Have you ever gotten confused when people talk about prayer and intercession like they are two different things? Have you wondered what's the difference between prayer and intercession? If so, stick around; this article is for you today!
Prayer and intercession have a lot in common, and they often overlap one another.
Think of a Venn diagram showing two different things. Each of the two things has its own characteristics, but some of them overlap in the middle like this:
Let me elaborate on that before we talk about the one HUGE difference between prayer and intercession:
Prayer is talking to God, and you can talk to God about anything. For example:
- You can thank Him for what He has done.
- You can praise Him for who He is.
- You can tell Him how happy you are or how sad you are.
- You can ask Him for help.
- You can ask Him to work in your heart and change you.
- You can ask Him to make you like Jesus.
- You can ask Him to do things for you.
The list goes on and on. We can, and should, talk to God about everything!
But regarding the difference between prayer and intercession:
Prayer can be for yourself or anybody else. But praying for someone else would be called intercession.
In other words, you would pray without interceding when you're just talking to God about yourself, your own life, or about Him–in worship, thanksgiving, and adoration. But intercession can begin to happen when you move past that and start to pray for God's will to be done in someone else's life.
The difference between prayer and intercession doesn't stop there, though, because:
Prayer can be mild or strong, but intercession is spiritually violent.
What do I mean by “violent”? Certainly not physical violence or worldly violence. Prayer and intercession don't involve hitting people or anything else like that!
Related: How to Become an Intercessor
But intercession IS spiritually violent.
Intercession is forceful. The actual definition of intercession in the Hebrew (Biblical) language is “to impinge, by accident or violence or by importunity.”*
What on earth does “impinge” mean? I had to look it up because I had no idea. 🙂 When I did, I found that “impinge” means, according to Dictionary.com, “To make an impression; have an effect or impact; to encroach; infringe; strike; dash; collide; come into violent contact with.”
So what is intercession?
Intercession brings one thing into violent contact with another thing so hard that it makes an impression.
What’s the “one thing” that does the contacting? You.
And what (or who) are you contacting? God.
What kind of an impression–or mark–are you trying to make? Simple! You’re trying to get His will done here on earth—in a situation, in another person, or in yourself.
So the actual definition of the word “intercession,” in modern English, is:
- To collide with God violently until His will is enforced on the earth.
- To stand in the gap between God and man–as a priest between Heaven and earth–and say, “Father God, Your Kingdom come! Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!” … and
- Continuing to do so until you see the results you know God desires on the earth.
Do you like that definition? If so, did you know that it actually gets better?
The definition I just described—”to collide with God violently until His will is enforced on the earth”—is supported by the English definition of intercession. Dictionary.com defines “intercession” as:
“An interposing or pleading on behalf of another person. A prayer to God on behalf of another. In Roman History: the interposing of a veto, as by a tribune.”
Did you get that? In olden times, “intercession” was a legal term that meant “to intervene with a veto.” It was actually a governmental term. A governing body came together and decided yes or no about a particular thing, and whatever they said went.
Also, guess what? In Greek society, the same thing happened. A governing body came together and voted, and whatever they said became law.
The name of that governing body was the ekklesia.
And when Jesus said in Matthew 16:15-19 …
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-19).
… that He was going to build His church, He used the word “ekklesia” for “church.”
That's right; He built the church to be His governing body … even in intercession.
When the church convenes together, we come together in order to govern. And when we govern, whatever we say in the Spirit realm HAPPENS.
That “governing” is largely done through intercession.
Remember that “intercession” means to collide with God about a particular thing until “on earth as it is in Heaven” HAPPENS. It means we strike the throne of grace–striking God Himself–over and over until we make such a mark that God moves heaven and earth for us.
So intercession has governmental power.
Prayer is talking to God, period. Prayer can involve talking to Him about anything. But when we specifically talk to Him for others, standing in the gap for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on the earth, that's intercession.
Those prayers for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth can be about anyone:
- You can pray and intercede for your sister to give her life to Jesus. That's Father's will on the earth.
- You can pray and intercede for your husband to live holy. That's Father's will on the earth.
- You can pray and intercede for your nation to be reformed and for revival to come. That's Papa's will on the earth.
- You can pray and intercede for someone's finances, health family, children, marriage, ministry, or anything else.
As long as you're praying for God's will to happen in someone else's life, and as long as you're doing so with spiritual violence–making a mark on God with your repeated prayer strikes–that is intercession.
But wimpy prayer is not intercession.
I'm not bashing anyone by saying this; it's just that the Biblical definition of “intercession” requires that you come into violent contact with God in order to actually intercede. (See the definitions I listed above!) So if you're praying wimpy prayers, half-hearted prayers, or only occasional prayers, and your prayers make no mark on God and get nothing done, that's not intercession.
And to take this even further, I would like to add:
True intercession will cost you something.
You make a mark on God–taking your prayer from mere “conversation” to real intercession–when the praying person becomes willing to sacrifice in order to get their prayer answered.
Sometimes that means you, as the intercessor, feel the burden so much that you can't stop praying. The depth of the burden forces you to pound God with your prayers until He moves on the other person's behalf.
Sometimes it means you sacrifice by getting up early, staying up late, and cutting out other activities in order to intercede day and night for someone or something–even if it hurts.
Or, sometimes, you become willing to BE the answer.
You actually become willing, if God required it, to lay your life, person, or property down to see God's Kingdom manifest in the situation about which you're praying.
One of the teachers from whom I have learned so much is Lou Engle. He is an apostle, prophet, and general of prayer. And he teaches on intercession by saying that an intercessor becomes willing to lay down their life as a roadway for God to ride in on so He can accomplish His will on the earth.
Regardless of the method you use to intercede, intercession will cost you something.
- Intercession will cost you your fleshly comfort, your easy way of living, and your ability to be fine with the status quo.
- It may cost you physical hunger as you fast and pray.
- It may cost you physical fatigue as you pray when you would rather sleep.
- It WILL cost you time when you could be doing other, flesh-gratifying things.
- It may cost you money if the Lord leads you to sow prophetic seeds into or over someone's life as an act of intercession.
- It could cost you friends if your friends don't understand your need to be alone with God, and to seek the things of God …
- … and so much more.
But building a lifestyle of intercession is worth every cost, because intercession gets things done.
It's not that prayer, without intercession, doesn't get things done. It does. But prayer alone, without intercession, is between your and God. It's good and beautiful and necessary.
Intercession is for the world.
It's for the inheritance of Christ. We intercede for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Both prayer and intercession are necessary. Both can look very similar. But the difference between prayer and intercession is:
- that intercession is for others besides yourself, and
- intercession is spiritually violent and forceful.
You can pray a wimpy prayer if you want to, but you can't pray wimpy prayers and try to intercede. Intercession means you pray STRONGLY, and you strike against God with your intercession until things change on the earth.
Now that you know this about the difference between prayer and intercession, do you still want to be an intercessor?
I hope you do. I hope this post fires you up. I hope it makes you hungrier than you've ever been to move in POWER through intercession.
If it does, would you please leave a comment below and tell me so?
Also, be sure you check out the next post in this series, too, because I'm going to share some things that will help you KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're called to be an intercessor if you are willing to take up the call.
*Hebrew definition: Strong’s 6293: “paga /paw-gah/; to impinge, by accident or violence or by importunity.”