1. Intercessory Prayer Is Participation in the Prayer of the Church
Intercessory prayer, in its most popular sense, is often understood as simply “praying for another.” Whether this occurs through a defined prayer list, a prayer-chain ministry, or a more spontaneous utterance of someone on our heart or mind, the communal backdrop upon which these prayers hang is important to remember.
In Mark 2:1-5, several friends lower a crippled friend before Jesus. Our intercessions are the prayerful equivalent of this. It goes deeper than just the listing of names. At its heart, intercessory prayer is to prayerfully hold another before the face of Jesus.
Of note here, is that bringing another to Jesus in prayer is a communal activity, not just as a personal one. This Gospel story reveals the faithfulness of the crippled man’s friends, all acting together. Biblically, prayer is never a solitary activity. Through intercessory prayer, we join in the ongoing concert of prayer, prayed by the community of faith as it exists in its fullness throughout time and space.
The author of Hebrews reminds us, “we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). Like cheering fans at a sporting event, the community of faith upholds us, intercedes for us. This means that when we intercede for another, holding another person before the Lord, we do so as part of the prayers already occurring for that individual, or that situation.
When we enter the practice of intercession, we lend our voice to the tapestry of intercession occurring before the Lord in the heavenly realms. Never, in our prayer lives, do we carve out a new path. Rather, we rest in, and are carried along by, the prayerful activity of the community.
This communal reality of prayer allows us to be bold in our intercessions. In recognizing that our intercessions are not dependent upon our ability or mastery, we free ourselves from the undue burden of performance.
If ever we feel ill-equipped, or unempowered in our prayer-life, we can rest upon the power and faithfulness of the Church. The prayers of the church bear us up, thus freeing us to join boldly in the activity of the saints. This is intercessory prayer at its best.
How beautiful it is to understand that the Spirit’s call to lift another before Jesus is not ours alone. It is but the call to participate in the continual, unbroken, activity of the Church.
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