The Power and Necessity of Intercessory Prayer

Posted by Bishop Bill Atwood on 08/26/2015

The Power and Necessity of Intercessory Prayer

If we had glasses that we could put on that would allow us to see spiritual things, many of them would be very inspiring. Wouldn’t it thrill your heart to be able to see the ways that the Lord has gone before you and how He has provided a hedge of protection around you and your family? There is another dimension, too. It is the usually unseen realm of evil. If we had spiritual glasses that displayed those things, it would be sobering indeed. 

When the King of Syria was making war against Israel, he sent a great army of horses and chariots against Elisha. His troops surrounded the city where the prophet was. The Prophet’s servant, seeing the surrounding enemy troops, was in despair and asked, “Alas, my master, what shall we do?” (2 Kings 16:15)

Elisha answered:

“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”   And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.” (2 Kings 16:16-18)

In fact, the odds were not against the Prophet Elisha, his servant, and the people of Israel. Though it certainly seemed so, it was not so. The forces of heaven far outweighed the approaching evil army. Though Elisha knew it, it was only when the servant’s eyes were opened that he was able to see it. Looking with temporal eyes, he saw a hopeless situation. Looking with Spiritual warfare eyes, we can see how God is in the midst of us, even when we are in trouble.

Sadly, many Christians go through life with their focus on temporal things. Of course, it is not wrong to minister to relieve temporal discomforts, but they are only part of the situation. There are also powerful spiritual realities. Over the years, I have learned to work through all the temporal issues I could, but also to engage in the Spiritual Conflict with spiritual tools. Those include fasting and prayer. There are many kinds of prayer that need to be employed. There are devotional prayers that enhance our relationship with God, and there are requests asking for protection and provision, always with an ear cocked to see how and where God is currently moving. There are also intercessions about which St. John writes in the Book of Revelation. He says that there are "great bowls which are filled with the intercessions of the Saints.” (Rev.  5:8) 

It is a vivid picture in which I imagine God, when He wants to move in creation, reaches over and tips the incense-filled bowls to pour out Kingdom energy and solutions. 

I did not always have that perspective, however. For a number of years, I would certainly pray, but I would not engage in focused intercession. I rarely asked others to pray for me. As my eyes began to open, I recruited a team of two dozen trusted intercessors with whom I share my itineraries and ministry opportunities as well as family and health concerns. These amazing Saints pray, and pray, and pray! It will never be possible to repay them for their service to me and to the Kingdom of God. Some of them are so “tuned-in” to the Holy Spirit that I will sometimes call them on the phone to ask, “Hi. So…how am I?”  

One couple have been intercessors for me since 1974. It was very difficult when, at age 84, he died. His wife continues to pray faithfully for me from London. Another one of my intercessors has been praying for me since 2002, when she was 7 years old. She convinced her parents that she would stick with it and certainly has. 

I have met with a group of Pastors first on Tuesday mornings and now on Wednesdays for many years. We started in 1987. There was a small break in the late nineties, but we still meet to share, hold each other accountable, and to pray. 

My favorite intercessor of those who pray for me, is Noah. Noah’s father has been an intercessor for me for many years. Over time, it just worked out that Noah, who at the time was a very young child, began to pray for me every day. That was quite remarkable because Noah is autistic and has limited interactions. Where he is not limited is in prayer. There, every night, he prays for me. For many years,, I have sent Noah post cards and small presents from all over the world. It is hard to know what to get for an autistic child who is now about 13. I often pray to find the right Post Card or the perfect small gift that I can mail from Africa or Asia. Recently, when I was in South Africa, I found a cool pen that has a plastic carving of the head of an animal on it. Eventually the international post will come through and deliver another trinket for him. This week, I received the following note from Noah when he got the “Lion Pen":

child's handwritten note

What is so spectacular about that is that he has prayed for me for more than 8 years. This is the first time he has written anything in all those years. You can be certain that the throne of heaven is deeply moved when this young man prays. 

I would strongly encourage anyone who is in leadership in ministry to organize some people to pray for them. Remember that Jesus said, "The evil one seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it with all abundance.” (John 10:10) 

To counter the attacks of the evil one and all his evil helpers, protecting intercessory prayer is the best tool available. Praying with understanding in the Power of the Holy Spirit can interdict many attacks. Of course, there is also room for other activities like fasting and worship to come against the devil, but intercessory prayer is a mainstay of protection. 

Churches, Dioceses, Provinces and Nations can also benefit from intercession. When it is lacking, terrible things can come that I believe are altogether avoidable. 

This weekend in theaters (cinemas) in the USA, a new Christian film is coming out. It is called “War Room.”  

It depicts the nerve center of prayer taking place in the heart of intercessory prayer. It is not likely to get great reviews from the secular forces that want to prevail. Nevertheless, I’m expecting it to be great and inspiring. Organizing intercessory prayer for your Rector, Bishop, Archbishop and those in Leadership is a tremendously valuable thing to do. I hope you will reach out to others in your setting and if you are not organized for prayer,

                           Get Started!        War Room logo

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