I'm confused about intercession. Is there a gift of intercession as well as it being a discipline? Some people certainly pray more often than others and some love doing it, yet there are those who don't love it but get woken in the middle of the night to pray for hours anyway.
I also look at people sometimes and really want to pray for them, right then and there. I don't because I'm a bit too scared to walk up to someone and say "I so want to pray for you" and I'm not really sure what I'd be praying about. I find this both amusing and confusing. Do you have any light to shed?
As far as I know, there is no "gift" of intercession, although people with the spiritual gift of faith (1 Cor. 12:9) usually have a (super)natural affinity for praying for others. Whether we love doing it or not has nothing to do with whether God is using us as channels of His power.
One of my dear friends is a pastor. One weekend afternoon he was feeling rather "prickly and grumpy," to quote him, when he got a call from one of his congregants asking him to come to the hospital and pray for their daughter. She was supposed to have surgery but an infection had invaded her body and they couldn't do it until the infection was cleared up and her fever went down. Bob knew in his spirit that if he prayed for her, she would be healed, but he reeaaaalllllllly didn't want to go. He went anyway, just as prickly and grumpy as you please, laid his hands on the girl, and asked God to get rid of the infection so they could go ahead with the surgery. He left to go back home, and as he walked in the door, the phone was ringing; her temp was normal. That fast. He says it was quite humbling that God wanted to use him, as fleshly and uncooperative as he was feeling, but the issue wasn't the attitude of the channel, but the divine power that flowed through it.
When you get an impression in your spirit that you should/want to pray for someone, please give yourself permission to trust the Lord's leading on that. (And I would ask, are you being impressed to pray for them just internally, or does He want you to bless them by praying out loud? Consider that having someone pray for you out loud is an intense blessing for most people, and if you don't follow through, you may be depriving them of a blessing God wants to give them through you!)
What you're dealing with is discomfort over operating in the supernatural, and the more times you overcome your reticence, the easier it will become to follow through on His leading. You can go up to someone and say, "Excuse me, I know this may sound crazy, but I think the Lord wants me to pray for you right now. May I have your permission?" A number of years ago I decided I wanted to be the kind of person who would stop in the middle of a sidewalk and pray for someone right then and there if it was the right thing to do, but it was unfamiliar territory to me. So I told myself, "I need to get over the discomfort of the unfamiliar, and then it will be familiar, and it will feel natural, and that's where I want to live! Where praying out loud at the drop of a hat feels natural and comfortable. So I will push past the discomfort to get to the place I want to be." It worked.
I heard a great story at one of the Exodus conferences. (Exodus International is the umbrella organization over many ministries that deal with the homosexuality issue; I serve with one.) Andy Comiskey, a former homosexual struggler (to whom God has brought great healing) and his wife were in New York on an anniversary trip. They took a walk to Greenwich Village and ended up in a park across the street from Stonewall, the bar where the gay rights movement was launched in 1969. It was a gay park, and they sensed a lot of demonic oppression in that place. Andy said, "Enough! We need to take authority right now!" and invited Jesus to be Lord of that park. He prayed, "Your kingdom come, Lord!" and so the two of them kept their eyes peeled for what God was going to do. They saw a lady who looked oppressed to them, so they walked up to her and Andy said, "Excuse me, but my wife and I are Christians, and we believe God wants us to pray for you. Would that be OK? If it isn't, we'll just pray for you as we leave." The lady's eyes filled with tears and she said, "This morning I prayed and said, 'God, if You're real, show me.'"
If you get the urge to pray for someone and don't know what to pray for, I would 1) trust that if you obey His prompting, God will impress you with what to pray for if He wants you to pray something specific, and 2) ask the Father to bless that person with His love and the awareness of His presence and His pleasure in them as person He made in His image and sent Jesus to die for them. Ask Him for His peace and a lingering sense of blessing on the person throughout the day. No matter what the person's issue is, you can bless them in Jesus' name and it is a REAL THING you are giving them!
Hope this helps!
© 2005 Probe Ministries
About the Author
Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker with Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 35 years. She is a frequent speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Connections), and serves on the board and as a small group leader of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality. Sue is on the Bible.org Women's Leadership Team and is a regular contributor to Bible.org's Tapestry Blog. She is also a professional calligrapher and the webmistress for Probe Ministries; but most importantly, she is the wife of Dr. Ray Bohlin and the mother of their two grown sons. Her personal website is suebohlin.com.
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