Updated: Apr 10
History overflows with stories of what intercessory prayer has wrought:
Moses interceded for the Israelites after they worshiped the golden calf at Mount Sinai. God forgave their sin and gave Moses a glimpse of His glory. (Exodus 33-34)
Daniel fasted for God’s people for three weeks and a spiritual war was won over the prince of Persia so the Israelites could return to Jerusalem. (Daniel 10)
Nehemiah prayed for the restoration of Jerusalem and God used him to lead the people to rebuild its walls in just 52 days. (Nehemiah 1; 6:15)
Long before Peter betrayed His Lord, Jesus interceded for him, that his “faith might not fail.” Peter was forgiven and became one of the mightiest champions of faith in the early church. (Luke 22:32)
John Knox famously prayed, “Give me Scotland, or I die!” His intercessions and selfless labors brought revival to Scotland. His chief persecutor, Mary, Queen of Scots, is reported to have said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than the assembled armies of Europe.” (Source)
George Mueller, champion of the orphans, prayed for God to establish a work that would strengthen the faith of Christians. God did, and by the end of his life, Mueller had cared for 10,024 orphans, never asking anyone but God for money. (Source)
Rees Howells, a Welsh layman, pled for revival in Africa and saw 10,000 people converted. Later, God led him to establish the Bible College of Wales and begin praying that every person on earth be converted. When World War II began, Howells and the students interceded for the defeat of the Nazis. (Source) **
In 1908, John Hyde, missionary to India, began to pray for the conversion of one person per day. A year later, over 400 people had been converted. The next year, he prayed for two people a day. In 1910, he interceded intensely for the conversion of four people a day. A mighty revival swept India shortly thereafter. (Source)
At 15 years of age, Ellen Harmon (White), later a prolific author and godly church leader, prayed for the conversion of her friends. Long nights of prayer were answered. “Everyone yielded to Jesus, acknowledging the merits of His pardoning love. Everyone was converted to God.” (Ellen White, Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, pp. 33)
In the 1950s, small town pastor David Wilkerson prayed for seven New York gang members on trial for murder. God sent him to talk to the boys in person. He stayed to work with the gangs and eventually founded the Teen Challenge organization that has helped thousands of young people overcome addictions and meet Jesus.
The list of amazing stories of answered prayer could go on and on. Why? Because God takes action when His people intercede for others.
What is Intercessory Prayer?
Intercessory prayer is pleading with God for the salvation of others.
It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication.” Zechariah 12:10
It is something God asks us to do. “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority… For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” 1 Timothy 2:1-3
It is self-sacrificing prayer. “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42
It is Jesus’ work now. “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25
It is joining Jesus in His heart cry, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given me… that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:24, 26
It is powerful prayer. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16
It is precious to God. “The prayer of the upright is His delight.” Proverbs 15:8
It is the greatest gift we can give others.
How to Intercede for Others
Intercessory prayer is not just for a chosen few. God has called each of us to join Him in the work of intercession. If we are willing, God will give us His prayers to pray for specific people, situations, cities and nations.
Intercession is not a work we do alone. The Holy Spirit is promised to guide and interpret our prayers. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26
Intercession calls us to pray in humility and repentance. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
Interceding for others calls for us to persevere in prayer. “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9
Intercessory prayer is not primarily praying for people to have good grades, vibrant health, favor at work, financial blessings, or marital bliss. Though it may include those things, intercessory prayer has one ultimate goal — that others may come to know Jesus as their Savior, Friend and Lord.
When Jesus’ love ravishes our hearts, we long to share the experience with others. This leads us to do two things: 1) pray for them and 2) work for their salvation. We cannot pray for others without investing our time, energy and means into the winning of souls for Christ.
“When self dies, there will be awakened an intense desire for the salvation of others, a desire which will lead to persevering efforts to do good. There will be a sowing beside all waters; and earnest supplication, importunate prayers, will enter heaven in behalf of perishing souls.” Ellen White, Gospel Workers, p. 470
Intercessory prayer comes down to this: Praying for others’ salvation as God leads us — because we care more for God and others than we do for ourselves.
We cannot pray like this on our own. It is something we must give God permission to do in us. When we do, He will “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3:20
Will God Answer Intercessory Prayer?
Yes! “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to
His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14-15
Is it God’s will that people be saved? Absolutely! God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4
When we pray for a person’s salvation, we can be totally confident that God is doing all in His power to bring that person to repentance and a saving relationship with Himself.
Then why does it sometimes seem that God doesn’t answer? Three reasons: 1) God allows people free choice. He will never force those we pray for to yield to Him. 2) God’s time frame is not the same as ours. He knows when a person is most open and so continues patiently to lead them to surrender. 3) To allow us to see our own need of repentance and a closer walk with God.
Early on in George Mueller’s faith journey, God led him to pray for five non-Christians friends. Mueller began praying for them daily. Many months later, one individual was converted. After ten years, two more gave their lives to Christ. It took 25 years before the fourth man was converted. Mueller continued to pray for the fifth person until his death, 52 years later, never giving up hope that his friend would find Jesus. Several months after Mueller’s death, his friend finally surrendered to Jesus. (Source)
Friend, will you join me in asking God to make you an intercessor? It is a high calling, but one that will reap a rich harvest of souls won to heaven. It is worthy of our best attention, our self-sacrifice, and our earnest effort. It is truly prayer that changes the world.
Let us “begin to pray for souls; come near to Christ, close to His bleeding side. Let a meek and quiet spirit adorn your lives, and let your earnest, broken, humble petitions ascend to Him for wisdom that you may have success in saving not only your own soul, but the souls of others.” Ellen White, Prayer, p. 246
God’s assurance is for us: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Mark 11:24
All Scriptures taken from the New King James Version.
Additional Resources on Intercessory Prayer:
Principles of Intercessory Prayer – Outline of the principles of praying for others. Prepared by Jerry & Janet Page, General Conference Ministerial Department.
Pointers for Intercessory Prayer – Practical guidelines for praying the salvation of others.
Principles of Intercession – The intercessory prayer principles lived and taught by Rees Howells.
Laboring for Others – Ellen White’s early experiences with intercessory prayer.
Friend, will join me in asking God to make you an intercessor? It is a high calling, but one that will reap a rich harvest of souls won to heaven. It is worthy of our best attention, our self-sacrifice, and our earnest effort. It is truly prayer that changes the world.