According to Peter Wagner’s study, from his book Prayer Shield, “Intercession is derived from the Latin inter, meaning ‘between’ and cedere, meaning ‘to go’.”1 We may conclude then that intercession means to go between or to stand in the gap for another.
Wagner also pointed out in his study that “all intercession is prayer but not all prayer is intercession.”2 Intercession is a particular kind of prayer that demands our unselfish devotion to God and to those whom we are interceding for. It is a willingness to lose ourselves for others and for the will of God.
To further explain the meaning of intercession we will turn to the scriptures. In this post we will look at a story from Luke that will help us see how intercession works.
And He said to them, “Suppose one of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and from inside he shall answer and say,’ Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. 10 “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened. 11 “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Here is a story about a man who goes to his friend at midnight and asks him for three loaves of bread so that he can feed another friend of his that had come on a long journey. At first his friend refused to give him the bread, but then when he persisted, he gave him as much as he needed.
This is a powerful illustration of what intercession is. It is one person going to another to get bread for a third person. In the story the person who came on a journey and who needed bread represents the one who needs prayer; the person who went to his friend at midnight asking for bread is of course the intercessor; and the friend who gave the bread represents God.
From this little story we may observe three things about what an intercessor is:
He is extremely bold. For who would normally go and ask for bread from a friend at midnight?
He is stubborn and persistent. We see from the story that the friend was at first unwilling to give the bread, until finally he gave it—but only after much persistence. God is not like the unwilling friend, but He still desires our persistence. It is a principle of prayer that He has established.
He feels a great responsibility to intercede. For the man would not have gone out at midnight to ask his friend for bread if this were not the case.
1 Peter Wagner, Prayer Shield (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1992), pp. 26.
2 Ibid., p. 27.