Praying on behalf of others. Intercession.
by Rachael Stone
“Therefore, I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
"I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so that I would not have to destroy it, but I found none."
We use the word Intercession a lot to describe our times of prayer, both corporate and individual, so it’s worth having a closer look at what the word actually means in that context.
The Hebrew word for intercession is Paga and like so many Hebrew words, the translation is not straightforward. There are many subtleties and nuances but these can really help us to understand the action of Intercession in fresh ways.
Paga can be translated ‘to collide with’ or ‘to strike up against’ but it can also be translated ‘to entreat’ or ‘to come in between’. It can mean strong prayer as well as gentle prayer, warfare prayer as well as prayer of entreaty or travail.
Understanding these two seemingly contrasting translations is actually very helpful in our understanding of the two main actions of intercession.
Here are two definitions of intercession by two great writers on prayer.
Suzette Hattingh writes; “[Intercession] is facing Satan in the name of Jesus on behalf of the person we’re praying for. Travail is facing the Father on behalf of the person through weeping, prayer and pleading.”
Dutch Sheets writes; “Intercessory prayer is an extension of the ministry of Jesus through his body, the Church, whereby we mediate between God and humanity for the purpose of reconciling the world to him, or between Satan and humanity for enforcing the victory of Calvary”.
Whichever way you approach intercession— and your character and gifting will have a part to play, true intercession always comes before the Lord on behalf of others.
The scriptures above help us unpack this further. The first time we see the word Intercession in the bible is Isaiah 53:12 and this of course is a prophetic description of the coming Messiah, Jesus, the ultimate intercessor through his work on the cross.
Ezekiel 22:30 is the cry of God through the prophet Ezekiel, looking in vain for righteous men and women to build a spiritual wall and stand in the gap on behalf of the land.
This is a really helpful picture of intercession. Here we see the responsibility and power of the intercessor…the twofold effects of our prayers. Our prayers create a spiritual wall or fill the breach caused by the enemy. God is a righteous God and he has to judge sin but his desire is not destruction but blessing. (Numbers 16:37-48 and Exodus 32:9-11 demonstrate the power of one man intervening between life and death to avert destruction).
Our prayers build up a wall of righteousness and we can stand before God on behalf of the land where he has placed us. It’s a picture of standing in the gap with one arm stretched out to God… crying out for the land, nation, situation… and the other arm stretched out over the land or situation on behalf of God. We have the authority, in that place, to speak into the spiritual realm what God is saying about that situation.
All this is done in the name of Jesus, in his authority, by his blood. Again we see how crucial it is to know who we are in Christ so we can pray like this. We come, not in our own strength, not as beggars, but in his name and his authority. We come clothed in Christ.
So often it seems, we ask God to do our job for us. Jesus has given us power and authority in his name and God is looking for men and women who will stand in the gap, build up the walls, speak life and hope and healing into a situation in the name of Jesus using the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.
We build a wall with prayers birthed in God’s heart, flowing out through the Holy Spirit, praying in the name and authority of Jesus. We come with worshipping, thankful and submitted hearts but we come with confidence and expectation because we know we’re standing in partnership with the Godhead.
God is looking for men and women who will stand in the gap.