Many Christians now talk as if there is a ministry of Intercession operating today. Others, however, do not know that is meant by this. So I’m taking a moment to give you a simple explanation of what is known today as Intercession Ministry.
A young man recently called on me to help him understand the new prayer experiences he is going through. As he explained what is happening I identified his engagement in the ministry of Intercession. As I explained that ministry to him he not only identified with what I explained, but gained a clearer sense for how to flow with and develop the ministry God was leading him into.
I am sharing that same explanation here, for the benefit of others who are being called into the wonderful ministry of intercession. My explanation reflects what I understand about this ministry, as one who has observed it and had moments in which it has touched my life. I speak here as a ‘teacher’ and so I expect you to read my explanation and to check what I say, by the Word of God.
The Ministry of Intercession is part of the ministry of prayer. Christians are expected to pray and the Bible reveals that there are various ways to pray and types of prayer. At the same time, Intercession is not just another word for prayer.
Properly understood, Intercession is a specific experience of prayer that comes to some people and which enables them to pray with divine effect. As I will explain, intercession involves the person who is praying shouldering some of the load that is weighing upon another person and resolving that burden for them in prayer.
Intercession is one means by which we may fulfil the Biblical instruction to “bear one another’s burdens”.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Types of Prayer
There are diverse types of prayer. The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to refer to “all prayer”, to summarise the various expressions of prayer that people can enter into.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” Ephesians 6:18
Jesus spoke of us praying in secret, in our prayer closet, Matthew 6:6.
Paul spoke of men praying with their holy hands raised in the air, 2Timothy 2:8.
Paul also spoke of praying with his mind, 1Corinthians 14:15, and also praying in the heavenly prayer language which God gives through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (what Paul calls “praying with the Spirit”, 1Corinthians 14:15 and Jude calls “praying in the Holy Spirit” Jude 20)
Paul instructs us to pray for those in authority, 1Timothy 2:1,2.
James talks of the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man”, James 5:15.
Paul talks of praying with “groans which cannot be uttered”, Romans 8:26.
Jesus talked about standing in prayer, Mark 11:25, while others knelt to pray, Psalm 95:6.
Jesus told of a sinner who bowed in repentance, Luke 18:13, and Hebrews talks of coming boldly to God’s throne of grace, Hebrews 4:16.
These and other references reveal that prayer is a multi-faceted expression of our communication with God and that we can engage in various forms of prayer from time to time, as the situation requires or our heart desires.
Groaning in Prayer
The ministry of intercession reflects Paul’s mention of a person praying under the power of the Holy Spirit with such deep burden that they groan rather than speak an intelligent prayer.
“Likewise the Spirit also helps our limitations: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groans which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26
My young friend has found over recent months that as he has been praying for his family members and for the children in the Children’s Ministry he assists in, he has felt deep emotional and physical sensations accompanying his prayers. He has felt a sense of burden or intensity rest on him as he prayed for specific people or situations. He would at times weep or just groan with the sense of burden coming upon him.
Yet, he explains, he could stop it at any time. He feels quite peaceful within and not distressed in himself, but as if he is taking on another distress, like a cloak, over top of his underlying peace and confidence in God. At times he would feel tightness in his muscles or similar physical affect as he prayed as well.
After praying for a while, that burden or sensation would lift off him. He and those praying with him would sense that there has been a breakthrough in the situation.
This description fits the connection between bearing one another’s burdens, and praying under the leading of the Holy Spirit with deep groans.
What is Going On?
Simply stated, what is happening in the prayer ministry of Intercession is that the person who is praying takes upon themself some of the load that is burdening another person. This is principally done by the Holy Spirit, not by the wilful choice of the praying person.
When the burden rests on the intercessor they will pray with intensity and with the Holy Spirit praying through them, to the point of groans, tears and non-verbal process. That time of prayer brings benefit to the person being prayed for, without them having prayed for their own situation.
This is a spiritual ministry, not a matter of mind or emotion. The person being prayed for usually has no idea that someone is bringing their burden before the Lord on their behalf. They may never credit the improvement in their situation to the one who gave intercessory prayer on their behalf.
So, What is Intercession?
What I have described here is the practical expression of intercession. I’d like you to also have an understanding of what is happening in the unseen realm that makes intercession work.
The next lesson on Intercession will provide that explanation of What is Intercession, and show you some examples, including that of Christ, to clarify the process of Intercession for you and your ministry.