A Model for Intercession
Every single Christian is called to be an intercessor. God has given us the privilege to participate in seeing His plans for this world and for individuals come to pass through intercession prayer. In this blogpost, I'm giving you a model to approach intercession based on the functioning of the priests in the Old Testament.
We have been given the amazing privilege to change the course of history through intercession prayer. God has created a space for us in His plans to be filled with prayer.
Prayer moves God’s heart and creates space for His Spirit to move in people’s situations.
Some of us have a strong passion for intercession and a gifting and calling for this ministry. That’s great! But, for a lot of us, intercession can be a bit of a struggle. For new Christians, this may be completely uncharted territory. I want to give you a fresh framework to approach intercession. And I’m going to do this on the basis of the role of priests in the Old Testament.
The Role of A Priest
Priests had a very central role in the Jewish religion of the Old Testament times. God assigned one of the twelve tribes of Israel – the Levites – with the role of priests. Their role was to lead the people in the way they connected to God.
Priests were intermediates. They served God on behalf of the people. And this is where there is such a strong connection with intercession. When we pray for others, we also approach God, on behalf of other people.
Priests had three main roles:
1) Worship. Many of the Levites were musicians, making music in the house of the Lord and singing. This was their holy assignment. Many of the sacrifices brought to the Temple, handled by the priests, were also sacrifices of worship and adoration.
2) Petition. The priests would perform sacred rituals to petition for the people, asking forgiveness.
Leviticus 6:6-7 (NLT) As a guilt offering to the Lord, you must bring to the priest your own ram with no defects, or you may buy one of equal value. Through this process, the priest will purify you before the Lord, making you right with him, and you will be forgiven for any of these sins you have committed.”
So, their service in the house of the Lord had a lot to do with approaching God on behalf of the people.
3) Blessing. The priests were given authority by God to speak a blessing over the people.
Numbers 6:22-27 (NLT)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing:
‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’
Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.”
This blessing is called the priestly blessing. Notice how that final verse confirms that authority of the priests – when you bless the people with these words, I will bless them. Their words were powerful, because they carried that assigned authority.
Kingdom of Priests
Now, the Israelites were actually never meant to be a people with a priesthood only. Yes, they had this functioning priesthood by God’s instruction, but, God’s purpose for them was to be a people of priests.
When God makes a covenant with the people, He states what their purpose as His people would be on the planet.
Exodus 19:3-6 (NLT)
Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”
God had called the people of Israel out of Egypt for a purpose. Every single Israelite, not just the tribe of the Levites, carried the purpose of priesthood. As a people, the fulfilled this purpose of leading the nations to God, the way they themselves were led to God through the priests.
Now, here’s the kicker. You ready? God calls you and I a priest as well.
Every single believer is a priest in this world.
1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
As a Christian, you have a priestly function in your family, in your neighbourhood, in your classroom, in your workplace.
And one of the main ways that we fulfil this calling into priesthood, is through intercession. The way that the priests in Old Testament times were intermediates between the people and God, in the same way, we can stand in the gap for others.
And so, the three main functions of the priests, can serve us as a model for how we approach intercession: worship, petition and blessing.
We are called to worship God with our words, our songs and with our whole lives.
Worship attracts the presence of God. He loves to be in an environment where His name is praised. In this way, we can see our continual worship as part of our intercession.
Through worshiping God in your house, your house becomes a place where the presence of God dwells. This doesn’t only affect the way your family functions, your house also becomes a sacred place in your neighbourhood. When your family worships God, your neighbours will notice.
Through worship, your house becomes a place where the presence of God dwells.
Worship is also a great way to start your time of intercession. Praise God for who He is. It will set you up for a powerful time of prayer, because you start off reminding yourself that God is bigger than the thing you are about to pray for.
This is the type of intercession that we are most familiar with – asking God for something on behalf of other people.
Now, we do not approach God with sacrifices to get forgiveness for their sins, like the priests did. Jesus, who is called the Great High Priest, has already purchased forgiveness by His blood. But we can enter into God’s presence, like the priests did, to pray for people who need a divine intervention.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT) So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
We are invited to the Throne Room of God – to come boldly, without hesitation – and pray for grace, for our needs, for the needs of others, for injustice in this world, for miracles even. God has left a space in His plans to be filled with your prayers.
Don’t pass on this invitation to approach the Throne Room of God freely and without hesitation.
We don’t have to guess what God’s will is. We know that the salvation, restoration, healing, deliverance, peace, justice and people’s wellbeing are completely in line with His will. Yet, He has given us the responsibility and privilege to participate in making that happen through prayer. Don’t pass on this invitation. Prayer is a powerful weapon.
Lastly, there is the blessing. Many think that intercession only happens in one direction – we approach the throne of grace on behalf of other people. But there is also another direction in intercession prayer.
Ephesians 2:6 (NLT)
For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
We are not only invited to pray to the throne, but also from the throne.
In your functioning as priest, and from your place of being seated with Christ in that Throne Room, we have been given authority to speak blessing over the people around us.
You are put in a position of authority to pronounce blessing over your family, over your neighbourhood, over your class mates and over your colleagues.
Let me encourage you to make this a daily habit. Speak out blessing over the people around you. Your blessing words are powerful, because God says (all the way back to that priestly blessing): “Whenever you bless the people around you in my name, I myself will bless them.”
On May 13, a video will be posted on the Vineyard Groningen YouTube Channel where I interview Menno Helmus, National Director of Vineyard Benelux about prayer FROM the throne, our God-given authority and how this affects our prayer lives.