Intercessory prayer is a great mystery. I say that because we can bring to God concerns about others when in reality God has greater concerns for those people in those circumstances than we ever could. It’s a mystery how God has so structured His world that He acts on the prayers of His children. Think with me, do things happen when we pray and things don’t happen when we don’t? I think that is really true. Prayer actually changes God. Many people say, no, prayer only changes us. But i submit to you prayer actually affects the way God deals not only with us, for certainly prayer changes us, but prayer actually changes others and circumstances even around the world where we will never personally be present. Yes, i believe intercessory prayer is the mystery of God doing something different not because He didn’t always want to, but because His people beseeched Him in Jesus’ name and in the power of the Spirit.
There are many examples of great intercessory prayers in the Old Testament. I think of Abraham pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah with the LORD in Genesis 18:22ff. Moses pleaded to the LORD for Israel in Exodus 32:31ff where he says, “If You can’t forgive them, then blot me out of the book which Thou hast written”. There are other examples of Moses interceding for Israel’s behalf in Exodus 5:22-23; Deuteronomy 5:5; 9:18; and 9:25ff. where Moses holds them up to the LORD and just falls himself down on God’s throne of grace for the people of Israel. I think of Samuel as he prays for Israel (i.e. 1 Samuel 7:5-9; 1 Sam. 12:16-23; 1 Sam. 15:11), where Samuel says, “It would be a sin for me not to pray for you” even when they asked for a king and hurt God’s feelings, but he said, “I’m still going to pray for you, i won’t forget you”. Then we have David, in a very real sense praying for his love-child with Bathsheba. God said that child would die because of David’s sin. David beseeched the LORD for that child (cf. 2 Samuel 12:16-18); of course the child died. So there’s a real mystery there that we don’t understand, but we see David going to God with a concern for that baby. Isaiah 59:16 is a passage that really amazed me where it said that God is looking for intercessors, and He saw there was no man, and was astonished there was no one to intercede, therefore His own arm brought salvation to him, and His righteousness upheld him. That seems to tell me that God was surprised there were no intercessors. I think in the history of the church, we’ve seen men and women that God has raised up for the purpose of intercessory ministry. I believe intercession is a gift of the Spirit, and it certainly is. Do you realize that two-thirds of the Trinity intercedes for us, and the other third is not reluctant to do it? He’s the One that sent those two. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us (cf. Romans 8:26-27) in times where we don’t know how to pray either for our self or for others, the Holy Spirit who knows everything about us and everything about God prays to God for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. You mean the indwelling Holy Spirit prays for us on an ongoing basis? Yes, and not only that, but the Son prays for us. His ministry was not through at Calvary, He continues to have an intercessory ministry, where in Romans 8:34 it says, he intercedes for us always. Then I think of Hebrews 7:25 where it talks about that the Son continues to intercede for us. And then lo and behold, in 1 John 2:1, the very word that’s used for the Holy Spirit, ‘Paraclete’ as one called alongside to help, our comfort, is the very word used of Christ Jesus of Nazareth. He always intercedes for us. Hallelujah! So you mean to say it’s God the Father who is on our side, it’s an indwelling Holy Spirit whoever holds before the throne, and it’s a resurrected-glorified-friend-brother and Savior, who moment-by-moment intercedes for us? Wow! That ought to be the example of intercession for us. That the Triune God is interceding on our behalf, we ought to intercede on behalf of others as well!