The young minister’s son was intrigued by what his father did every Sunday morning during the offertory. Finally he asked, “Daddy, why do you always close your eyes when the organist plays the organ and those mean-looking men make everybody put money in their wood frisbees?” The pastor told his son that he was praying. He said, “I ask God to make me a good preacher.” The little guy solemnly asked, “So why doesn’t He?”
A few years ago a fascinating experiment was conducted on the power of prayer.
Dr. Randolph Byrd, a cardiologist with the San Francisco General Medical Center’s Coronary Care unit, did a scientific study on prayer involving heart patients. Nearly four hundred patients participated in a ten-month, double blind experiment that was scientifically controlled and documented. The patients were divided into two groups with no statistical difference between group A or B. The patients were not told which group they were in. Group B received no prayer support. Each patient in Group A had two people praying for them. Those who prayed for the patients were scattered throughout the country and did not know the patient’s name – only the person’s medical problem. When the results were tabulated, the findings revealed that patients in Group A did as well or better in virtually every comparison.
The conclusion drawn by those who analyzed the study was: “Intercessory prayer appears to have a beneficial effect in patients in a Coronary Care Unit.” Intercessory prayer is praying for someone else. You are not praying for yourself, someone else is the intended beneficiary. Paul writes to the Church at Ephesus and says, And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Perhaps the greatest prayer that can be prayed is intercessory prayer. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. This is intercessory prayer!
We are the benefactors of intercessory prayer ourselves. (Romans 8) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. As a Christian, the Holy Spirit becomes an intercessor for us and prays for things that we need that we are not even aware that we need.
The highest calling for Christians is the ministry of prayer. One of the spiritual gifts is the gift of prayer. In our text this morning we hear Jesus praying for the believers. His intercessory prayer They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. Dying on the cross He thinks about those who are responsible for taking His life. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. To pray for or on behalf of someone else is intercessory prayer.
In the same way, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not always know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us! The Bible says with groans, that words cannot express. Some would call that a Heavenly Language, others may say with information that is beyond our understanding. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
All of us as Christians can be participants in intercessory prayer. The Apostle James understood that power in prayer. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. This was to help the Church to know what to pray for. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:15-16)
Praying for someone else is the greatest gift you can give.