Intercessory prayer is when we pray on behalf of another person or situation. Examples might be asking God to heal a friend who is sick, or asking God to prevent a hurricane from coming to shore and causing the loss of life and property. Intercessory prayer is not limited to asking God to fix a problem or keep bad things from happening. We can offer an intercessory prayer of thanks as well. For example, if a friend tells us they recently got a promotion at work, we can stop and give God thanks for the blessing our friend received.
The Bible is full of examples of intercessory prayer. In Numbers 14:11-25 Numbers 14:11-25 11 And the LORD said to Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed among them?
12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of you a greater nation and mightier than they.
13 And Moses said to the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for you brought up this people in your might from among them;)
14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that you LORD are among this people, that you LORD are seen face to face, and that your cloud stands over them, and that you go before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.
15 Now if you shall kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of you will speak, saying,
16 Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness.
17 And now, I beseech you, let the power of my LORD be great, according as you have spoken, saying,
18 The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.
19 Pardon, I beseech you, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your mercy, and as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
20 And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to your word:
21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not listened to my voice;
23 Surely they shall not see the land which I swore to their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:
24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed me fully, him will I bring into the land into where he went; and his seed shall possess it.
25 (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelled in the valley.) Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.
American King James Version×, we read how Moses prayed an intercessory prayer for the nation of Israel when the LORD was ready to destroy them. After hearing Moses’ prayer, He relented from destroying them, and continued to work with them.
Perhaps some of the most famous examples of interceding on someone’s behalf are the many accounts of Jesus healing others. While not every occasion is accompanied by prayer, it certainly points to Jesus’ acting on someone else’s behalf (Matthew 8:1-17 Matthew 8:1-17 1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.
2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.
3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be you clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4 And Jesus said to him, See you tell no man; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.
5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching him,
6 And saying, Lord, my servant lies at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
7 And Jesus said to him, I will come and heal him.
8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it.
10 When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Truly I say to you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
11 And I say to you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
13 And Jesus said to the centurion, Go your way; and as you have believed, so be it done to you. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
14 And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.
15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered to them.
16 When the even was come, they brought to him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:
17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses.
American King James Version×; Mark 3:1-5 Mark 3:1-5 1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4 And he said to them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he said to the man, Stretch forth your hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
American King James Version×; Luke 8:26-39 Luke 8:26-39 26 And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. 27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither stayed in any house, but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of God most high? I beseech you, torment me not. 29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he broke the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) 30 And Jesus asked him, saying, What is your name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. 31 And they sought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. 32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they sought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. 33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. 34 When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 36 They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. 37 Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about sought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. 38 Now the man out of whom the devils were departed sought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 Return to your own house, and show how great things God has done to you. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done to him.
American King James Version×; John 4:46-53 John 4:46-53 46 So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went to him, and sought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48 Then said Jesus to him, Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe. 49 The nobleman said to him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50 Jesus said to him, Go your way; your son lives. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken to him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Your son lives. 52 Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said to him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said to him, Your son lives: and himself believed, and his whole house.
American King James Version×).
We do read of a very specific intercessory prayer by Jesus, one that He in fact prayed on behalf of Christians. In John 17, just before His betrayal, crucifixion and death, we see Jesus interceding to the Father on behalf of His disciples. “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (John 17:9-11 John 17:9-11 9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me; for they are yours.
10 And all my are yours, and your are mine; and I am glorified in them.
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are.
American King James Version×).
As Christ’s disciples, you and I received a very special blessing from God the Father as a result of Jesus’ intercessory prayer: We may know God and Christ, and be one with them, just as they are with one another. As disciples, we can intercede for others through the power of prayer!