The Power of Intercessory Prayer

Are you in the habit of praying for others? Do you also ask others to pray for you? If so, you’re already involved in intercessory prayer.

Intercessory prayer is, quite simply, the prayer of one person for someone else. It’s one of the most powerful ways to both gain and share encouragement and peace with others.

My favorite Bible story of intercessory prayer is in Acts 12. Peter was in prison, and the new church was gathered in prayer for him. An angel miraculously set Peter free, and the story picks up here.

…he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”

“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”

But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

Acts 12:12-16 NIV

This story always makes me laugh. I can picture myself doing just what Rhoda did. I wonder if she really didn’t believe her prayers for Peter would be answered. When the answer hit her in the face, her excitement overwhelmed her sense of reason, and she left poor Peter outside, still knocking!

I know the prayers of one person are very powerful, both from my own experience and from what Jesus said in Matthew 17:20 NIV: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” But there is something to be said for the power of intercessory prayer. It blesses both the one praying and the one receiving.

When I am asked to pray for someone, I usually stop and pray for them right there, or write it down immediately so I don’t forget. If I see a prayer request in a Facebook feed, I immediately pause and pray. I learned this from Dr. Charles Stanley, who said he always prays right on the spot when he receives requests.

If it’s an ongoing prayer request, I keep it in a journal and refer back to it often. I make sure this journal is in a safe place, away from prying eyes.

I like this quote by Corrie Ten Boom:

“We never know how God will answer our prayers, but we can expect that He will get us involved in His plan for the answer. If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf of the people for whom we pray.”

Intercessory prayer is a time commitment. It can be heart-wrenching, if the prayer request is painful. But it can also be an enormous blessing, because you are playing a role in God’s work in another’s life.

What if you’re the one who needs prayer? I have a few suggestions.

  1. Ask God who you should ask to pray for you. You need someone you can trust with your private information. Ask God to show you who will pray fervently and confidentially on your behalf.
  2. Share in a private way. Face-to-face is best, then text or call. I sometimes choose email or Facebook private messaging, and I do belong to a couple private Facebook groups where we share prayer requests. Choose the method which is least likely to be read, seen, or heard by someone who doesn’t need to know.
  3. Be prepared for differences in opinion. Not everyone is a fan of intercessory prayer, even though it’s biblical. It may be wise to keep the fact you are asking for prayer private so you don’t receive unwanted advice, like I did in the past.

In recent years, two family members warned me about sharing my prayer requests with my Bible study friends. I included them on the email list to my friends, and I didn’t use the blind carbon copy option (now I’ve learned my lesson well).

I understand that these family members didn’t want me to get hurt by people they didn’t know. They didn’t want “strangers” knowing my private struggles. However, I knew these women, trusted their character, and desperately needed their encouragement during my past trials. These family members are extremely private in nature, but I share my feelings and thoughts more freely (obviously, I blog!).

I don’t regret sharing my prayer requests with my Bible study friends. I followed God’s leading to ask, and I was blessed beyond measure knowing others were praying for me in times of crisis.

Big prayers are exciting. Small prayers are humble. Intercessory prayers build up the body of Christ. All three types of prayer build up my faith and give me greater peace.

Join me next Wednesday for a guest post by my friend Leslie on the power of continuous prayer.

Questions for reflection: 

How do you incorporate prayer for others into your regular prayer habits?

How has prayer from others given you peace and encouragement in a difficult time?


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35 thoughts on “The Power of Intercessory Prayer

  1. Such a wonderful simple truth, Sarah. God’s Word calls us to pray for one another SO often and includes prayer as a way of showing love, worshipping, and growing together in faith. I know some people (myself sometimes included!) shy away from terms like “intercessory prayer” because the word can sound/be perceived as more formal or mystical. I appreciate your simple, bare-bones-to-the-Bible definition and exhortation!

    1. HI Bethany! I’m glad you appreciate my definition. Yes, in my denomination, the “touchy-feely” aspects of faith are sometimes shunned. Yet, if I look in the Bible, the examples are right there. That’s why God’s Word is so important! Thanks for your comment, friend!

  2. I love that advice to pray right when you see the need or read the request…I try to do that too. Or if someone says, “Will you pray for me?” I will pray for them right then with them. I also love love using the book Praying in Color for intercessory prayer. It keeps me focused and in tune.

  3. Lots of great wisdom here, Sarah. I agree that we need to use discernment with who we ask to pray for us. People mean well but if they’re praying prayers that aren’t biblical that’s not good.

  4. So true, Sarah! I’m so glad I’m in a private group from our She Speaks experience that gives us more opportunities to intercede for one another. It is a blessing that is doubled when we do. Thanks for this inspiring post and I hope it encourages more and more people to tap into the rich tapestry of intercessory prayer.

    1. Yes, yes, I love our new group. It’s so powerful, and we’re already seeing great results through it, aren’t we? I hope others are encouraged to pray through this post and this series too!

  5. Sarah, this is such an encouraging post. I loved the Corrie Ten Boom quote and also your suggestion to stop and pray right when you are asked. I’ve learned to do that more often and it’s a real booster to me to know that I didn’t let that prayer request slip my mind. I’m sharing this post! Love the beautiful way you wrote about intercessory prayer today!

    1. I found that quote on Goodreads. Do you use that app? I LOVE it. You are the prayer platform queen…I can’t wait to host you!

  6. I love intercessory prayer, it is a powerful tool given to us to pray for those who are going through unexpected waiting in their lives.

  7. I think it’s interesting that they were praying and praying and praying but when the prayer was answered, they didn’t believe it! Pray expecting God to break the chains!!!
    Thanks for this awesome encouragement to faithfully pray for others! Lately I’ve been wanting to make praying for people on the spot more of a habit! How much more powerful will our times of fellowship be if we immediately (and together) take our cares and concerns to the Lord!

    1. Hello Karissa. I love that the Bible gives us real stories about imperfect people. I agree with you–our times of fellowship are so much richer when we know how to pray for one another. Blessings to you!

  8. I love keeping a journal of my requests. It helps remind me to ask the person how they’re doing with the situation periodically, too! Great reminder of the power of prayer!

    1. Hi Liz…I’m sure your journal is as beautifully creative as you are! I can’t remember anything unless I write it down. I’m unashamedly old-school that way. You’re right, it helps keep them in my thoughts and reminds me to check in with them too.

  9. “It’s one of the most powerful ways to both gain and share encouragement and peace with others.” Amen. I, too, have learned to pray immediately for someone, both in person and on-line. It encourages both of us, and I don’t forget. Great tips here.

    1. Hi Debbie! When I see a prayer request online (Facebook), I pause right there and then pray for them. That way I don’t forget either. I hit “like” only after I’ve prayed.

  10. I love the Rhoda story too, and am challenged by your words on intercessory prayer. It’s an investment, and a very selfless act. We’re really saying, “My time, my effort – because prayer is hard work!- for you, in a way that no one but God may ever know about.”

    1. If we could only get a peek at all the prayers God hears every day, wouldn’t we be amazed and totally overwhelmed? I love that prayer brings us so close to our infinite God.

  11. I would not be who I am today or survived without intercessory prayer. Prayer is powerful. I remember one particular difficult day and I was overwhelmed. I was trying hard to remember verses and none would come to mind. I needed God’s peace and comfort for what was before me. I had a team that prayed for me. As I walked up the stairs as each foot hit a step scripture was flooding my mind. A certain team member was praying for just that. Loved your post.

  12. Thank you for this beautiful post on intercession. It is so timely for me, as one that I had interceded for years ago, is again in a deep trial. I am so thankful that those prayers of intercession last for all eternity! What a blessed reminder today!

  13. Sarah, this is so good! Loved it! Prayer is one of the greatest gifts we can give someone. I had forgotten about that story of Peter in Acts. 🙂 Oh, may we never ever underestimate the power of prayer!

    1. Hi Karen. Receiving gifts is my lowest-ranking love language, but when someone tells me they are praying for me, it’s like receiving the best gift in the world!

  14. Sarah,
    One of my favorite times for intercessory prayer is when I’m walking my dog and I’ve really been missing out on that as I have been laid up recuperating from surgery. My walks have become a time where I go through the people in my mind who I have said I will pray for and for whom God has put a burden on my heart to pray for. The entire walk, I lift those people up to Him as I often gaze up into the Carolina blue cloudless sky. It’s almost as if I see the prayers rising. And so true that it blesses me as much if not more, than the person I am raising in prayer. I also love knowing that others are lifting me in prayer especially when I am too weak to formulate my own prayer requests. Wonderful post!
    Bev xx

    1. Hi Bev, I’ve been praying for you in your recovery. I love that you feel your prayers rising in the sky, just as I feel they do here in Missouri. Thanks for your kind words, and I’m saying a prayer right now for you to feel stronger today.

  15. This is great! Prayer is such a vital part of our walk with God and our walk through life with others. As we pray, our mustard seed faith is watered and grows. A small amount of faith in a great big God moves mountains! Let’s speak to those mountains!!

  16. I was on the women’s prayer team at our church before we moved and I LOVED the times we met together and prayed for the needs of women in the church. It was uplifting and encouraging to pray together.

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