Who Is An Intercessor?
An intercessor is “one who pleads in behalf of another” (Webster). One can look at the condition of the world and see the need for an intercessor. Christians should plead in prayer on behalf of the world, our family, our pastor, our church –– wherever there is a gap between God’s grace and man’s need, the believer must step in and intercede. Praying for others should be a natural part of us, but we are so focused on ourselves that we forget the many millions of people that are hurting, the millions of people that are lost and will go to hell if they die in their lost condition.
The former chaplain of the United States Senate, Dr. Richard C. Halverson, said about prayer: “You can organize until you are exhausted. You can plan, program and subsidize all your plans. But if you fail to pray it is a waste of time. Prayer is not optional; it is mandatory. Not to pray is to disobey God” (Bryant 1984). Another said, “intercession is the self-sacrificial work of pouring one’s self out for others in prayer.”
We can see a perfect example of intercession in the famous intercessory prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ recorded for us in the Gospel of John, chapter seventeen.
JESUS, THE INTERCESSOR
There are three parts to this high priestly prayer: Christ’s prayer for Himself (vv. 1-5), His prayer for His disciples (vv. 6-19), and His prayer for those who should follow in faith in the coming centuries (vv. 20-26).
Christ Prayed for Himself
In John 17:1-5, we read the following:
“THESE words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
As thou has given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
In verses 1-5, Jesus is praying for Himself. If the intercessor does not pray for himself how can he pray for someone else? A true intercessor must always have a personal open-line of prayer to His heavenly Father. This is essential. There are many that pray for others, but never pray for themselves. This type of praying is useless and powerless, for, to be a true intercessor, our first concern must be to bring glory to our heavenly Father. The prayer of Jesus, here in John 17, brought glory to God because the life Jesus lived brought glory to Him. Our living and our praying must go together.
The main goal of Jesus was to obey, honor, and bring glory to His Father. In everything He did, He kept the glory of His Father before Him. This should be the goal of every Christian. Do you pray at all? Are you bringing glory to God as an intercessor?
Christ Prayed for His Disciples
In John 17:6-19, we read the following:
“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”
In verses 6-10, Jesus said He had accomplished all that the Father sent Him to do, in terms of equipping the disciples for their work here on earth. He had revealed the Father to them and given the Word of the Father to them.
In verses 11-12, we hear our Lord praying that the Father would keep them and that they and the Father would be one in unity, as Christ and the Father are one. Jesus loved His disciples, and He proved it by praying for them, “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (verse 11).
Jesus was praying that the Father would protect His disciples from the evil of the world. He knew how the world had treated Him, so He, in love, was interceding for the disciples.
Marcus Rainsford, in his book on John 17, has written:
“The Lord does not ask riches for them, or honor, or worldly influence, or great preferments, but he does most earnestly pray that they may be kept from evil, separated from the world, qualified for duty, and brought home safely to heaven. Soul prosperity is the best prosperity: and, in truth, all temporal prosperity, as it is so called, is only real when it is in proportion to the prosperity of soul. Remember how the beloved disciple brings out this thought in his third epistle. ‘Beloved, I wish above all that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as they soul prospereth’ (III John 2). Soul prosperity is the index of true prosperity.”
The Lord not only prayed for His immediate disciples, but He wants His children today to know that He has the same concern for them. In Psalm 121, the Word of God gives these comforting words:
“I WILL lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon they right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”
I am so thankful to the Lord that He intercedes on my behalf. He is my High Priest.
In verse 13, we read Jesus’ prayer for His disciples “That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” The desire of Jesus in this part of His prayer was that the disciples would be happy and joyful NOW. He has the same desire for us today.
Arthur W. Pink, in his Exposition of the Gospel of John wrote the following:
“’That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.’ This is what the heart of the Savior craved for His people, and for this He made full provision. In this Prayer [sic], Christ makes it known that we have been brought into the same position before the Father that He held, and just in proportion as we consciously enter into it, His joy is fulfilled in us. As the result of His finished work every barrier has been removed, the veil has been rent, a ‘new and living way’ has been opened for us, and therefore have we access into the ‘holiest of all,’ and are invited to ‘… draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith …’ (Hebrews 10:19-22). His Father is our Father; His relation to God, that of Son, is now ours; for ‘because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:6). Then the Holy Spirit tells us ‘… truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.’ (I John 1:3-4).”
In verse 14, Jesus is saying to His Father, “I have given them (the disciples) thy word; and the world hath hated them” (John 17:14). Jesus was faithful to give the disciples the word that His Father had entrusted to Him. Jesus knew what it was like to be hated by the world, so His heart went out to His disciples in intercessory prayer.
In verse 15, the loving Savior prayed, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” Notice what He is asking –– “keep them from the evil.” The Greek word translated evil may be translated either evil one, or evil thing. Can you see the concern, and the love, in that statement? A true intercessor will always have both. Jesus was praying that the disciples would be kept from Satan. He is the ultimate source of the evil we see in the world today. Jesus knew that the devil’s main goal is to undermine the faith of believers and to defeat their witness to the world.
Thomas Manton said this about Jesus’ prayer that we be kept from the evil: “Keep them from the author of evil, and from evil itself, from sin, from the power and snares of the Devil and destruction, until their course is run. Satan is the author; the world is the bait; sin is the hook. Keep them from the devil that they may not come under his power; keep them from the world, that they may not be deceived by its allurements.”
In verses 16-17, our Savior continues His prayer: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through they truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:16-17). Jesus is asking His Father to sanctify them (the disciples) through His truth.
Matthew Henry says this about verse 17: “He prays, Father, sanctify them, confirm the work of sanctification in them, rivet their good resolution. Carry on that good work in them; let the light shine more and more. Complete it; sanctify them throughout to the end.” Adam Clark said, “’Sanctify them’ has two meanings: (1) it signifies to ‘consecrate.’ To [sic] ‘separate’ from earth and common use, and ‘devote’ or ‘dedicate’ to God and His service; (2) it signifies to ‘make holy’ or ‘pure.’ The prayer of Christ may be understood in both senses. He prayed (1) that they might be fully consecrated to the work of the ministry, and separated from all worldly concerns; and (2) that they might be holy, and patterns of all holiness to those to whom they announced the salvation of God.”
Christ Prayed for Those Who Will Follow in Faith in the Coming Centuries
In John 17, verse 20, we read that what Jesus prayed for His immediate disciples, He prayed also for future believers: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word:
” Just think about that. Jesus prayed for us when He was walking the earth.
In verses 21-23, our Lord is praying for unity. The oneness that He prayed for in these verses is for all believers. It is our Lord’s desire that His people live in unity with one another.
In verses 24-26, we have a petition from the lips of our Lord, for the glorifying of all of His children.
Brethren, let us be reminded of Hebrews 7:25, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” The Lord is not passive in glory. He is within the veil, exercising a ministry of intercession. He prays for us on the ground of His redeeming work that He has accomplished on our behalf. My heart rejoices in the fact that He is incerceding for me today.
We Can Learn From this Intercessory Prayer of our Lord We, too, need to pray for ourselves, for the church, and for the lost.