Do you know the difference between prayer and intercession?
Prayer, according to Merriam-Webster, is “an address or petition to God in word or thought.” It is, as most people imagine, making an earnest request to God.
Intercession, which many people believe to be the same thing, actually takes prayer one step further. While it may include praying to God for something, to intercede is to “intervene between parties with a view to reconciling differences; to mediate.”* In other words, intercession is prayer in action!
Christ’s work on the cross was the ultimate form of intercession. He prayed for us, but He also acted on our behalf. He took steps to reconcile us to God, becoming the mediator of peace and a new covenant with God.
In other words, prayer goes straight to God’s heart. But intercession links the heart of God with the hearts of men. Intercession is action-packed prayer!
Intercession: God's Action Story
To illustrate the difference, let me share a story.
A few months ago, I made an appointment to see my audiologist. I don’t see her very often, but I had an urgent need that required attention.
When I called to ask for the next available appointment, the secretary told me that my doctor was on vacation until early the following week.
“That’s great!” I said. “She deserves a vacation!”
“Well, actually…” the secretary hesitated. “She had to return home to Columbia because her sister just died of cancer. I can give you an appointment the day she comes back.”
“Of course,” I said. “I’m so sorry to hear about this. I will see her when she returns.”
Compassion in Action
As I hung up the phone, I felt crushed. I genuinely like my doctor, and was so saddened by this turn of events in her life. I actually felt bad that I needed to see her under these circumstances! My sadness led me to pray for her, that God would comfort and heal her family, and give her grace to return to work the next week while she was grieving.
On the day of my appointment, I again prayed for this doctor. Yet as I left the house, I felt strongly that I needed to do more than just pray. I felt led to acknowledge her sister’s death in some way, even though she didn’t know I was aware of the loss.
I decided to stop by the store and pick up a single rose for her as a kind gesture. I found a beautiful rose in an unusual color, and brought it to the appointment.
The funny thing was, while my doctor seemed to appreciate this gesture, she didn’t say anything beyond a simple “thank you” that day. I expressed my condolences, gave her an awkward hug, and went home.
Prayer + Action = Intercession
Two months later, I returned to see my audiologist. When we had finished and I stood to leave, she stopped me. “Do you remember the unusual-colored rose you gave me the last time you were here?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said.
“Well, I couldn’t bring myself to tell you at the time, but your gift really touched my heart in a powerful way. My sister loved roses, and she would go to the market in Columbia to buy roses in the exact you gave me! She would put them in her house every day.
“When she became sick with cancer, her husband would go out and buy those same roses for the house, to cheer her. It was my sister’s rose! So I could not believe that you brought me that very same color flower when I returned to America. I told my brother in law and his family what you had done, and they were amazed! Thank you!”
“It was God,” I said. “Only God could arrange something like that!” I hugged her again and this time, she returned the hug. :-)
God’s love reached this doctor in a tangible way, through a very personal act of intercession. She may never know that I prayed for her, but she does know that God cares, because He intervened as I acted on His compassion.
Because I prayed and acted, God was able to touch not just one person in America, but a grieving family in Columbia as well. They now know that something bigger is at work in their lives, something that only God could coordinate. Through a simple rose in a color awash with meaning, God's love touched people in two nations! Hallelujah!
Reflect on This
Have you ever been used by God to intercede for someone, not just in prayer but with action? What happened?
A wise pastor once said this: “You will not pray effectively for what you do not love.” Ask God to give you the compassion you need to both pray and intercede for those around you. Then watch to see what happens when you become the answer to your prayers!
© Deborah Perkins / www.HisInscriptions.com.
**Merriam – Webster’s Online Dictionary; Link here: www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prayer
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.