confronted by life’s challenges, but prayer is not only about me and my needs. There is something more. The greatest blessing of prayer that we can experience is intercessory prayer on behalf of others. When we pray for others, we are tapping into God’s mission. We are uniting with our Savior, who is interceding right now for us in heaven (Heb. 4).
Ellen White beautifully describes this work of intercession. She says: “This Saviour, who prayed for those that felt no need of prayer, and wept for those that felt no need of tears, is now before the throne, to receive and present to his Father the petitions of those for whom he prayed on earth.”2
The Impact of Intercessory Prayer
Intercessory prayer changes people, and not just the people we are praying for.3 This kind of prayer will not leave our own lives unaffected. We will grow more like our heavenly High Priest. As we pray for others, here are some practical pointers that can take us further than generic prayers for God to “help” or “bless”’ a particular person or group.
- Use Scripture: Pray God’s own promises back to Him. This way we can know that we are praying according to God’s will (Isa. 55:11; John 15:7).
- Be Specific: What does “bless him” or “help her” really look like? If we pray specific prayers, we will be better able to recognize when God answers.
- Keep Praying: We are in this for the long haul. Let’s not give up if we don’t see immediate answers to our prayers. Sometimes things may seem to get even worse when we pray, but if we persist answers will come. The answer may not always look like what we wanted, and in some cases we may see only the answers to our prayer from eternity’s perspective, but let’s not get discouraged (see 1 Sam. 12:23; James 5:16).
- Recruit Others: Praying with others about specific situations or people helps us to stay focused and persevere while building a caring community.
As we practice praying for others, we can expect great things from our heavenly Father, “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). And as we keep praying, we will be practicing the perfect prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Luke 11:2).
We know that it is God’s will to be reunited with His children, whom His Son died to redeem from the land of the enemy and take back to heaven. This is the Father’s will, and it can be our will too.
1 All Scripture quotations have been taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ã 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Battle Creek, Mich.: Review and Herald Pub. Co., 1892), p. 29.
3 Many of the ideas about intercessory prayers were shared with me by my friend, Shenalyn Page.