Recently I have noticed how often society uses the phrases, ‘I’m praying for you’ or ‘You’re in my thoughts and prayers’. Usually, this is because of a troubling or painful situation, and we say these things as a matter of comfort and as the expression of a desire to help. Do we sometimes say these things without really understanding the responsibility behind praying for others? Do we see how our relationship with God is affected when we pray fervently for others when they are in trouble or need?
Intercession – stepping in to make a difference between two parties – is something all Christians have experienced, because the Lord intercedes for us. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that the Lord Jesus now lives forever to make intercession for us as we draw near to God. It’s a part of what he does for us as our high priest, an office he was equipped for by his life on earth, when he experienced what we experience on a daily basis (Heb. 4:14–16). That intimate knowledge of what it means to be in our shoes means he can speak on our behalf.
It is through our relationship with the one who interceded for us that we are also called upon to intercede for others. 1 Tim 2:1 tells us that intercessions should be made for all people. Are we prepared to go before the throne of God and use our standing in his sight to plead the case of others – not just to ask God to ‘bless so-and-so’ in a general way, but to really get into a dialogue with God about someone in need? It is part of our duty as priests in God’s service to intercede for the people of this world.
To do so, we will need to relate to their experience and empathise with the reality of what they are going through. We can’t be aloof intercessors – the Lord didn’t remain aloof from us but ‘because he suffered while being tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted’ (Heb 2:18). Hebrews says every high priest ‘is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, because he himself is beset with weakness’ (Heb 5:2). None of us should feel removed either from struggles or faltering. We all know what that is like, and if we are humble before God about our own weaknesses and empathise with them, we can represent those who are struggling before the throne of a God who can answer every need. We needed and were touched by the grace of God, needed and have felt his love overwhelm our faults and failings, needed and have repeatedly been encompassed by his faithfulness – so we should feel a burden to plead the case of others who need to know that same faithful grace and love in their lives. This humility and perseverance before God will not only affect the lives of those we are praying for, but will deepen our experience of relying on God for his support and help.
Sarah Bell, The Church of God in Vancouver