Intercessory Prayer: The Great Under-Practiced Privilege
One of the greatest privileges we have as followers of Jesus is the privilege of praying with and for people. Yet, I would suggest most followers of Jesus fail to realize the potent power of intercessory prayer, much less practice it. I want to propose two very practical ways to begin to implement the discipline of intercessory prayer.
First, pray for people on the spot. Many years ago, a mentor of mine encouraged me to pray for people, on the spot. Rather than simply spouting the courteous, yet off-putting, “Oh yea, I’ll pray for you,” proceeding with business as usual, and failing to give the need a second thought, he suggested instantaneous prayer—a practice I confess has not yet become second nature, but one that I’m working on. Sadly, I don’t trust my memory enough to pray for people unless I write it down. Maybe you can say the same about your life. So, when writing down the request is not possible, pray right then and there.
Second, allow your soul to drift to places of intercessory prayer in the normal rhythms of your life. When the Spirit of God prompts your memory with the image of a co-worker, neighbor, or friend from elementary school you haven’t heard from in 25 years, pray for them. It’s a habit you can begin to cultivate without missing a beat in your normal life rhythms.
Theologian Thomas Kelly encourages us to order “our mental life on more than one level at once.” “On one level,” Kelly says, “we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating . . . but on a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings.” Kelly’s encouragement is perhaps one of the most profound, yet simple suggestions for intercessory prayer, and it begins with establishing healthy patterns of thought.
For those involved in public ministry of some kind, Kelly’s principle applies there as well. About two years ago, I started praying for people in my congregation at Journey as I lead them in musical worship—something I call “secret platform prayer.” Sometimes I know the person. Sometimes I don’t. But as I’m playing my instrument, and singing on one level, on another level I am interceding for the faces I see in front of me, asking God to open their hearts to His manifest presence.
If secret platform prayer is also your habit, or will become your habit, you’re in good company. One of my philosophical heroes, Francis Schaeffer, also practiced secret platform prayer. In his book, The God Who is There, he describes how this works for him when he’s lecturing or giving a defense of the Christian faith. He says, “Giving the answers does not stand in dichotomy with our being careful not to minimize the work of the Holy Spirit. When I am talking to an individual or sitting on a platform talking to 5,000 people and answering questions, very often, more often than most people know, I am praying for them.”
The level of adequacy you feel in intercessory prayer is really not the point. Just simply begin putting a little effort into this practice and see what happens. You will find your faith increasing, your fears diminishing, and your belief in the infinite power of Almighty God flourishing.
 Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion, 9.
 Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There, 185.