The Importance of Intercession

This is a chapter from My Book: Fanning the Flames of Intercession.

Please check out the book here.

Or if you like, you can watch the full video teaching session at the end.


In this chapter we will be building a case for the absolute importance of intercession by believers today. To understand the importance of intercession, we must first come into clarity about the dynamics of true intercession. Once we have understanding as a foundation, then we can move out in confidence and be effective in this vital ministry.

Intercession Defined

Let’s define intercession. I have found that if I can discover the root meanings of the words involved, it will help me come into greater understanding of that topic.  Let’s look at the root meanings of the word “intercede,” which is the basis for the words intercession and intercessor.  The Strong’s concordance definition of the word in the Hebrew is “paga” which means “meet together with the connotation of creating a meeting.”  The idea is that our intercession releases God to encounter man and bring change to situations in this present age we live in.  The Strong’s concordance definition of the word in Greek is “entugchano” which means “to chance upon, confer with, to make ready or bring to pass.” The thought here is to passionately get ahold of God in prayer to make ready and bring to pass His desires in a situation.

The dictionary definition of the word intercede is this, “to move or pass between, to mediate, intervene on behalf of another, to act between parties with a view to reconcile those who differ or contend.” The idea here is of a courtroom setting with one party representing another.  This is exactly what is going on as we stand before God’s throne, the heavenly courtroom, and represent others with our intercession.

Here are some quotes from a few authors that might be helpful as we get a grasp on intercession and what it is really all about:

Norman Grubb from “Rees Howells Intercessor”

“Perhaps believers in general have regarded intercession as just some form of rather intensified prayer. It is, so long as there is great emphasis on the word

‘intensified’; for there are three things to be seen in an intercessor which are not necessarily found in ordinary prayer: identification, agony and authority.”  The word “intensified” means “travail, importunity, weeping, groaning”. (Strong’s)  

Dutch Sheets from “Intercessory Prayer”

“Mediation defines intercession and intercession defines mediation. As can be seen clearly in these definitions, the concept of intercession can be summarized:  mediating, going between, pleading for another, representing one party to another, but not limited to, legal situations.”  

Beni Johnson from “The Happy Intercessor”

“My definition for being an intercessor is ‘capturing the heartbeat of heaven and declaring or praying that into my world.’ It’s true agreement with heaven.

Here is a definition that I have come up with to try to make it as simple and straight forward as possible.”

“Intercession is God giving an individual a piece of His heart (an intercessory burden) to passionately pray back to Him, thus releasing the power of the Holy Spirit, the ministry of angels and the activation of the church to perform His will and establish His kingdom. In its simplest form, it is FOCUSED PRAYER FOR OTHERS.”

Standing in the Gap

In defining Intercession, we will need to look at what it means to “stand in the gap” in prayer.

We find a great picture of intercession in Ezekiel 22:30, “And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.”   The Hebrew word for hedge isgader” which means an enclosure, wall or fence.”  The Hebrew word for gap is “perets” means a break, a breach, breaking forth.  The idea is that there is a gap in the wall and that we need to stand in that gap to prevent the enemy from breaking in.

Also the gap in the hedge is the picture of a battle line, and the need to fill any gaps in the line. Ezekiel 13:4-5 illustrates this well, “O Israel, your prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. You have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD.”

2 Corinthians 5:18 speaks about the gap between God and man, and how intercession is a vital part of the “ministry of reconciliation” that we have received from the Lord. Another analogy we can draw from the concept of “the gap” is the break in a power line that would stop the flow of power. Our intercession will be instrumental to reconnect the flow of the Holy Spirit into a situation and release His power to bring about change.

Intercession – Why and Why Not

Why We Shouldn’t Have Intercession.

Before we get into the reasons why we should have intercession, let’s look at some of the reasons why some have said it should be avoided. Over the years I have heard many good rationales from some pastors, leaders, and others about why we should not have intercession. Here are some of the reasons they gave:

1. Too Risky and Hard to Control

They have heard scary stories of, or experienced firsthand, when things got out of control.    When it comes to things we don’t understand, what we often do is react. Often what we feel uncomfortable about is what we perceive to be an extreme.  We shouldn’t REACT TO AN EXTREME BUT RESPOND TO THE TRUTH. 

Bill Johnson said, “Reaction to error creates error.” There are two extremes of intercession, especially in meetings. One extreme is an anything goes, heavy on the manifestations type of approach.  Reacting to such an extreme, in an attempt to be safe, often means going to the other side which is no intercession at all.  The problem is, no intercession equals no power.  We need to respond to the truth.  An illustration of what it’s like when we cut off the power supply that comes through intercession is like having a car but refusing to put fuel in it, or having an electric tool and trying to use it with no battery pack.

Because many have seen some extremes in intercession, they have a tendency to have a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” reaction, instead of trusting God and the truth of scripture. I remember once I was in a pastors meeting with a group of area pastors.  All of a sudden, I felt the leading of the Holy Spirit to say something to the group.  I said, “As pastors of churches there are times in our prayer meetings when a spirit of intercession is going to come into the meeting and people will begin to weep, cry and travail before the Lord.  You know, guys, when that happens, we need to just let it happen.” I looked at the pastor who sat next to me and he was white as a sheet.  He said, “Uh, what if I just did that (shut it down) … last night.” I said, “Well brother, I believe that you now have a word from the Lord not to do that.”

When it comes to strange things happening in meetings, many have quoted the verse that says, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1Corintians 14:40). The question we need to ask is, “What is heaven’s definition of descent and in order?”  If you look at the scene around the throne in the book of Revelation, there are elders throwing down crowns, eye balls everywhere, thunder and lightning and all kinds of activity.  This is heaven’s definition of decent and in order.  Once again, I’m not condoning strange activity for the sake of strange activity. But we need to be open to the Spirit of God coming into our meetings and releasing the spirit of intercession.

Now I am all for leadership and there are definitely times to bring adjustment to a meeting, but let’s make sure our leadership is by the Holy Spirit and not by a fear of things getting out of control.

Intercession is one of the elements that will enable us to bear fruit in our lives and ministries.  Jesus is expecting fruit but we must remain connected to the vine.  Intercession is one of the ways we connect and remain connected. If, because of fear, we disconnect from Jesus, we will have a difficult time bearing lasting, quality fruit (John 15).

2. Intercessors are Weird People

Often intercessors are seen as the nuts, flakes and fruits of the church.  I can say this because I am an intercessor.  To the natural or religious mind, the outward expressiveness of many intercessors is perceived as unusual, weird and maybe demonic.

A number of years ago in North Carolina I had the privilege of painting the house of an international prophet named Bob Jones.  As a group of friends and I were working on the house, there were a few of Bob’s personal intercessors there as well.  Bob was not home at the time and they were marching around the outside of the house doing all kinds of prophetic acts. They did everything from waving banners to anointing the house with oil.  One of the guys working with me on the house commented, “Man those intercessors are weird.” I chuckled and said, “Yeah, I’m one of those.” He quickly replied, “Oh I didn’t mean you.”  I just laughed. What my friend didn’t realize was that what seems foolish in the natural mind can actually accomplish very much, first in the spiritual realm and then by releasing blessing into the natural realm.  As intercessors we are often called to do strange things, but we should strive to be as normal as possible in our everyday lives.

As one who has led intercession groups for years, I have seen my share of strange intercessors.  Some of them are still in a process of healing and restoration and have fallen into the snare of trying to gain approval or acceptance by attracting attention to themselves.  As people of prayer, we need to always invite the Holy Spirit to check our motives.  But when it comes to us judging another person on their outward expressiveness, we must be careful.  I remember visiting a new church that had one of their intercessors right up-front during worship.  Without thinking I said to myself, “Oh great, there is another one of those ‘flaky’ intercessors.”  The Holy Spirit abruptly chimed in on my thought. “Excuse me, but can I talk to you about this woman? You have no idea what she goes through every week, so don’t judge her for her outward expression of worship and her love for Me.” I quickly repented to the Lord. I came to find out that this very woman was married to an atheist.  She would go home from church every week and be persecuted for her faith. In the midst of that persecution, she was a powerful woman of prayer.

Once again let’s not throw out intercession just because of the outward expression of intercessors. I think, as the body of Christ, we need to do more to honor the intercessors that God has given us.

3. Intercession is Just for Intercessors

Many have the idea that intercession is only for a small, select group of spiritual intercessors in the church or ministry. I firmly believe that God lays His hand on certain individuals to go before the throne and make intercession as a primary focus of their particular ministry. The only problem is that some have the idea that, because this group is functioning, they are not needed to intercede. This makes about as much sense as saying, “It is good that we have worship leaders so we don’t have to worship,” or “I’m really glad we have evangelists so I don’t have to share my faith with anyone.”  The argument that intercession is just for “intercessors” just doesn’t hold water. Paul says, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1Timothy 2:1-3). In these verses I can see no indication that Paul is speaking only to intercessors.

In Luke 18:1 we read, “Then He spoke a parable to them that men (not just intercessors) always ought to pray and not lose heart.” Every believer is to take part in the priestly ministry of intercession which is referred to as the “Royal Priesthood.” (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:10).

I believe there is a level of intercession in which every believer can function. It may be as simple as praying for your family, friends and church, but even in that we are all called to intercede.

There are some who are called as intercessors and then there are those, the rest of the body of Christ, who are just called to intercede.  Let me illustrate. In 1998 I went with a group of intercessors to Fez, Morocco to do onsite intercession for the country. Fez is the religious capital of Morocco, as well as the place where the founder of the country is buried. God had given us a specific strategy as to how to pray, which He had confirmed to us prophetically, so we were ready to go.

As we were waiting in Gibraltar to board a ferry to take us to Tangier, Morocco, one of the sisters on the team told me she was quite confused. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that she really didn’t know why God would want her to be on this trip.” As I questioned what she meant, she said “Well I am not an intercessor, so I don’t know why God would send me on a trip with a group of intercessors.” To which I replied, “Well can you pray?” She responded, “Yes I can pray.” Then I explained to her that God wants her on this trip, because God wants all of us to pray. As it turned, out God used her to pray some powerful prayers for the people of Morocco on that trip. No one had any doubt that she was supposed to be there.

In this day, I think God’s plan is to get as many people praying as possible. Let’s encourage the brethren everywhere to pray.

4. Does it Really Make a Difference?

Many believe that intercession is optional because they don’t believe it really accomplishes anything. Some might say, “After all, haven’t we done just fine so far without it?”  What they are really saying, especially in the western world, is that we can do church, religion and what looks like kingdom work quite well without God’s power, presence and anointing.  Many of us seem quite content to do the same thing, year in and year out, and get the same result.  I think it is high time for this mindset to change.

I remember having coffee with a brother that I was meeting for the first time.  When he asked me about our ministry, I said that our main focus was intercession and intercession training.  I was quite surprised at his response when he said, “Oh yeah, intercession.  I was part of a denomination and we used to talk about intercession 20 years ago.”  I thought to myself, “You used to talk about intercession 20 years ago?” I wondered what he had been doing for the last 20 years without the foundation of intercession in his life and ministry.

The Bible and church history are full of stories of God giving specific answers to the desperate prayers of His people. Does intercession make a difference? ABSOLUTELY!

Why We Should Have Intercession

We have looked at some of the reasons for not having intercession, now let’s look at the reasons that intercession is so overwhelmingly important.

Every time I share this teaching, whether it is in our school of intercession or just around a table with some friends, I am that much more convinced of how tremendously important intercession is as one of the primary callings of the body of Christ today.  Let’s look at some of the reasons intercession is so vital.

1. God Chooses to Work Through the Prayers of His People

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “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.” By starting this verse with IF, God is indicating that He plans to cooperate with the prayers of His people to see things accomplished.  This means that if we do not pray, there is that which will not be accomplished.  Try to imagine God poised as if standing at the starting line of a race.  He is there with tremendous desire to move in the lives of people and show Himself strong on their behalf.  Usually a race begins with a certain sound. The sound that God is waiting for is the sound of our intercession reaching heaven. Just like in Daniel’s prayer, his voice was heard in heaven and the angel was dispatched (Daniel 10:12). It is very important that we do our part and pray.

As we cooperate with God, we are also in the school of the Holy Spirit to learn what it means to rule and reign with Him. One of the books that inspired me in my early days in the 1970’s was by a man called Paul Billheimer. He said in his book, Destined for the Throne, that prayer was “on the job training.” This is what he said, “The explanation is that prayer is not primarily God’s way of getting things done. It is God’s way of giving the church ‘on the job training’ in overcoming the forces hostile to God. God designed the program of prayer as an ‘apprenticeship’ for eternal sovereignty with Christ. The prayer closet is the arena which produces the overcomer.” 

Like Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer IS the greater work.”

2. It Brings Heaven to Earth

In Matthew 6:10 we read, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. We want to see all the goodness of heaven released on earth.  We want to see God release from heaven real answers to real problems in real situations in the lives of real people.  In a sense, our intercession reaches in to heaven and pulls down divine power saturated with the DNA of heaven.

One of the benefits of intercession is that it keeps us rooted in the eternal realm.  As we stay in close intimacy with God, we find that heaven begins to have more sway in our lives than this natural realm.  As we are praying for others, we cannot help but connect to the heart of God and see things from His perspective.

3. A Great Threat to the Kingdom of Darkness

One day I had a vision of what I call the “strategy room of the enemy.” In this vision, I saw a blackboard with bullet points on it.  It was as if the enemy had written out directives in his fight against the Kingdom of Light.  One of the bullet points said, STOP INTERCESSION AT ALL COSTS.  If the enemy knows that the power of God is released in intercession, then it stands to reason that he would do anything to stop it.  The enemy’s strategy is to “shut down” intercession at all costs. Think in your own life of all the times the enemy has tried to keep you from prayer. Or, after you started praying, he would try to get you distracted so you would get frustrated and give up. The fact is, the devil hates prayer and will stop it if he can. I believe the enemy is very concerned when God’s people pray.  I believe this is the reason many prayer meetings are poorly attended and many people struggle in their individual prayer times. I refer to intercession as “God’s secret weapon” because the enemy doesn’t know what to do with intense, focused, powerful intercession. When God’s people go before the throne and pray, God releases the resources of heaven that can’t be stopped. The problem is, much of the church doesn’t know what to do with intercession. If this is God’s secret weapon, then why are a relative few people in the body of Christ involved?

Guy H. King said, “No one is a firmer believer in the power of prayer than the devil; not that he practices it, but he suffers from it.”

4. It Brings Revival

There has never been a move of the Spirit, major or minor, that has happened without a strong connection to intercession. God moves on the hearts of men and women to call out to Him in prayer.  That’s what was happening just before the first Holy Spirit outpouring in the book of Acts.  The believers were in one accord in prayer when the Spirit came in power. That has been the pattern ever since.  There are those God has used mightily to intercede for revival. There are those like Frank Bartlerman who prayed for the Azuza Street outpouring.

For years he had prayed five hours a day for a move of the Spirit.  After a good while and no results, he asked the Lord if there was anything else he should do.  The Lord said, “Yes, pray more.” So he increased it to seven hours a day.  There are those like Peggy and Christine Smith who gave themselves to intercession just prior to the Hebrides revival breaking out on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. There are those like Evan Roberts and those with him when the Welsh revival broke out at Moriah Chapel.  Interestingly, the Spirit came in the prayer chapel not the church sanctuary.  And then more recently, the IHOP student awakening in Kansas City broke out just after the 10th anniversary of continuous night and day worship and intercession.  We need to continue to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit as well as praying for the ultimate revival, the second coming of Christ.

Here are some quotes that I hope you find helpful:

David Yonggi Cho

     “If you desire revival, there has never been, nor are there now, any short cuts to       revival. The only key to revival is prayer.”  

R.A. Torrey

     “There have been revivals without much preaching; but there has never been a            mighty revival without mighty praying.”

Selwyn Hughes

     “Revival is a sovereign act of God in the sense that He alone can produce it, but it is transported to earth on the wings of fervent, believing prayer. Every          revival in history – Pentecost included – began in heaven, but flowed into the Church through the ramp of intercessory prayer.”

5. The Global Prayer Movement

Ever since the early days of my walk with the Lord, I’ve had this attitude: whatever God is doing at any given time, I want to be a part of it. There was a season I spent time away from what He was doing. I was in some tributary, stuck in the mud, and I don’t ever want to go there again.  I believe God desires us to want to be involved in what He is doing.  My time in the tributary was my fault.  I hope I never go there again.

One of the main things God is doing today, which is happening at this very time, is a global prayer movement.  This is something God is doing to prepare the world for what He’s about to do.  I’m determined that I want to be a part of it.  I’m so excited about what God is doing in places like the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, 24-7 Prayer International, Burn 24/7 and thousands of houses of prayer being established around the world.  There are prayer ministries led by prayer generals like Lou Engle gathering people to pray.  There are stadiums being the filled for the purpose of intercession in many nations throughout the world.  God is also stirring His church to pray.  Local churches are coming into a new emphasis of prayer.  Will you please join me in determining that you also will be involved in what God is doing today?  There is no need for you to be left out of the global prayer movement.  These are very exciting days we are living in.

Here are some websites you might be interested in:

International House of Prayer Kansas

24-7 Prayer

Burn 24/

Lou Engle

6. It is Foundational to Church Life

Intercession must not be seen as just a church department or a segment of the overall church ministry.  Intercession is to be foundational for the entire functioning of the church.  Every service, every department, every ministry, every outreach must be undergirded with intercessory prayer.

I love this story about Charles Spurgeon’s “Boiler Room.”

“Five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, ‘Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?’ They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, ‘This is our heating plant.’ Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.” (Our Daily Bread, April 24)

In the building of the local church, we should never become too busy or too focused on other things to make prayer a priority.  Here is an applicable quote from Pastor David Cho who just happens to be the pastor of the largest church in the world located in Seoul, Korea:

“You could remove the powerful preaching from our church and it would still continue. You could remove the administration of pastoral care through the cell group system/ and the church would still continue. But if you remove the prayer life of our church, it would collapse.”

Is it any wonder that Jesus stayed up all night and prayed so that He could minister in the power of the Spirit all day the next day?  If we want to have successful, growing, Holy Spirit empowered churches, there is no shortcuts to prayer.  Everything must be bathed in prayer.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” Abraham Lincoln

I personally learned this lesson the hard way a number of years back.  My wife Darla and I were members of an outreach band in our church.  She was one of the singers and I was the drummer.  We had been asked to come and play at a park in another town.  It was to be an evangelistic outreach, which most of our songs were geared towards.  We had practiced weeks at a time, arranged for follow-up teams and promoted the concert throughout the community.  It was to be a tremendous soul-winning event.

To our surprise we had about 200 people show up to listen to us.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying the music.  Then at the end, I got up to give an altar call.  I delivered what I thought to be a stunning evangelistic message.  Then an interesting thing happened…. NOTHING.  When I asked for a show of hands, no one responded.  So, I gave another plea and still no one.  Not knowing what else to do, I thanked everyone for coming and closed the concert.  I was devastated.  I was sure that there would be many that would come forward to receive the Lord.

The next day I went to the Lord in prayer.  I asked Him if he could tell me why no one had responded to the altar call.  He said, “If you had prayed one 10th of the time that you practiced your songs, I would have moved.” I thought it over and realized that we did not pray for the event, not even once.  I had to repent before the Lord for my presumption.  Lesson learned.

I encourage you, especially if you’re a church leader, to make prayer an emphasis in your church.   Everything must be founded on an intercessory prayer culture.  I would even challenge you to make intercessory prayer a part of every

service, including Sunday morning. The enemy knows that he cannot stop a praying church because, for a praying church, the possibilities are limitless.

Final Thought 

These are just some of the reasons that intercession is so important.  As we grasp the importance and value of intercession, we will be positioning ourselves to step into cooperation with the Holy Spirit to bring God’s will into a living reality.