Intercession: The Power of Praying for Others

In Genesis 40, we read the story of a wrongfully imprisoned Joseph who, with God’s help, interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler (cupbearer) and his baker. Joseph told the cupbearer that his dream indicated that he would be freed and restored to his position. After saying this, he told him, “But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon” (Genesis 40:14-15).
Later on in the chapter, though, we are told that the cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he forgot.
Why did the cupbearer forget? We don’t know for sure, but we can surmise a few things. He was restored to his position, after some time in prison. It’s easy to imagine that he would be overwhelmed with joy at his sudden freedom. We can also imagine that he would want to make sure that he never had to go back, so he may have thrown himself into his job with renewed vigor. And, perhaps, he was a little afraid to intercede with Pharaoh, and so allowed himself to just move on with his own life.

Will we remember?
Imagine if you were summoned to meet the president of your country. You’d likely be a little nervous, trying not to say or do the wrong thing. You’d want to look your best. You’d want to have something memorable to say, perhaps, or some personal cause that you would like him to espouse. How likely would you be to ask a favor for a friend in trouble? How likely would you be to even remember your friends in the stress and excitement of meeting a powerful person?
And yet we have this opportunity every day of every week of every year. At any moment, we can stop and speak to the most powerful Being in the universe, entrusting Him with our gratitude, our needs and our desires. As often as we are moved to do so, we can come before the throne of the Lord, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. More, throughout the New Testament we are urged to come before Him in prayer often. Paul writes, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1).

Astonished by my friend
I can remember the wonder that filled me the first time that a friend mentioned that she would add some concern of mine to the things that she prayed about for me. I was astonished at this revelation that she was already—without my asking it—spending part of her time with God talking about me and making requests on my behalf. She was telling me that I was so important to her that she would regularly mention my name to God and request His mercy and blessing in my life.

Don’t be like the cupbearer
What about us? When we go before the Lord in prayer, are we so concerned with the things that are going on in our lives that we forget to intercede for others? Do we wait until there is a crisis situation? Are we, in short, like Pharaoh’s cupbearer—who in his master’s presence forgot his fellow prisoner? Or are we remembering to pray for not just those in immediate need, but indeed everyone we know? In fact, we ought even to be praying for those that we do not know personally.
Going back to 1 Timothy 2 and continuing on, we read, “Therefore 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, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Let’s not be like the cupbearer, who forgot Joseph for two years. When we exercise the freedom we have to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), let us remember to intercede for others as well as making the requests and supplications for ourselves.
The Blessing and Responsibility of Intercessory Prayer
Vince Szymkowiak | United News
Brethren continue to receive prayer requests regarding others who are struggling with serious illnesses and trials. We are updated weekly, sometimes daily, regarding the physical and spiritual needs of not only the brethren in our immediate congregation, but also the needs of brethren throughout the world. Furthermore, we are often called upon to pray for many who are not members of United Church of God.
When we respond to these requests, we are partaking in an ancient form of supplication called intercessory prayer. That is, we are praying fervently on behalf of someone else. We take someone else’s needs very personally; we see that someone else has a problem and we bow before God on their behalf.

Sodom Lost; Lot Saved
One of the earliest recorded examples of intercessory prayer is the famous example of Abraham interceding for his nephew, Lot (Genesis 18:16-33). Abraham had just finished preparing a meal for the preincarnate Christ and two angels. Christ told Abraham that He was about to visit Sodom to decide whether or not He should completely destroy this wicked city. Abraham, realizing that his nephew, Lot, and his family would also be destroyed in Sodom, began interceding with God on behalf of his nephew.
We have all been inspired, even amused, at the boldness of Abraham. First, he pleaded to the Lord that if 50 righteous people were found in the city, could possibly the city be spared? When the Lord said He would not destroy it if 50 righteous were found, then Abraham asked Him to consider 45, then 40, then finally 10!
This is a marvelous example of intercessory prayer. Abraham was fervently beseeching God on behalf of another, in this case, Lot and his entire family. The city of Sodom was destroyed, but God did hear Abraham’s prayer and provided a way of escape for Lot.

Daniel’s Example
A second example of intercessory prayer is found in the book of Daniel. This is the time when Jerusalem had been conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar and many Jews had been deported to Babylon. Among them was Daniel.
In chapter 9, we read that Daniel understood, at least in part, through the prophecies of Jeremiah, that ultimately the blessings promised to the tribe of Judah would be restored. The entire world would be refreshed by the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on this earth. But before Daniel received the explanation of the 70-weeks prophecy, he realized that he needed to fast and pray and intercede on behalf of Israel (Daniel 9:11).
This was a remarkable prayer in many ways. First, it shows Daniel’s own heart of repentance because he acknowledged that he too was a sinner: “We have sinned” (verse 5); “We have rebelled” (verse 9).
What is also recorded is Daniel’s intercessory prayer for Israel. See verses 17-19: “Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant and his supplications [urgent and fervent prayer for mercy]...
“Oh my God, incline Your ear and hear...for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
This is a classic example of a person applying intercessory prayer on behalf of others.

“Intercession for the Transgressors”
The greatest example of intercessory prayer is found in the mission of Jesus Christ. We read in the p rophecy of Isaiah 53:12 that Jesus Christ was to bear “the sin of many.” Further, He “made intercession for the transgressors.”
Indeed, while on the cross, Jesus prayed for and interceded for those who were killing him (Luke 23:34). Even before this incident, while He was being arrested, He insisted that the disciples be let go (John 18:8). And, just a few moments before His death, He interceded on behalf of His own mother and instructed John to provide a home for her (John 19:26-27). These are examples from the One who, by His very office, is to intercede on behalf of His people.
In Romans 8:34, we read of Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for all of us. And finally we read in Hebrews 7:25 that as our High Priest, Jesus is “also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them.”

Needed as Never Before
What an incredible blessing that we have in realizing that Jesus Christ is our Intercessor! And what a wonderful responsibility we share in following the example of Christ in offering up intercessory prayer on behalf of others!
God’s people need each other’s prayers as never before. May God bless you in your prayer life as you strive to follow the intercessory example of our elder Brother, Jesus Christ. UN

(The author is pastor of the Rolla and St. Louis, Missouri, and Fairview Heights, Illinois, congregations.)