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Unpacking Intercessory Prayer: What It Is, How It Works and How to Do It

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Remember what it felt like when your mom or dad stepped in to pay a traffic ticket you couldn’t afford? Or that feeling when you discovered your college scholarship covered all of your fees for a semester? Those are great examples of how someone or something intervened—or interceded—on your behalf. As a result, a burden or debt was removed from your shoulders. What a relief! That’s a picture of what intercessory prayer does. It allows someone else to carry the burden, or intervene, on another’s behalf through prayer, and it’s a well-documented theme throughout Scripture.

Just look at these examples:

  • Abraham interceded on Lot’s behalf to save him from the destruction of his home town (Genesis 18-19).
  • Jonah (though begrudgingly) interceded for the town of Nineveh (Jonah 3).
  • And in the greatest act of intercession, Jesus came down to earth to live as one of us, and interceded for our salvation (John 17:20-26; Luke 23:34).

As a believer, you have an opportunity to not only benefit from intercession, but also to daily intercede for others. If you need help understanding what intercessory prayer is and how to practice it in your life, then here’s what you need to know:

1. What Is Intercessory Prayer?

Intercessory prayer is not a prayer of praise, an unloading of one’s own burdens, or a “daily bread” prayer. Instead, it is a pointed, persistent pleading on behalf of someone else for a deep need. Specifically, in the New Testament, we read that Jesus and the Holy Spirit interceded on behalf of God’s people for various reasons, but the most prominent were these—ability and access.


Jesus interceded to bring us salvation because we did not have the ability or strength to save ourselves. Hebrews 7:25 explains this: “Therefore he [Jesus] is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” This scripture teaches that Jesus “lives forever to intercede.” What a beautiful promise!


Romans 8:26-27 tells us that “the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” The Holy Spirit intercedes for us by bringing our requests into the throne room of God, where we cannot yet physically go.

Watch Kenneth Copeland as he teaches how praying in the spirit is your weapon!

2. How Does Intercessory Prayer Work?

Intercessory prayer is not about getting God to follow our plan, but actively praying for the strongholds in other people’s lives to line up with God’s Word. It’s a battle against evil spiritual powers that requires courage and diligence. In fact, Paul reminded the church to “pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” (Ephesians 6:18).

This type of persistent intercessory prayer opens the door to bring about deliverance and deeper growth. As you actively speak against the enemy’s designs, stand on the promises of God, and remind God of His Word. The enemy’s attacks are thwarted. Light flows into areas where there was previously darkness (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). So don’t give up even when the answer is not yet visible. Follow the example of the Apostle Paul who said, “So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you” (Colossians 1:9).

One word of caution: As you pray for others, it’s important to not take on the burden of the problem yourself, as that can be spiritually damaging. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon cautions believers to guard our hearts above all else (Proverbs 4:23). So be vigilant to intercede for the rebellious, the addicted and the hurting, but guard your own heart against undue emotional strain and burdens.

3. How Can I Implement Intercessory Prayer in My Life?

So how can intercessory prayer become a part of your life today? One of the trademarks of intercessory prayer is that it brings about a life of more deeply abiding in God.

Take a look at the people in your life and the challenges you are facing: Where has growth or movement stalled? Where is there a rebellious child or a difficult boss? Which loved ones are battling with chronic health issues or need salvation? How about our country and our political leaders? Those are all perfect situations in which to apply intercessory prayer. Start by writing out two to three specific situations that need this type of prayer. Place it where you will see it daily, or set a reminder on your phone to pray for those situations. And continue praying, even when you are tempted to give up. Keep a record of what you are praying for, so you can track the prayers God has answered.

It can be challenging to persist in prayer because we don’t always see the fruit of our faith-filled prayers, but that is no reason to stop. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16). Stay motivated and encouraged to persist in prayer, even when things haven’t changed in the natural. God is constantly at work in the supernatural, and your intercessory prayers are not in vain!

Need more help about the subject of prayer? We have lots more help available to you in our Real Help section at kcm.org.

Related Articles:

7 Steps to A Deeper Prayer Life

How to Remain in Faith for Your Nation